Is your child’s erratic sleeping habits driving you to distraction? Do bedtime ‘battles’ and restless co-sleeping leave you exhausted and wondering if you’ll ever get a decent night’s sleep?
Insomnia can be defined as difficulty in going to sleep, very light sleep, excessive waking during the night, or waking early.
A child with sleep problems usually demonstrates an underlying pathology. Without appropriate treatment, chronic insomnia or poor sleep patterns may weaken the child’s constitution, leading to more serious illnesses.
Acupuncture can be highly effective in the treatment of childhood insomnia. A young child that has kept its parents and possibly even siblings awake at night for months or even years may be quickly transformed within a few treatments.
Insomnia in babies and children is commonly due to cold digestion, or a cold Spleen in Chinese medicine. This is frequently caused by too many cold or difficult to digest foods in the diet which accumulate in the intestines, often causing the child to wake with colicky pain, clench its fists and grind its teeth. Western medicines such as antibiotics or anaesthetics in child birth may also cause cold.
Excess heat in the body from accumulated foods (from over feeding or feeding inappropriate spicy, greasy foods) can trigger restless sleeping or early morning waking, and poor circulation of Qi and Blood throughout the body may cause the child to wake frequently throughout the night.
Constant stimulation from too much screen time and hyperactivity from everyday life may also disturb sleep, as will fright from sudden shock, accidents or trauma, producing nightmares.
Treatment of insomnia may be addressed in infants and children after three months of age, by which time the baby should have settled into a routine after birth.
Depending on the age of the child and the underlying pattern, treatments can include the Japanese technique of Shonishin, moxibustion (the burning of dried mugwort on or above the skin over specific points), or the use of very fine acupuncture needles that are quickly inserted and immediately withdrawn. Dietary advice also plays an important role in the healing process.
Dr. Jodi Pritchard (TCM) primarily uses the Japanese technique, Shonishin (“children’s needle”), to treat young children at The Dispensary. Shonishin uses a range of small tools to stroke specific channels or meridians on the body or press specific acupuncture points with the aim of restoring and stimulating the body’s natural healing mechanisms. It is a painless technique, more like a massage that can generate the occasional tickle as opposed to any pain or discomfort.
Paediatric acupuncture or Shonishin is an effective treatment for insomnia, as well as common childhood illnesses such as chronic colds, ear infections, tonsillitis and bed wetting. Depending on the intensity of the condition, symptoms are usually cleared relatively quickly, with maintenance treatments recommended for chronic conditions.
Book here for an Initial Paediatric Consultation (60 minutes) with Dr. Jodi Pritchard (TCM).
Images: 1. Tired parents; 2. Shonishin (Japanese Paediatric Acupuncture) tools.