Children’s Exposure to Toxins in Day Cares

You try to use non-toxic cleaning supplies, give your children (mostly) healthy food, and only use soaps and other personal care products with natural ingredients.  That is, you do this in your home . . . but what happens when your child goes out?  Now, I wouldn’t worry about the time your child needs to use the restroom at a restaurant and uses soap with (gasp!) antibacterial products in it, but what about somewhere your child goes EVERY day?  Do you think about what products your child’s day care or school uses?  This is especially important in very young children who are crawling around on the floor and putting things in their mouths.

Cleaning Products

Cleaning products can affect the indoor air quality of the day care your child goes to.  If possible, the day care will  use non toxic cleaners.  Check out this website to research what products your day care is using:  Remember there are no laws regarding companies putting “natural” or “green” on labels so make sure you do your homework to determine if a product is really non toxic.  If your day care insists on using toxic cleaning products, ask them to at least use them when the children are not in the area.

Air fresheners

Air fresheners only mask existing odors and do nothing to remove them.   According the Environmental Working Group (EWG): “They also contaminate the air, exposing people to a host of undisclosed, untested and potentially toxic substances, including phthalates, synthetic musks and allergens.”  Make sure your day care is not using air freshners, especially around children.  The EWG suggests identifying and removing or cleaning up the odor source, as well as opening windows and putting out an open container of baking soda.


If your children take naps at school, find out what kind of mats or cribs the school uses.  Dangerous chemicals have been found in nap mats, so ask what the day care is using:

If the school washes the sheets and blankets, find out what laundry detergent the school is using.  If the detergent has fragrance in it, see if you can wash your own blankets and sheets.


You should take a look at what toys the day care has for your child to play with.  Toys manufactured before 2009 could contain dangerous phthalates, which have been shown to cause many health problems.  If a toy has a very plasticy smell, do you really want your child putting that in their mouth?  Look for a day care with a lot of wooden toys and not too many plastic toys.


Bring your own diapers and fragrance free wipes.  Do not be afraid to ask your day care center if they will use your cloth diapers if you are using them at home.  Many centers do not realize how easy cloth diapers are these days.  You can show the providers how to use them and you can bring your own wet bags where they can place the diapers.

Talk to the School

If you find that your school is using hazerdous chemicals, do your research and have information to bring to them and show them.  Explain to them why you are concerned and how important this is to you.  Have options that they can use instead and if you can, offer to buy them a product so they can try it and see that it works the same as something they already had.

Here is a helpful link to the Center for Health, Environment, & Justice (CHEJ) about helping to create healthy schools:

I will probably be adding to this in the future as there is just so much information out there!!

By Michelle Winters

Guest Post About Night Terrors

I have a special treat for you today – Michelle Gordon, a writer for has generously offered us an article she has written about Night Terrors.  I hope you enjoy!

Night Terrors

You hear your child wake, screaming and crying in her bedroom. She sounds so overwrought that you come running, but she doesn’t seem to hear you when you speak to her. Her eyes are open, she’s sweating, her heart is pounding, and she looks absolutely terrified – but she breaks away when you try to calm her and doesn’t even seem to recognize you.

Suddenly it’s over. Without any real help from you, she calms and snuggles down into bed by herself, suddenly asleep again. As you stumble back to bed, your mind races. What just happened?

Night Terrors

These episodes are called night terrors or sleep terrors. Both kids and adults can have night terrors, but they’re more common in children. Kids may sleepwalk, scream, cry, or even talk during a sleep terror, but they won’t respond to their parents or loved ones the way they would in the waking world.

Night Terrors and Dreaming

Night terrors aren’t true dreams. According to sleep researchers Carlos Simon Guzman and Yuan Pang Wang of the Institute of Psychiatry at Universidade de São Paulo in Brazil, “arousal parasomnias” like night terrors and sleep walking most commonly occur during periods of partial arousal from delta sleep, or Stage 4 sleep.

Children spend more time in delta wave sleep than grownups, and night terrors most often happen early in the night, when periods of delta sleep are longest. Night terrors can also sometimes happen in very young children, whose neurological systems aren’t fully matured, as they transition from deep REM sleep (where they dream) to light REM sleep (where there are no visual dreams).

Delta sleep is a deep sleep stage, but it’s not deep REM sleep, where dreams occur. In deep REM sleep, the brain literally disconnects muscle control so that we don’t act out our dreams. A person in delta sleep doesn’t “see” or experience events as they would in dreams – in fact, both kids and adults who have night terrors will wake up in the morning with no memory of the episode at all. In other words, you’re probably more traumatized by the whole thing than your little one.

Reasons for Night Terrors

The most common explanation for night terrors is that the central nervous system, or CNS, is somehow overstimulated during sleep, according to KidsHealth. Stimulation, either left over from a dream, in response to the pressure of a full bladder, or due to partial awakening for some other reason, can cause a rush of adrenaline in the hyper-stimulated CNS and trigger an inappropriate “fight or flight” response. So the flailing little one in front of you is exhibiting the chemical effects of fear – but she’s not responding to any kind of mental imagery from a dream, and she’s still too deeply asleep to know that you’re there and trying to wake her.

