Macall Gordon Shares Sleep Hacks for Differently Wired Kids
My guest today is Macall Gordon, a certified pediatric sleep coach with a research-based specialization in sleep development, temperament, emotional regulation, and parenting psychology. Through her private practice, Little Livewires, Macall focuses exclusively on working with children who are more sensitive, perceptive, persistent, and active. Macall, who has a master’s in applied psychology and a bachelor’s in human biology, started studying sleep because her own two children did not sleep very well and she found that none of the advice offered by parenting books worked for her family. She was determined to find some answers and she has!
In this episode, Macall talks about the unique sensitivities differently wired children have that frequently result in sleep challenges, how she supports families struggling with sleep issues by helping them to introduce a sustainable night routine, and strategies for helping our kids establish better sleep habits. I also asked Macall to share her opinion on co-sleeping and melatonin which I know so many of us have used with our children, as well as how we can get back on track with a healthy nighttime routine, especially if we’ve done somewhat I refer to as “accidental parenting” and established sleep routines that aren’t going to work in the long run.
About Macall Gordon
Macall holds a Master’s degree in Applied Psychology from Antioch University, Seattle with a research-based specialization in sleep development, temperament, emotional regulation, and parenting psychology. She also has a B.S. in Human Biology from Stanford University. She is currently a Senior Lecturer in the graduate Counseling Psychology program at Antioch University in Seattle.
She has conducted and presented research on temperament and sleep at infant and child development conferences around the world. She has been a featured speaker at national sleep conferences and has led webinar-based advanced training for sleep coaches, mental health providers, and others.
She is a certified pediatric sleep coach in her private practice Little Livewires, as well as with the women’s telehealth platform, Maven Clinic. In her work, she has focused exclusively on working with children who are more sensitive, intense, perceptive, persistent, active, etc. She comes to this work because she had two livewires and she didn’t sleep for 18 years.
Things you’ll learn from this episode
- How sleep disruptions in babies is often a sign that the child is neurodivergent
- How early sleep interventions can support children as they grow
- What the signals of a child’s “second wind” are and how can parents can stay ahead of it
- The connection between sensory sensitivity and sleep challenges
- How parents can navigate experimenting and determining what works for their child at different ages
- Macall’s perspective on whether introducing new tools (such as white noise) will lead to children being reliant on them for all future sleep
- Macall’s thought on co-sleeping and melatonin
- How families with non-sustainable sleep routines can push the reset button and get back on track
- Physiological things that might play a role in disrupting a child’s sleep
Resources mentioned for best sleep hacks for children
Special message from our sponsor
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Learn more about how Mightier can help your child manage their emotions at Mightier.com/tiltparenting
Debbie Reber 00:00
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Macall Gordon 00:14
So we can’t make them fall asleep. All we can do is make sure we’re not woven into their go to sleep pattern and then set set them up for success. And then after that, it’s important that they then do the work. And some of these kids just take a long time to go asleep.
Debbie Reber 00:37
Welcome to Tilt Parenting, a podcast featuring interviews and conversations aimed at inspiring, informing and supporting parents raising differently wired kids. I’m your host Debbie Reber. My guest today is Macall Gordon, a certified pediatric sleep coach with a research based specialization in sleep development, temperament, emotional regulation and parenting psychology. Through her private practice Little Live Wires, Macall focuses exclusively on working with children who are more sensitive, perceptive, persistent, and active. Sounds like our kids. Macall, who has a master’s in Applied Psychology and a bachelor’s in human biology started studying sleep because her own children did not sleep very well. And she found that none of the advice offered by parenting books worked for her family. She was determined to find some answers and she has. In this episode, Macall talks about the unique sensitivities differently wired children have that frequently result in sleep challenges, how she supports families struggling with sleep issues by helping them to introduce a sustainable night routine, and strategies for helping our kids establish better sleep habits. I also asked Macall to share her opinion on co sleeping and melatonin which I know so many of us have used with our kids, as well as how we can get back on track with a healthy nighttime routine, especially if we’ve done some of what I refer to as accidental parenting and establish sleep routines that aren’t going to work in the long run. I really tried to cover all the big questions, but I know that sleep is a big topic. So please let me know if there are more things you’d like me to cover and perhaps I can do a follow up episode with Macall. Before I get to our conversation next week is one of my most favorite annual events for parents of differently wired kids. I’m talking about the Bright and Quirky Summit. I know there are lots of summits out there, but this five day event is one that I don’t ever miss. Summit host Debbie Steinberg Kuntz, who I lovingly referred to as the other Debbie always brings together phenomenal guests and this year is no different. The lineup includes Mona Delahooke, Barry Prizant, Michele Borba, Ned Hallowell, Ned Johnson, Nicole Tetreault. Susan Baum, David Finch, Amanda Morin, and just too many phenomenal people to mention here. I also recorded a special conversation with Dan Peters of the Summit Center that I’m really excited to share. As always, registration for the Bright & Quirky Summit is free. Just sign up before it all begins on Monday, April 4, at tilt parenting.com/quirky. That’s tiltparenting.com/quirky. Thank you so much. And now here is my conversation with Macall.
