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Your Child and Sleep: How Regular Massage Can Help

Have you ever stumbled into work, coffee in hand, running on 2 maybe 3 hours of sleep?

Whether you are dealing with a hungry newborn, a teething infant, and/or even a child with a dreaded virus, we have all experienced sleep deprivation in our lives at some point. The time when we sleep can be one of the most important and restorative times of the day. Lack of sleep affects our mood; we may tend to be more irritable or have difficulty with concentration. Not only is this known to be fact for us as parents and adults, but lack of sleep has become a very common issue surrounding children of all ages.  A child’s academic performance, behavior, general health, and vulnerability to accidents/injuries can be affected when adequate sleep is not established.

Are you and your child getting enough sleep?

The National Sleep Foundation recommends the following as general guidelines for the amount of sleep we need in a 24 hour time period:

Newborn (0-3 months) 14-17 hrs
Infant (4-11 months) 12-15 hrs
Toddler (1-2 years) 11-14 hrs
Pre-school (3-5 years) 10-13 hrs
School-aged (6-13 years) 9-11 hrs
Teens (14-17 years) 8-10 hrs
Young Adult (18-25 years) 7-9 hrs
Adults (25-65+ years) 7-9 hrs

(https://sleepfoundation.org/sites/default/files/STREPchanges_1.png)

These guidelines may not be as easy to attain as we think. Here are some tips for getting your children on track, recommended by the Canadian Sleep Society:

  • Set an age appropriate bed and wake time
  • Establish a consistent nighttime routine (ie. bath, books, stories, massage, goodnight)
  • Make sure child’s room is comfortable
  • Teach/allow your child to fall asleep on their own
  • Eliminate TV, games, consoles, and electronics in bed
  • Avoid rigorous activity one hour before bedtime
  • No consumption of food high in sugar or spices 3-4 hours before bed
  • Educate your child on the importance of sleep

Massage is a great tool that parents can add to any bedtime routine.  Massage can be performed on children of any age, from newborn to teens. Your child will benefit greatly from a massage at any time of the day, but specifically, before bedtime. Research has shown that massage helps to release serotonin which is the body’s ‘anti-pain’ chemical, thus allowing for a deeper and more restorative sleep. Massage is a wonderful time for you and your child to bond, communicate, and relax. Following a few massage principles can ensure that you and your child can start to have a more restful sleep.

Allow ‘massage time’ to be a time of the day your child will look forward to.

  1. Always ask your baby/child for permission to ensure they are ready and willing to receive a massage; (“Are you ready for your bedtime massage now?”)
  2. Make sure the room in which you are massaging your child is warm and comfortable
  3. Relax…the more relaxed you are, the more relaxed your baby or child will be.
  4. Take your time. Use soothing strokes and be in tune with what your child likes and doesn’t like. Feel free to perform the massage over their clothes or on the skin with oil.
  5. Take your warm hands and place them on your child’s leg or arm (whichever they like best). Keep your strokes moving away from the heart; this will ensure the massage is not too stimulating (i.e. Down the leg to their feet, or down their arm to their hand). Be sure not to put any pressure on the joints like the elbow or knee.
  6. Go ahead and move onto a different body part(s). Check in periodically with your child to ensure that they are still enjoying the massage. Your child may only be engaged in the massage for one body part (i.e. the legs). Don’t sweat it. The more you massage your child, the more it will become routine for them and the longer they will enjoy your nurturing touch.
  7. Stroke your child’s back starting at their shoulders moving down towards their legs. Do not put any direct pressure on the spine.
  8. Give your child/baby a kiss and a hug goodnight…

Remember, it may take some time to establish a sleep routine; consistency is key. Be patient and enjoy the one on one time you will spend massaging your child. You will both begin to look forward to this time of the day. Whether you spend 5 or 25 minutes on massage, you and your child will benefit greatly. Massage can heighten your child’s sense of well-being by allowing your child to feel secure thus promoting self-esteem and respect.


If you’d like to learn more about how massage can benefit your child, be taught some specific techniques, or would simply like to book an appointment, feel free to call us and book in with Kristina.

Kristina Fasullo

About Kristina Fasullo

Kristina Fasullo graduated from the Canadian College of Massage and Hydrotherapy in 2005. Since graduating Kristina has completed certificates in Pre and Post Natal Massage as well as Infant and Pediatric massage. She is a member of the Registered Massage Therapists’ Association of Ontario and is in good standing with the College of Massage Therapist of Ontario.

Learn more about Kristina Fasullo

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