Help Your Child Say Goodbye to Disturbed Sleep in 4 Easy Steps

Night terrors can be physically and mentally distressing for you and your little one. Discover ways to do away with disturbed sleep in this article.

Child sleeping in his bed under a wool blanket

Does your child experience episodes of disturbed sleep accompanied by loud crying and screaming in the wee hours of the night? Or, on other occasions, are there nights involving your baby sitting upright in the cot while they thrash about with wide-open eyes? 

For new parents, these episodes – also known as night terrors – may not only come as an unwelcome surprise. However, this can be very distressing as well.

Here are the primary causes of your child’s disturbed sleep and 4 steps you can take as parents to help them get better shut-eye at night. 

The Primary Causes of Disturbed Sleep in Children at Night

A boy and his mother fast asleep in bed
Children feel safe when they are co-sleeping with their parents.

In Western medicine, night terrors associates with a child’s reluctance to sleep away from their parents. Theoretically, this notion holds some water, as co-sleeping assures children that they are safest when lying next to their parents. 

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) believes these sleep disturbances to be the result of excess yang (fire) in the heart and liver of a child. It is linked with an impaired temper or bad sleep quality

“The Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classic” (Huangdi Neijing) describes the heart as the ‘ruler’ of the shen (mind and spirit) and the ‘seat’ of consciousness and intelligence. To put it simply, imbalances in a child’s heart can cause them to experience health disorders. These include anxiety, insomnia and heart palpitations

4 Ways to Help Your Child Sleep Better at Night 

TCM advocates a holistic approach for helping children get restful sleep every night. This approach requires parents to take on an active role in ensuring that their child adheres to the guidelines for better sleep. 

1. Calm the mind and spirit 

According to TCM practitioners, the best way to resolve sleep disturbances in children is to consume herbal remedies that can calm the shen by suppressing excess yang in the liver and heart.

Eating meals prepared with dried lily bulbs can help to soothe a child’s nervous system. This works by ridding the body of heart yang. Similarly, you can add a beverage mix that contains red dates and longan fruit to water. This helps improve your child’s sleep quality by calming their mind.

2. Getting a tui na massage 

Closeup of a hand giving acupressure at Yintang (EX-HN3)
Yintang (EX-HN 3) is an acupoint located between the eyebrows.

Paediatric tui na is a medical massage that can help to promote restful sleep by stimulating specific acupressure points. This is particularly useful for children who have not been previously exposed to herbal remedies. 

The primary goal of starting a child on tui na massages is to clear yang in the liver and heart. It works by focusing on acupressure points along these organs’ meridians – energy channels through which qi flows. For instance, you can stroke the middle spot slightly above the eyebrows for 10 to 20 seconds. It is one of the best ways to induce relaxation in a child. Or, try acupressure at the forehead, at Yintang (EX-HN3) – the midpoint between the two medial ends of the eyebrow. This can calm the mind. 

3. Eating cooling foods

Child holding a peeled banana in her hand as she smiles happily
Bananas can be added to your child’s diet to improve their sleep.

To calm the excess yang in the liver and heart, you should limit your child’s consumption of pungent, sweet or spicy foods. Instead, you should include foods that are predominantly yin (cold) in your child’s diet.

These include green or pale-coloured vegetables like cucumber, green beans or tofu or cooling foods like bananas or watermelon. Drinking a cup of water mixed with a spoonful of pure longan honey or consuming a chewable multivitamin may also boost your child’s intake of essential nutrients whilst improving their sleep quality. 

4. Going to bed at the same time at night 

Set up a regular bedtime routine starting around the same time every night to encourage a sleep pattern. You can suggest a relaxing activity before bedtime, such as listening to gentle music or reading short stories. Sleep pattern that involves your child going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day is essential for doing away with night terrors.

Restful sleep is vital for enabling the gallbladder and liver to repair themselves. This is because the gallbladder governs a person’s emotional responses and judgement. The liver, on the other hand, is responsible for healthy blood circulation and emotional well-being. However, sleeping at irregular times every night can deplete the energy reserves of these organs. This can cause your child to make bad decisions or experience emotional instability. So, it’s a good idea to maintain this daily habit, including during weekends and holidays.

Disturbed sleep is the result of too much yang in the heart and liver. Adhering to the steps provided can help to regulate imbalances in both organs and, in turn, say goodbye to night terrors permanently.

This is an adaptation of an article, “TCM and Childhood Ailments: Disturbed Sleep”, which first appeared on Eu Yan Sang website

References

  1. US National Library of Medicine. 2018. An evolutionary perspective on night terrors. [Accessed 21 July 2021]
  2. Culture Trip. Traditional Chinese Medicine Tricks to Help You Sleep Better. [Accessed 21 July 2021]

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