Debbie Reber 03:33
Hey, Macall, welcome to the podcast.
Macall Gordon 03:35
Thank you so much. I’m so excited to talk to you.
Debbie Reber 03:37
I’m looking forward to diving into this. And I’m really thankful that you reached out to me because the issue of sleep is what’s a quality of life issue. And it’s something that comes up a lot, especially in this community for all parents, but really in this community. So before we kind of get into all of that I would love it if you could just take a few minutes and tell us a little bit more about yourself and the work that you do in the world. And I always love to know people’s WHY. What got them into doing this?
Macall Gordon 04:07
Yeah, well, that’s a good one, isn’t it? Yeah, well, it’s not because I nailed sleep with my kids. I’ll tell you that, right. It’s not because it was perfect for me. So right now I am a certified gentle sleep coach. I primarily work with younger kids, but it really the stuff that I talk about, especially when I start talking about three and four year olds really can extend up, it becomes all a similar mindset. So I got into this because I had two very intense young children, very intense, very sensitive. And the sleep advice that was out there just didn’t work and I was suffering because I didn’t know what else to do. And so at the time now they’re both young adults, right so at the time we back in the dark ages, apparently, there was only one school of thought about sleep, right? And for young children. And if you couldn’t do that, then you really just had to suffer through it. And I was thinking, there’s just got to be, there’s got to be an answer here. So I’ve got my master’s degree looking at sleep and sleep research and temperament and emotional regulation and sensory processing. And then I’ve been using that in my coaching. And it’s amazing how many people are out there that are still in the same boat that I was in 20, some odd years ago.
Debbie Reber 05:34
Yeah, I mean, sleep was an issue in my world from very early on. And I just wrote down seven to 11 months when, when my child was seven months old, that’s when the sleep stopped. And I think it was around 11 or 12 months that we finally called someone and said, We need help, our child is not sleeping at all. And of course, we didn’t know how our child was wired at that time. So I’m wondering, when little ones like babies have sleep issues? Is that often a sign that they’re neurodivergent? In some way? Like, what’s the through line there?
Macall Gordon 06:08
I love this question so much, because I’m willing to bet even folks out in your audience that have you know, 7, 8, 9, 10 and up, they knew early on, and they probably have had problems with sleep all along. Sleep problems don’t technically just pop out when a kid is six, unless there’s some kind of physiological condition that’s affecting sleep. I would say that most folks know extremely early that something is up with their child in terms of sleep. These are the markers that I hear. And every time I hear one of them, I know who we’re talking about here. Very early alertness from birth. So sometimes the baby even from birth is just a little more awake. They’re not a sleepy newborn. They may have sleep problems days after birth, which is kind of unusual, right? They don’t just fall asleep. They’re just they seem already sort of wakeful. They often are bouncers versus rockers. So a lot of these parents will say they need to be bounced on the ball, or they need bouncing and white noise and shushing. And like Anna, a perfectly dark room, and like, it’s a full court press just to get a new little baby to sleep. And then and then the other part is that sleep problems are often a notch, or two, or five, above what we would normally think of as, or maybe your friends think of as problematic sleep, right? So I work with parents who call me and they say my baby is waking every hour. And we’re co sleeping, for example. So you think that baby will sleep well right next to the parent, this baby’s waking up constantly. So it’s when those sleep problems are another notch above, we know that just the normal every day, whatever your friend is doing is not going to work as well, or the same way for your kid. It just doesn’t at all.
