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ADHD & ASD Sleep Solutions Part 3 – The Biochemistry of Why Your Child Can’t Sleep


When parents are creating a sleep routine, ensuring their child is getting plenty of exercise during the day and is eating healthy food, they can feel like they have run out of options and that getting their child to sleep is hopeless.

In previous articles I discussed the importance of sleep for good behaviour and learning as well as some tips to help your child fall asleep and stay asleep. When that isn’t working there can be bio-chemical reasons why your child’s system is not able to settle and get good quality sleep. Certain nutritional deficiencies, hormone imbalances (yes even in children) as well as gut bacteria can all be the core underlying factors why your child is not able to fall asleep even when you feel like you’re doing everything right.

1.Parasites & Candida

When clients embark on a candida (yeast) and parasite cleanse they are often surprised how much their sleep improves. Many parasites can contribute to sleep problems and even insomnia. One of the reasons is that many parasites affect the nervous system. Lyme is a textbook example of this. One of the most commonly reported symptoms of Lyme is severe insomnia and yet sleep disorders and parasites are not limited to Lyme disease. Countless parasites have a similar effect.

Parasites are usually most active at night, which is why they can be especially troublesome when it comes to sleep. Doing a parasite protocol can reap huge benefits in helping your night owl get quality sleep. Avoid too-good-to-be-true 2 week protocols found in certain health food stores.  A parasite protocol often requires more than two weeks, as well as a change in diet and rotation in antimicrobials.

One indication that your child may have parasites is if their insomnia or behaviour becomes worse during the full moon. This is because parasites are most active and lay their eggs during the full moon – which is why it is important to start parasite protocols a few days before the full moon so that you kill not only the adults but the eggs and larvae as well.

If your child’s behaviour is also worse on damp, rainy days – suspect candida or mold since fungus thrives in damp, moist conditions.

2.Nutritional Deficiencies

This subject is huge with sleep difficulties and one of the best places to start when you have tried all of the previous strategies that I outlined in my last article.

Magnesium – Magnesium and calcium are the first two minerals that I look at when there are stubborn sleep difficulties. Magnesium isn’t called nature’s sleep aid for nothing. It helps to relax muscles and promote a sense of calm. Interestingly, magnesium also tends to be one of the top minerals in which ADHD children are deficient.

One of my favourite products is Magnesium CALM (with whom I have no commercial affiliations). If your child has problems with loose stools or diarrhea, then they will likely do better with magnesium glycinate. Epsom salt baths as well as magnesium oil are also excellent ways to get magnesium into your child while ensuring their body is absorbing it.

Calcium – We can’t talk about magnesium without discussing calcium since calcium cannot be absorbed without sufficient magnesium. Calcium deficiency can be one of the causes of the brain feeling like it is on a tread-mill.

If your child has difficulty with settling down mentally – consider calcium deficiency. Indications of insufficient calcium are muscle cramps, frequently breaking bones, lack of appetite and even constant fatigue. Liquid calcium supplements tend to be better absorbed than tablets.

Vitamin D/K2 – Guess what? Vitamin D/K2 is key in order for calcium to be absorbed. You can see why one supplement won’t out supplement a bad diet, or lifestyle. Of course the best way to get vitamin D is through sunlight but if you live in the northern hemisphere that can be a challenge. Instead of a vitamin D supplement, cod liver oil is ideal since it also has co-factor nutrients like vitamin A.

Iron, B12 and More – Other minerals and vitamins that contribute to sleep challenges are iron, B12 and even potassium. If a child is having difficulty staying asleep, low potassium could be the culprit.

3.Allergies & Sensitivities

If you consider that anti-histamine medications warns you that you shouldn’t drive or operate heavy machinery because it may cause drowsiness, it suddenly makes sense why high histamine can be stimulating to the point of experiencing anxiety, insomnia and hyperactivity. To make matters worse, histamine levels rise at night.  I wrote extensively about the effects of histamine on the brain in a previous blog series.

Seasonal allergies as well as food sensitivities can all trigger an increase in histamine levels. While food allergies produce almost immediate responses (known as an IgE response), sensitivities have a delayed response (called the IgA or IgG response). The biggest offenders to suspect are gluten, dairy, eggs, soy and corn.

If your child is worse during mold or pollen season – suspect histamine as a trigger to insomnia.

Other agents (even natural ones) that can increase histamine and keep your child awake are phenols, salicylates as well as preservatives like MSG (which is hidden under countless names).


We know the impact of hormones on the brain since mothers with PCOS or who were on hormonal contraceptives prior to getting pregnant are at an increased risk of having children who are on the autism spectrum.

It’s not uncommon for ASD children to have sub-clinical adrenal fatigue. Cortisol is one of the stress hormones produced by the adrenal glands. When cortisol increases above range, the sleep hormone, melatonin drops. Rather than cortisol rising in the early hours of the morning when it should and then slowly dwindling as the day progresses, cortisol can fluctuate and even peak at night in a person or child with adrenal fatigue.

You cannot support the adrenal glands and ignore the liver. Ensuring your child’s liver is optimally detoxing is key to ensuring that hormones are being optimally detoxed in the liver. Nutrients as well as herbs that support liver detoxification can help stabilize stress hormones.

Keep in mind that when insulin is not balanced every other hormone in the body becomes imbalanced which is why regulating blood sugar through high protein, high fat meals and snacks while limiting sugar and excess carbs can sometimes be the easiest place to begin.


Melatonin, GABA. L-Theanine, chamomile and valerian are various hormones, amino acids and herbs that can have a calming effect on the brain. GABA is one of my favourite but I would not advise using it as a permanent solution. Addressing why your child needs sleep aids in the first place is essential.

As always consult with your child’s health care provider before taking supplements.

To learn more about how you can help your child learn and behave better naturally so they can be a happier kid – schedule a free twenty-minute Better Brain Breakthrough Session or check out my programs.

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