Your child can’t fall — or stay — asleep, but you know if she doesn’t get her shut-eye, you’ll both be feeling the next-day effects. To the rescue: Doctors share the natural strategies they swear by when their own kids can’t snooze.
For Bedtime Anxiety: A Quick Foot Soak
“My son hates getting shots, so he always gets anxious before his annual checkup. This year, he was so nervous that he couldn’t fall asleep the night before,” says mother-of-one Ilana Newman, MD, a family medicine physician in Pembroke Pines, Florida. “I got him out of bed and had him stick his feet in a bucket of warm water.” After five minutes, she dried her son’s feet and tucked him in. Minutes later, he was asleep.
Why It Works: “According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, if racing thoughts keep you up, there’s too much qi, or energy, in your head,” explains Dr. Newman. “Warming the feet draws some of that energy away from the head to the feet and lets the mind relax.”
For Trouble Drifting Off: A Little Chill
“My 8-year-old daughter used to come downstairs every night saying she couldn’t sleep,” recalls Jacob DeLaRosa, MD, chief of cardiac surgery at Portneuf Health Partners in Pocatello, Idaho, and a father of three. “She’d always say she was hot.” His Rx? Lower the thermostat to 69 degrees Fahrenheit. “Body temperature naturally peaks and declines during a 24-hour period, and sleep usually begins when body temperature drops,” he explains. “So a colder room encourages us to fall asleep faster. It works so well, I always advise lowering the temperature when patients say their kids can’t sleep.”
For Deeper Sleep: The Cave Trick
“Often when kids have trouble sleeping, they’re looking for comfort,” says Barbara Bergin, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at Texas Orthopedics, Sports and Rehabilitation Associates in Austin.“When my kids were young, I’d tuck them into a cave to make them feel secure.” To make the cave, she surrounded them with pillows and stuffed toys. “Sometimes more space leaves the body and mind feeling more vulnerable,” she explains. “But cuddling up with pillows and stuffed animals makes a child feel safer, more relaxed and ready for sleep.”
This article originally appeared in our print magazine.