Debbie Reber 08:11
So I want to spend most of this conversation talking about kids who are a little older, but I do want to stay in this zone for just another moment. Because I’m sure there are listeners who, you know, even if it’s not their first child who is quite young, they may have another second or third child who has a baby and that they’re dealing with this. And as you were talking, you know, one of the things I say is that we parents are kind of like the wingsuit fliers of parenting, right, everything is more intense, a little more extreme. And that, as you just said, is the case with the sleep challenges too. So when you work with families who have these young ones, babies who and you know, Ash woke up hourly. So that was bringing back some memories. When you’re working with families like that, I’d love to know what you do that’s different than for bracing, or, you know, what we used to do and how that supports them as they grow. Cuz I imagine, you know, if it’s early intervention, but working on those things from a young age can support them as they grow.
Macall Gordon 09:09
Well, I mean, I think the really cool thing is that I think the strategies in the sort of paradigm I work in, works great for little ones, but it’s the same paradigm that we can use to impact older children too. So there’s certain little places where the parenting advice in books, or whatever falls short for these kids. And regardless of how old the child is, there’s going to be a few things we’ll talk about that really apply absolutely across the board, I think. Now the other thing to keep in mind too is I know we’re talking about a broad range of differently wired kids so some of what I say will be not as applicable for one set of differently wired kids or neurodivergent kids than another but we’ll, you know, we can’t, we’ll have to just kind of go broad, broad strokes. So what’s different about or at least the tweaks or the adjustments that I find I have to make for these kids, regardless of the age, is one staying ahead of their second wind. So these little guys, or and bigger guys probably have terrible sleepy signals, they just don’t realize they’re tired. So they don’t yawn, they don’t rub their eyes, and then a parent misses that moment, and then their, into their into the booster rockets. And sleep is just 10 times harder. So that can be an easy thing for parents to do. A lot of these parents will say, Well, my baby just never looks sleepy, my kid just never or they drop their nap at two years old, that is very common, very, very common. So making sure that you insist or that you know when your child is needing a break. That’s number one. Number two is these guys need a lot of transition time, a lot. And so you have to really give them wind downtime, before you even start. And we can talk more about what that looks like by different ages. And then the other the most important piece is that the idea of leaving the room, and that your child, these little guys will somehow magically learn to self soothe is I mean, most parents will say, Well, that was a total fail. Total fail drowsy, but awake, you know, you’re supposed to lay your baby down drowsy, but awake, I’ve never seen that work, never not once. So the approach that I use is just really gradual. And that where you give a lot of support at first that you then gradually back off, depending on what you feel like your kid can do. It’s kind of like how we teach them riding a bike or anything else, you give them a lot of support at first, and then you just back that support off. And that one piece right there sometimes is the secret for a lot of parents where you can, you know, you can start out if you’re lying fully having to lie down with your child to get them to go to sleep. And we’ll again, we can talk about the nuts and bolts of this. But you can start sitting up in the bed and then after a day sit on the floor. And then after a couple of days move six inches from there. And then you know, you can break this down into very small pieces so that your child is just gradually getting used to whatever it is you’re hoping to work toward. And I think that’s the key. You know, the only other thing I would say is also setting everybody up for success. And that means understanding your child’s sensory processing sensitivities, understanding what wakes them up versus what calms them down, and then building all of that into a bedtime routine, or a pre routine routine. So they’re not running full bore. And then you’re asking them to just stop and go to sleep.
