Thrive Occupational Therapy is founded by Miriam Manela, OTR/L, author of The Parent-Child Dance, with the philosophy that each child is unique and treatment must reflect this. In helping build a whole child, a major emphasis is placed on that child’s relationships, whether they are the child-therapist, parent-therapist, or parent-child relationship.
Mrs. Simms came into my office complaining that her 7-year-old daughter is wild and out of control. Amy is always touching the other kids and racing around the house, creating a wild and unruly atmosphere for everyone. She is also a picky eater, choosing to only eat dairy, carbs and sweets, all day, every day. At night the child keeps popping out of bed asking for things and waking up the other children. Amy’s body can’t seem to settle down until after 10 pm. Mr. and Mrs. Simms need time for themselves and have no energy or patience at that hour to deal with her insomnia.
Mrs. Simms and I discussed the important role sleep plays in preparing us for our tasks the next day so we can focus and put our energy into what we have to do. It can also help improve our ability to learn. For some children, sleep comes easily at the end of a long, active day. For others, their batteries seem forever charged.
According to the National Institute of Health [NIH] (2012), getting adequate sleep helps protect a person’s mental health, physical health, quality of life, and safety.
There are two important aspects of sleep: how much a person sleeps and the quality of that sleep. Depending on their age, people require different number of hours of sleep. Here’s a chart with some basic numbers. In general, the required hours of sleep decreases as a person grows older. School-age children need at least 10 hours of sleep, and teens need 9-10 hours. The average adult requires 6-8 hours in order to squeeze the most out of every day.
The Quality of sleep is just as important (if not more) than the number of hours one sleeps. An important factor in having an uninterrupted sleep is what one does before going to bed. This is called sleep hygiene. Good sleep hygiene entails bringing down the excitement and making the environment relaxing.
Here are a few components of sleep hygiene that can be helpful when trying to put your child to sleep:
1. Filling meals. Having a good and filling dinner or a snack before bed can make a person more relaxed and ready to sleep.
2. Rocking or massage. These provide sensations that are calming to the body. Gentle motions and deep pressure can help a child relax which prepares them for sleep.
3. Hemi-sync music. Hemi-Sync is a company that produces neuroscience-based audio recordings to help ease the listener through physical and emotional challenges as well as difficulty falling asleep. You can read my blog post about Hemi-sync and their music for more information.
4. Aromatherapy. Similar to the rocking or massage, certain types of smells can either stimulate or calm the brain. Vanilla, lavender, and banana are prime examples of calming scents. You can put these scents on a pillowcase, on a night stand, or nearby. You can also read my blog post for more information on different scents and aromatherapy.
5. Warm baths. Before bed, give the child a 15-20 minute warm bath, plus a rub down with a towel (if the child likes it). A warm bath calms and relaxes the body, making it easier to fall asleep. Adding 1-2 cups of Epsom salt adds an extra measure of relaxation.
6. No devices before bed. Try to put away or have your child put down any technology devices (ipad, computers, TV, video games, etc.) 1-2 hours before bed. The lit screen and games stimulate their vision and may cause too much excitement which can affect both their ability to fall asleep and the quality of their sleep.
7. Melatonin. Melatonin is a natural hormone that your body produces once the sun sets. It makes you feel less alert and preps the body for sleep. If you’ve tried the other previously listed 6 items on this list with no success, try having your child take ¼ – ½ mg melatonin before bed. For more information, you can read about it through the Sleep Foundation.
8. Bedtime stories. I especially recommend “Children’s Hypnosis Bedtime Stories” by Elaine Martin.
Aside for once-a-week therapy, Mrs. Simms instituted a sleep schedule that included giving Amy a warm bath with Epsom salts, giving her therapeutic massages that I taught her, and finishing up with a cute hypnosis bedtime story told with background music. After only 2 weeks Mrs. Simms noted a significant improvement in all the areas of concern! Amy began falling asleep by 8:30 PM, stayed asleep throughout the night, and was calmer throughout most of the day.
If your child also has difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, and regulating her energy levels throughout the day, please try a combination of ideas and post below on the blend that worked! Others will be grateful to read and implement what worked for you.
This is a beautiful poem shared by a client I had evaluated in Israel. She is currently being treated by an occupational therapist (OT) that I had the pleasure to meet and to train while I was providing workshops and courses. I am very delighted and proud of how this client is doing, how the techniques I taught in the workshops are benefitting both the OT and the client, and how family dynamic with the client has improved. I hope you enjoy reading this poem.
There’s tension, there’s stress
There’s no day, there’s no night
I’m zooming at 300 mph
And trying to hold on tight
He’s always a mile ahead
I need four eyes or more
There’s danger lurking at every corner
And trouble keeps knocking on the door
I’m totally out of breath
I admit I cannot cope
I’m tugging and tugging
And feel like I’m at the end of the rope
I make a firm decision
I’ll sign up for OT
Let a therapist do some magic work
And I’ll just wait and see
Did I really sign up for weekly trips?
The journeys are murderous – please give me a break
He insists on hanging on the handle bars of the bus
And it’s a 20 minute ride for goodness sake!
The sessions are amazing
He loves spinning and rolling that’s for sure
I’m beginning to see how much input he needs
And how his body is just craving for more
But as I’m about to leave
The OT shows me some interventions
“if you could do those movements with him daily…”
She smiles, as she casually mentions
I raise one eyebrow
And then swallow silently
Does she not realise I cannot do anything more
I’m clinging onto my sanity
Six months pass
And I see huge change
I feel something’s different
And that feeling is very strange
I can actually go off high alert
I can throw off lots of anxiety
I have so much more time
And loads more positive energy
It’s then that I think about the movements
The rocking and the butterfly
Who knows, I feel invigorated
And really tempted to try
I lay my son down on his back
And look into his eyes
He’s calmly looking back at me
I feel his breathing and I begin to cry
I turn up the music
And start rocking to the beat
His eyes are looking deeply into mine
And now our hearts meet
With every passing second
I feel more and more connection
I’m overwhelmed with emotion
And with unconditional affection
It’s been a tough ride
And we still have some way to go
But I’m a new mother and he’s a new son
With a bond we didn’t have six months ago!