Hey parents, I want to talk about sleep today… or should I say lack of sleep. Let’s discuss the importance of sleep for your child’s health and well-being. Sleep is crucial for the immune, digestive, and cognitive systems of children. It impacts their social-emotional maturation and development. It is alarming to know that almost 50% of kids have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. Not enough people are talking about this!
Lack of sleep causes irritability, difficulty focusing, and decreased energy levels. These challenges are even more severe for children as their brain is still developing and learning to regulate emotions, focus, and behavior.
Did you know that the brain builds more neurons and connections during sleep in the first couple of years of life than later in life?
During sleep, the brain repairs, recharges, and prepares for the next day. It’s essential for brain development and learning. Unfortunately, it’s common to see parents and children struggling with exhaustion, leading to unhealthy habits like excessive caffeine consumption in adults and behavior struggles in kids..
As a neurologically-focused pediatric chiropractor, I prioritize improving the sleep quality of my patients. We must address sleep as a primary concern. That’s why the popular tagline, “America runs on Dunkin,” is concerning. It’s exposing a significant problem with our culture’s addiction to caffeine, Starbucks, and energy drinks because we aren’t getting enough sleep!
We need to prioritize healthy sleep habits for our children and teenagers, as they need it most during this time of brain development and learning.
So what I want to do is help you get to the root cause of your child’s sleep challenges and sleep disorders. This information is relevant to families with infants, little ones, grade schoolers, teenagers, and even for you, mom and dad, if your sleep is not great either. If you have tried everything from magnesium, melatonin, essential oils, diffusers, lavender, probiotics, every white noise machine, and blackout curtains and are still not able to get your child to sleep, I promise you that this one thing I’m about to dive into is the missing link.
The Correlation Between Neurological Disorders and Sleep
I am an expert in pediatric chiropractic care with experience in helping sleep challenges in kiddos. Our practice specializes in treating colic, indigestion, neurological disorders such as epilepsy, Autism, TBI, anxiety, ADHD, sensory, and other spectrum disorders. We have found that the very first thing that we need to address in the case history of those kiddos is their struggle with sleep.
Whether we are working with brand new little babies or older kiddos struggling with some very serious life-affecting challenges, the very first thing we need to work on is sleep. As pediatric chiropractors, we focus on the root cause rather than just treating symptoms. Our obsession is to help your child get a good night’s sleep and, in turn, help them improve their motor planning, speech, behavior, and emotional well-being.
The Root Cause of Sleep Challenges
Lean in with me because I want to explain what may be causing your child’s sleep challenges and what we can do to help. This may get a bit deep into neurology, but I will keep it simple. Falling asleep and staying asleep both come from the same problem – an overactive, overstressed, overstimulated sympathetic fight or flight nervous system. During the day, it’s normal for our bodies to be on the gas pedal, with the nervous system being a little bit more fight or flighty as we go through our daily activities.
However, as nighttime approaches, our body’s central and autonomic nervous system senses our circadian rhythms and starts to activate what’s called the parasympathetic system. This is nicknamed the rest, sleep, and digestion side of the nervous system, and it’s the opposite of the fight or flight system. The parasympathetic nervous system helps us wind down and prepare for restful sleep.
Unfortunately, when children experience early life stressors such as birth interventions like forceps, vacuum extraction, C-sections, or induction, they may experience physical trauma to the nerves and muscles in the brainstem and upper cervical spine. This area of the body houses and protects a very important nerve called the vagus nerve, which is in charge of rest and digest functions.
The vagus nerve branches from the brainstem area, makes its way through the neck and into the thorax, and helps calm our heart rate and respiration, as well as activate digestion. It also goes into our social, emotional, and cognitive functions, slowing the brain down when it’s activated. If the vagus nerve is not functioning properly, children may struggle to shut their brains and bodies down, causing restlessness and difficulty sleeping.
This is a sign of vagus nerve dysfunction, also known as subluxation, which is simply our chiropractic term for stress stuck on the brake pedal with the vagus nerve shut down. We frequently see this in children who have suffered physical trauma to the upper neck at birth or in accidents, as well as those who experience constant pressure and tension on their neck and shoulders due to activities such as looking down at their phone or working on a computer for extended periods of time.
This issue, commonly referred to as “tech neck,” is a major contributing factor to why children’s nervous systems may become stuck on sympathetic fight or flight overdrive, preventing the brake pedal (parasympathetic nervous system) from functioning properly.
How Can Neurologically-Focused Chiropractic Help?
As pediatric chiropractors focused on neurological care, we prioritize the consultation and case history to understand your child’s challenges better. From colic to sleep issues to sensory and behavioral challenges, we recognize that these issues often stem from an overactive sympathetic fight or flight system and a vagus nerve brake pedal shutdown.
These issues can lead to cognitive, behavioral, emotional, and brain-based challenges.
At the core of our care is our unique approach to adjustments, called neuro-tonal adjustments, that activate the vagus nerve and the rest and digest system. Our goal in the first week, month, and 100 days of chronic issues is to activate the vagus nerve and restore basic building blocks of health, like sleep.
Our approach to care has led to regular and common improvements in sleep and overall health, as reported by 65% of our patients within the first month. Improvements in sleep lead to improved mood, cognition, gut health, and more. This is especially true for older children with neurological challenges. These results are as common as they come in our PX Docs offices.
We recognize that healing happens in the order in which children get sick and that issues with sleep, digestion, and immunity are all under the control of the nervous system and the vagus nerve. By addressing the sympathetic fight or flight subluxation and reducing stress and noise, we can restore the function of the vagus nerve and the rest and digest system.
If you’ve tried other approaches without success, we believe that neurologically focused chiropractic care may be the missing link for your child’s health. We invite you to learn more about our approach and how it can benefit your child’s health.
If you have any questions or concerns about your child’s sleep, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We have a wealth of information on the PX Docs website, including articles on sleep disorders and natural remedies, as well as a downloadable guide.
If your child has experienced physical trauma during birth or has had a difficult start, they may be stuck in a fight or flight mode. Our INSiGHT neurological testing can measure the amount of stress on your child’s nervous system and determine if their vagus nerve is dysfunctional or shut down. This will give you the answers you need to help your child get the restful sleep they need.
I know it’s common for parents and kids to be exhausted and emotional, but it’s not normal.
Neurologically-Focused Chiropractic Care is the best solution for sleep challenges in children, more effective than other natural remedies like magnesium or melatonin. If you’ve tried everything and are still struggling with sleep issues, we encourage you to reach out to our office today.
Getting your child the sleep they need is essential for their overall health and well-being. Once your child is sleeping well, the whole family will benefit from better sleep and improved mood. Please share this information with other families who may be struggling with sleep challenges. We are here to provide hope, answers, and drug-free help.
Author: Tony Ebel DC, CACCP, CCWP