Debbie Reber 13:04
The pre routine routine, you could even have a pre routine pre routine pre routine for the routine. Yeah. You talked about staying ahead of their second way. And those signals, can you just say a little bit more about what those signals are? And is that part of the neuro divergence piece? Whether they’re dysregulated, or they’re just experiencing sensory information differently?
Macall Gordon 13:24
Yeah, yeah. Well, if we think about what it takes to go to sleep, you know, if we really, Imean, all of us, we just go to sleep, we don’t really think that there are steps you have to follow. And if you’ve ever had insomnia, you realize where you where those steps fail for you, right? So one step is knowing that you’re tired. And again, I think that not only requires a certain internal awareness, and it also requires some attention. And it also requires potentially a strength of signal. So we do know, for instance, that kids with autism have a less powerful melatonin release. So sort of biochemically they’re a little bit, you know, at a disadvantage, because they’re not getting this super strong signal from their body that they’re tired. Other kids are so busy, they’re so busy and so engaged, and they’re going so strong, they just don’t want to disengage. So that first signal of like, Oh, I’m tired doesn’t happen. And parents are waiting too long. And then what I say is that if a kid goes past what they actually can do in terms of time awake, their body sort of releases a chemical, it’s like giving them a little red bull, right? And then they’re, then they’re powering up and then all sleep. You know, we know what it feels like to try to go to sleep after you’ve had too much coffee. You can’t even though you’re tired. So just understanding that kids up to a certain age, you know, maybe I don’t know I don’t know what the age would be, I want to say like, fourth, fifth sixth grade kids really do need an early bedtime, because that takes advantage of this melatonin release. So if parents are saying, Well, look, I, we tried to get her in bed by eight, but it never is, you know doesn’t happen. She doesn’t go to sleep till 10. I always back up that bedtime routine actually earlier, not later, because it’s possible you’ve missed. You’ve missed her little law for littler ones, you just kind of have to know what their targets are. And there’s lots of information out there about different targets. And you just have to find out which one works for your child, and then kind of watch the clock. I’m not usually a clock watcher, but…
Debbie Reber 15:46
You know, you mentioned being overtired. And if there is such a thing as a cycle, right, that we can get into where there’s a sleep deficit, and it just kind of makes it harder. You know, I think there’s that idea that well, they hardly got any sleep last night, so therefore, they’re going to sleep even better tonight, or but that’s not always the case.
Macall Gordon 16:06
Doesn’t always happen. Yeah. And another common problem with kiddos is that they’re waking up at four or five in the morning, kind of ready for the day. And then parents think, okay, if I put them to bed later, that’ll push that wake up. And it actually works exactly the opposite. So being overtired makes them kind of wake up really early. So you actually should try to get them in bed earlier the next night and get and break that over. I call it the overtired wired cycle, because they really are overtired. Sounds like they’re falling down sleepy, and it actually isn’t that way. It’s actually that they’re sort of buzzing. Right. And then it’s really hard.
Debbie Reber 16:48
Yeah, crunchy. Yeah. Yes, we have a lot of experience with that in this house. So you talked about some of these kids, including autistic kids, and I’m sure also for some kids with ADHD that there is actually a deficit in their body’s natural ability to produce melatonin. And then also, you know, the signals that they’re not recognizing those signals. I’m just wondering, are there any other aspects or commonalities among differently wired kids that can be the root of sleep issues?
