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Larry Newman is the Chief Operating Officer, Technical and Regulatory Affairs of Kirkman Group, Inc. (Kirkman). Contact Kirkman at 1-800-245-8282; 6400 Rosewood St., Lake Oswego, OR.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Behavior and Sleep

By Larry Newman
Challenges for Individuals with Special Sensitivities
Behavioral and sleep disorders are very common in sensitive and special needs individuals. Because each individual is different and displays different forms of the disorders
, it is challenging to find the right interventions for a given person.  Often laboratory test results are of no value here as what causes one child to behave in a certain manner, may have no effect or a different effect on another.  Sometimes doctors and parents are forced to use trial and error evaluations of various interventions until the correct regimen is found for a given patient.

Behavioral Disorders

The most common behavioral disorders involve the following conditions:
  • Speech delay or absence of speech
  • Unable to put words or sentences together
  • Learning disabilities
  • Lack of communication and social skills 
  • Lack of eye contact
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Passive behavior
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Tics or abnormal nerve responses
The list of supplements and interventions that have had success in dealing with these behavioral disorders is long. Some of the most popular ones include:
  • High potency vitamin B-6/magnesium supplements
  • High potency multiple vitamins and minerals (some may include higher B-6/magnesium potencies as well)
  • DMG or TMG
  • Carnosine
  • Creatine
  • Inositol
  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Cod liver oil
  • Coenzyme Q10 and Idebenone
  • HBOT (Hyperbaric oxygen therapy)
  • Special diets such as GF/CF and SCD
Often lack of eye contact is the result of a dysfunctional vision disorder, which is improved considerably by cod liver oil as demonstrated by Dr. Mary Megson of Richmond, Virginia.

Generally a thorough examination by your physician is preferred before any of the above interventions are started, however many of the products listed are perfectly safe and present no side effects when taken. So in cases when a physician is not available for a period of time, a special diet, vitamins, minerals, omega 3 fatty acids, cod liver oil and coenzyme Q-10 are relatively harmless to try and could prove very beneficial. It should be remembered, however, that only one product or intervention should be tried at a time.

Other interventions such as DMG/TMG, HBOT, creatine, carnosine and inositol normally require a physician’s involvement for correct diagnosis and safety.

Sleep Disorders

Sleep disorders in sensitive and special needs individuals are not much different from sleep disorders in neurotypical people, though they are more prevalent.  These disorders are:

  • Insomnia
  • Periodic night waking
  • Restlessness
  • Nightmares
It must be remembered, however, that these sleep disorders in special needs individuals could be all or in part due to underlying conditions such as gastrointestinal pain from irritation, ulceration, reflux, inflammation or other causes of pain.  Sleep disorders may also be a result of severe ingredient sensitivities such as casein, gluten, soy, phenolic compounds, or just about any common allergen.  Ingredients known to trigger hyperactivity, such as sugar or chocolate can also be culprits in poor sleep habits.

If sleep disturbances are due to an underlying condition, the obvious corrective action would be to eliminate the pain or discomfort.  If ingredient sensitivities are suspected, then elimination of the allergen, such as through a special diet eliminating the allergen could improve the sleep pattern.

When pain, discomfort or sensitivities are not suspected or are minor, nutritional supplements may help.  The dietary supplements most often useful in helping with sleep disorders are:
 Of these, melatonin is by far the most utilized and most studied.  Its effectiveness is well documented.

All of these supplements are relatively safe and with few known side effects.  They should again be tried one at a time for about a week in the order listed above.  If one does not seem to help, stop and try the next one.

In addition to nutritional supplements, sensory integration and relaxation techniques are often utilized for improving sleep disorders.  Some of these include:

  • Weighted blankets
  • Massages
  • Monotonous, peaceful sounds
 As you can see, there are a lot of potential aids to improving sleep patterns and what works for some will not work for others.  This is a complicated topic and requires a lot of trial and error on the part of the caregiver.