Macall Gordon 17:20
Yeah, some of them really have difficulty quieting their brain down. So we talked about 2e kids or, you know, just kids with ADHD, for sure. I just have a lot going on. I always, I never love that ADHD term, or the content of how they’ve reconfigured it now, because I always say, is it attention deficit or thoughts surplus, right, because some of these kids are just thinking, so they’ve got so much going on. So we really need to help them get into their body, calm their brain down, slow their brain down, and then do our best to not feed their active brain. And that just basically means for some kids, for example, I say, Look, you know, I had one, one client at one time with a really bright, four year old, very active, very bright. And I asked, she was taking like three hours to fall asleep at night. And he said, Well, what are you doing at bedtime? And they said, Well, every bedtime, we lie down with her, and then we make up a story about the day. And I’m like, and how does that go? Does that help her calm down? And they’re like, oh, no, not at all. And I’m like, well, maybe we need to stop doing that. Because it was like catnip for her head, keep her awake. So then we say, okay, for a verbal kid, we’re going to use non verbal activities for a child who has auditory sensitivities, we may do something else, right, we want to do the thing that helps that facilitates them, slowing everything down. And getting into the sleep zone. And this is when sent an understanding of sensory processing. And a lot of that occupational therapy world is gold for these kids. Because truthfully, sensory processing sensitivity underlies the and research has shown this actually pretty conclusively, that sensory processing sensitivity underlies the vast majority of issues with sleep. So sensory processing, we know is just the way and it and I would say sensory processing is even at the heart of being how you’re wired, right. It’s your satellite dish for how you take in information, and then how you respond to that information. So kiddos who are more sensitive, have a much thinner barrier, I say to the outside world, it takes much less to throw them off. And sleep is sort of a sensory experience right? You need to again we said you need to under Now that your body is tired, you need to be ready to go to sleep. And then you have to have an environment that’s not annoying you. So, you know, the sheets are just right, the temperatures just right. I mean, I never realized how sensitive I was as a sleeper until I started doing this work. And you know how I have to have everything just right, otherwise, I can’t fall asleep. And kids are the same way. So figuring out what their sensitivities are, what things they know, don’t like, what things help them calm down, is super helpful. Look, things here’s an interesting one. Baths don’t always calm kiddos down. Some, it’s a sensory experience that wakes them up. So for those, you know, parents, no, you just have to ask them, does a bath calm them down or wake them up? And if it wakes them up, don’t do a bath at bedtime. For visual kids, don’t read a book, do an audit, or an audio, there’s lots of great audio recorded sleep visualizations that are great for kids. They’re sort of like self hypnosis, but it’s really just like a story that helps them calm down. Another great trick is what they call heavy work. And it’s a weird name, but it’s from occupational therapy. There’s some great resources online that you just type in heavy work for bedtime. And it’s basically games you can play with kids that help their big muscles and joints, kind of relax. So it’s things like and it’ll it’s, again, it’s not intuitive at all, pushing a laundry basket of books around, crashing into pillows, doing push ups on the wall, jumping on a trampoline, which you think would be the opposite of what you’d want to do for bedtime. But for these kids, that pressure on their joints and big muscles, kind of helps the whole system power down a little bit. So sometimes doing that, again, that’s good pre routine routine, right? Because it sounds like a game, but it’s actually in the service of getting them ready to kind of, Okay, I’m ready to get in bed and be calm.
Debbie Reber 22:14
Yeah, I’m remembering that when Ash was maybe four or five, six that Asher and my husband Derin would wrestle every night, you know, it was kind of their own WWF kind of style wrestling. And that was just part of the routine it was and so now I have a better understanding of why that worked.
Debbie Reber 22:40
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Debbie Reber 23:26
So is this a lot of experimenting, it sounds like because there are so many different things that we could try. And I also imagine these things change over time, like something that might work for this age child into yours may stop working. So how do we kind of navigate figuring out what might work for our child?
Macall Gordon 23:47
Well, that’s a good question, though. Because also, how do you know if it’s not working? Right? Like there’s a lot with these kids, they can be real curveballs. And what happens to us as parents is, often we can be really shell shocked, like nothing works. I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m just throwing possible solutions at everything. And that by itself makes things for these kids even more, a little more chaotic, right? So we say look, be very methodical, very methodical about what you try. Really give it three, four or five days, don’t try it two nights and go, Well, that didn’t work. Because these little guys have a very wide turn radius, and they’re not going to respond immediately. In fact, the first time you do something new, it’s probably going to be a rodeo. I just say just expect it not to work the first time. But you’ve got to stick with whatever you’re trying, at least for, I would say three or more times to really see if it’s going to kick in. These little guys love patterns, but they need to be able to detect the pattern and they need to be able to detect that it’s not going to change it Two nights. So having a really clear, almost rigid plan for bedtime, and then sticking with that for, really several nights can be really key for these little guys. I even say some of them rehearse the changes during the day. If, for example, let’s go back to like, Okay, I’ve been lying with them. And tonight I’m going to sit up or tonight I’m going to sit on the floor with them, talk to them about it ahead of time. And then say, Let’s go practice. Let’s go see what that’ll feel like. And, and give them a dry run so that you’re not springing things on them at bedtime, when everybody’s tired. Really front load, whatever it is you choose to do. We say write it into a plan. With kids, you can use visual cues like pictures or whatever is going to work for them. Review it ahead of time, check things off as you go and then review it again the next day. So choosing what works. That is in terms of the routine stuff, I would just say to understand first understand if you can understand your your own child’s processing, strengths and depth and not deficits, but like sensitivities, oh, he really hates loud noises or, or loud noise, like white noise really calms them down, use the white noise. Use that and avoid other things. Sensory Processing is hard sometimes. So I also say if you feel like your child has sensitivities, it may be worth just getting an assessment. And this is not for a diagnosis, you’re not looking for sensory processing disorder. It’s merely an assessment so that you can find out, for example, my kid is sensory seeking, and has sensitivities to tactile sensitivities. Those two things will tell you a lot. And the OTs that work with we’re assess kids will give you information about how to, you know, maximize their strengths and work with their sensitivity so that you’re not swimming upstream at bedtime, doing the thing, doing the one thing that’s making them stay awake or is annoying them right.
Debbie Reber 27:27
Oh, my goodness, every time you talk, I come up with three new questions. Okay, so one of the things you mentioned, you know, maybe white noise, or there’s so many different things that we could do. And I have certainly thought this and I’m wondering if other listeners have to I sometimes have worried that that by introducing a tool such as white noise, am I creating a situation where that you know, or my child will rely on that and will need it, then that is going to be the foundation for all future sleep? Right. And they will always need white noise. They can’t sleep? Can you dispel that?
Macall Gordon 28:03
Yeah, yes, yes. I think it’s the one message that parents get that is the least helpful. And really, I would say the most inaccurate. I mean, we don’t say, for parents of an infant, don’t carry them or they will never learn to walk. You know, kids will grow and change. At the same time. I still use white noise. I cannot have it on my phone. I use it in a hotel room. I don’t know what I did without. So I think the guideline for parents is this is sustainable for you. I think getting sleep is way more important than avoiding, you know what they call crutches, which I just don’t like that term at all. We’ve made doing what works and negative and I think that’s where parents struggle. They’re like I’m doing what’s working. And but I also kind of feel guilty about that or worried like you said, especially with these kids doing what works is absolutely key. It lowers the pressure on everybody because your kid is sleeping, they’re going to behave better, they’re going to feel better. And it’s going to be easier on you. And as parents with differently wired kids, we have got to conserve our mental and emotional energy. So if it’s working and it’s sustainable, white noise is totally sustainable. Lying with your kid for two hours, not sustainable. That’s not sustainable. So that we want to, we want to move that along. But any of these little things that we’re doing roughhousing before bed works now. He may not need it. In a couple of years, he may be able to do something else but for right now if it works, and everybody’s cool with it. Yay. I say have a party about that.
Debbie Reber 29:59
What about melatonin? Which is something that so many of us have used or use with our kids?
Macall Gordon 30:08
Yeah, it’s hard. I, I just I always defer to pediatricians on that, because it you know, it is a it. There’s all kinds of upsides and downsides, that’s true for anything. You know, when I have a kiddo who’s got silent reflux, a little baby’s got silent reflux. There’s some doctors who say, no, no, no, we don’t want to medicate, because there’s downsides. And it’s like, yeah, but the other downside is the stress and the disk and the distress that this family is experiencing, so that your pediatrician can help give people the upsides and downsides. I do know it’s routinely prescribed for kids with autism because of their natural melatonin deficit. But we have to also remember that melatonin only helps with sleep onset and is not a sleep aid in general, it only helps that first moment of the night. Yeah, talk to your pediatrician.
Debbie Reber 31:04
Okay, thank you. And what about co-sleeping? You know, you mentioned earlier that lying next to your child is not sustainable for a couple hours. But if a child is sleeping well, and they’re co sleeping, which is what a lot of parents end up doing? What are your thoughts on that?
Macall Gordon 31:22
I again, it is as long as it’s sustainable for you, and you’re sleeping well, and the child is sleeping well. But you know, it has to be really all three of those. There’s lots of times where people are co sleeping, they’re not sleeping well, and or the child’s not sleeping well. And then I’m like it’s not, it’s not super sustainable, really sensitive kids often have I mean, they’re really light sleepers. So even just the natural rolling over in bed rustling of the sheets, people breathing is enough to keep them awake. My son was certainly like this. And again, this was before white noise. And before we understood anything, he was waking up every 45 minutes, and we were co sleeping. And it was not good. I think he would have been better in his own space, because I think we were waking each other up constantly. So there’s nothing overtly bad about it. Or, or problematic if everybody’s sleeping? Well. Yeah, for sure.
Debbie Reber 32:24
So what about a family that has, perhaps they have some routines that aren’t sustainable? But they’re desperate? Right? And so they found themselves kind of going down a path that wasn’t their intention, but they are? How do they get back on track and push that reset button? What does that actually look like?
Macall Gordon 32:46
Oh, boy? Sure, that’s a really good question, because that totally happens. So again, it depends on the age of the child. And hopefully, if we’re talking about a kiddo who’s old enough to really understand and reason, again, the idea is you sit down with your child, and you say, we’re going to come up with a new plan, and you front load, every request every thing that they may push for, and you decide, for example, okay, we’re going to read for 15 minutes, we’re never going to read for 20, we’re not going to read for 21, we’re going to it’s 15 minutes, 15 minutes, it’s always 15 minutes, and then ask them what they want in the routine and like build it with them. And then you’re just, you know, again, the first couple of nights that you change course on them, it’s liable to be bumpy, and it’s okay that it’s bumpy. If you know you’re asking your child to do something, that’s totally okay for them, then you have to just get on that horse and kind of ride it. But again, if the child is old enough, I think that you can really have them participate in it. And then in terms of another good point is in terms of rewards and incentives, a lot of times these guys are not into future rewards. They can’t hold it, it just doesn’t motivate them. So that idea of like, if you do a good job, if you check all these boxes, you get a blah, a sticker, where you get whatever, doesn’t not work. And parents often really feel up a creek because then they’re like, Well, how do I motivate them? Really, all you can do is make a big deal the next day of everything that went right, and ignore the stuff that didn’t so just make a really like a lot of good, solid praise about how well certain steps went. And then you’re giving it that you’re giving your attention to the stuff that went well, for sure.
Debbie Reber 34:45
And as kids get older, too, I imagine that they become more invested. They would be more intrinsically motivated because they want to not be sleepy all the time. Right or you know, especially as they get to be adolescents and their sleep patterns change. waking up feeling not ready Maybe they’ll be more open to trying different strategies. Do you see that in your work?
Macall Gordon 35:05
Yes, sometimes I think I mean, kids, they do grow in their capacity for sure. You know, and then we kind of also it occurred to me, like, you know, we could do a whole thing on just anxiety around bedtime, you know, how do you work with fears of the dark, and there’s a lot to unpack in terms of, of what, what makes sleep so hard for these kids, we’d have to talk a lot faster. So to fit it all in. And then the only other thing I would talk about really quickly, just as a tangent, are the physiological disruptors of sleep that parents should keep an eye out for. So these are important, because there are things that look like a kiddo just doesn’t want to sleep, but it’s actually something physiological going on. For me, for older kids, the two big, the two big ones, one one we know about, and one may be a surprise. The first one is, of course, sleep apnea. So any snoring in a child outside of the cold, of course, outside of them being sick should get checked out. Because those kiddos who have sleep apnea, are going to get awakened quite a bit. And they’re going to look tired during the day, snoring, breathing through their mouth, sleeping in weird positions, waking kind of breathless, things like that. So that’s something to get checked out. For sure. The one that’s really surprising, that I’ve seen, it feels like an epidemic. I’m shocked, I’m seeing so much restless legs in kids. So restless legs kind of is a misleading name, because it really is painful legs, it’s incredibly painful. So if your kiddo is taking a long time to go to sleep, and they complain that their legs hurt, or they’re up for a long time in the middle of the night, like hours, and they cannot get back to sleep. restless legs is caused by low blood levels of ferritin. And ferritin is the iron storage capacity in the blood. It’s not hemoglobin, that can be fine, but ferritin can be in the basement. And if it is this that causes significant discomfort at bedtime and middle of the night. So that’s a blood test. But the good news is that the treatment is just some iron supplementation, and a pulmonologist want that level to be up above 50. So often, pediatricians have a much lower threshold for low. If your kid has some of those symptoms. Oh, yeah, it’s constantly kicking or we just thought it was growing pains. Get a blood test, get a blood test.
Debbie Reber 37:33
Wow. Okay.Sleep apnea I’ve definitely heard more about in recent years in kids, and it’s something we’re not usually looking for. But this is the first that I’ve heard about restless leg syndrome. And I have had that and it is so uncomfortable.
Macall Gordon 37:48
Oh yeah, really? Yeah, that’s what I’ve heard from adults. They’re like, No, it’s not restless. It’s…
Debbie Reber 37:54
Like torturous. Yeah, yeah.
Macall Gordon 37:56
Oh, really? Wow. Yeah, they would, this pulmonologist basically said, now we really think that what we thought of was growing pains is actually restless legs.
Debbie Reber 38:05
Wow, that’s fascinating. So for a parent listening to this, I will wrap up after this question. But for a parent who’s listening to this with a school aged child, I get this question all the time. Like, I’ve tried everything, you know, meditation baths, we went through a phase where we were just experimenting a ton. And I love that you said consistency, having that plan and really repeating it to get that evidence and really test it. But are there any go-to strategies that we haven’t talked about that you would encourage parents to try to see if it can make a change?
Macall Gordon 38:39
Yeah, I don’t know that there are any magic ones that I talked about.
Debbie Reber 38:44
That’s what I was going for.
Macall Gordon 38:45
Yeah, I know. Come on the magic one. I mean, there are you know, again, I just think that if you’ve got a good solid routine, the timing is good. You’ve got a good transition, and you’re still having problems at bedtime. It just depends on what the problem is. Right? Oh, my kids get out of bed every two seconds or, or, Oh, they just won’t fall asleep. There’s some of this stuff we can only do from our part of it. We can only do what we can do as parents. We cannot make a child go to sleep. So if we’ve covered every base, timing is good. Routine is good. A plan is good. She’s in bed, she stays in bed, but she just sings to herself for an hour. I’m like, as long as you don’t have to be there for that. That’s okay. That’s okay. So we can’t make them fall asleep. All we can do is make sure we’re not woven into their go to sleep pattern. And then set them up for success. And then after that, it’s important that they then do the work and some of these kids just take a long time to go asleep.
Debbie Reber 39:56
Okay, that’s helpful. Wow. Okay, we have covered so and this has been fascinating. I have a feeling I’m going to get more questions after people listen to this, which I will collect and maybe we’ll have a part two of this. But for now can you let listeners know where they can connect with you and learn more about your work?
Macall Gordon 40:14
Totally my website because I work with little ones. I call them little live wires. So that’s my website, littlelivewires.com is my coaching website with good information on there also Instagram @littlelivewires. So yeah, and I’ll have a book coming out sometime in the next couple of years on this topic. So yeah,
Debbie Reber 40:35
We need that book. That’s fantastic. Well keep us posted on that. Listeners, I will have links in the show notes pages. So you can check out Macall’s website and resources. And yeah, thank you so much. This has been fascinating, lots of food for thought, and I just appreciate everything you shared.
Macall Gordon 40:52
That was great. Thank you so much.
Debbie Reber 40:57
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