Research published in 2003 in the journal Pediatrics by Gulleminault et al. found that more than half of kids who suffer from parasomnias like night terrors have another sleep-related disorder like restless legs syndrome or, most commonly, sleep disordered breathing (or SBD). Treating the other sleep disorder resulted in alleviation of night terrors in most cases, so the partial arousals caused by another sleep disorder are one cause of night terrors.

Who has Night Terrors?

Night terrors happen to both boys and girls, usually between the ages of four and twelve years. Occasionally, younger children are reported to have these issues. Reports may be lower in toddlers and babies since nighttime awakenings on the whole are more common in the youngest children.

Most children grow out of night terrors on their own as the nervous system matures. Some adults do suffer from night terrors, and in these cases the problem might stem from childhood or present for the first time after a traumatic event later in life. Night terrors in adults are associated with a higher instance of psychological disorder, so see a specialist if you’re experiencing night terrors as an adult for any significant length of time.

Night terrors in young children, “tweens,” and even young teens are usually no cause for alarm. They are most often a side effect of a normally developing CNS, rather than an indicator of psychological problems. Still, if your child has these partial awakenings nightly or if the episodes are severe enough that he could be injured, visit a pediatric therapist or a sleep specialist. The underlying cause may be as simple as a related, and easily fixed, sleep problem.

Helping a Child Through Sleep Terrors

A parent’s first instinct is to hug or rock a child in the throes of a night terror, but this response can actually make things worse. Remember, your child is still in a deep state of sleep and doesn’t consciously hear you or recognize you – so a hug can feel like a restraint, further arousing them from sleep and exacerbating the chemical fear response your child is feeling. A child who is woken from a sleep terror may have trouble calming down due to the “fight-or-flight” feeling produced by adrenaline; it’s far easier on both adult and child if the child passes through this bumpy transition without waking fully.

Don’t try to wake a child who is in the middle of a night terror. Watch to minimize the chances of injury, let the child settle down on his own, and tuck him in as he drifts off to deeper sleep again. In some cases, if the episode doesn’t resolve itself in a minute or two, walking your child to the bathroom to relieve himself may make the difference.

Remember, if it’s a night terror and not a bad dream, your little one will have no memory of the event in the morning. Since little brains and bodies don’t remember night terrors, there’s no danger of lasting damage to a child’s psychology or emotional development. Parasomnias really can be harder on the parent than the child.

Need to Know:

  • Night terrors in children aren’t a sign of psychological or behavioral problems.
  • Night terrors happen when a child transitions between deep sleep stages or is partially aroused from sleep. It’s a natural, if unfortunate, part of the maturing central nervous system for a small percentage of children.
  • Night terrors can sometimes be caused by a related sleep disorder, so if the problem is severe or long lasting, talk to a sleep specialist.

Nice To Know

  • Your child isn’t having a bad dream – in fact, he or she probably won’t remember the event at all when the sun comes up.
  • Night terrors usually resolve on their own over time. Even adults who experience night terrors after a traumatic incident usually find the episodes stop after they’ve had time to think about and process the event.

Michelle Gordon has been a lifelong student of sleep and sleep disorders. She enjoys speaking to others (in groups and individually) about how to enhance the sleep experience. She writes for, the definitive guide for latex mattresses.

Sick Children and Sleep

Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos

Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos

My 7 year old daughter woke up in the middle of the night Saturday crying out and calling for me which is not normal for her.  I went in to see what was wrong and I realized she had a fever.  She still was running a fever on Monday, so I took her to the doctor and we learned she had the flu 🙁  Since Saturday she has been waking frequently in the night crying and calling for me.  Sometimes she’s totally awake, sometimes she is barely awake.  I always go to her right away and make sure she is okay.  I still leave the room before she falls asleep.

When our children are sick, sticking to sleep schedules is probably the last thing on your mind.  While I would never recommend starting sleep training with a sick child (or one that is getting sick or getting over being sick), remember that sleep is very important when your child is sick so you want to make sure they are getting enough of it.

If you are in the middle of sleep training, see if you can stay at the same position or step you were at before they got sick.  You could always move backwards a little, but try not to go all the way back to the way things originally were.  Once they are all the way better, you can pick up where you left off.

If you are all the way done with sleep training and your child was sleeping well, they may not be when they get sick.  Give them some extra help falling asleep or falling back to sleep, but again, try not to go all the way back to the beginning.  As soon as they are better, you may have to do a little work getting them back to sleeping well, but they should quickly go back to being a great sleeper!

If you were co-sleeping and recently moved your child out of your bed, you may want to try sleeping in their room instead of bringing them back to your bed. It may be confusing to them if they are not old enough to understand you are just bringing them back to your bed for the time when they are sick. Of course, if that doesn’t work and your child is getting upset, do what you need to in order to keep them calm and get the sleep they need to get better quickly!

If your child was a good sleeper before they got sick, do what you need to while they are sick.  Once they are better, go back to doing what you were doing before.

The most important thing is to be there for your child and help them get better quickly.  Remember they do need sleep to get healthier though!

Thanks for reading and please feel free to share!

By Michelle Winters

“Air Quality Evangelist” Award

air_quality_blog_awardI am so excited!  The other day I got an email from someone at a company called Sylvane.  Sylvane is a company that specializes in improving indoor air quality.  A few months ago they started a monthly award program for outstanding bloggers in the allergy and air quality space.  For the month of February, one of the blog posts I wrote for was selected for this award!

Here’s a link for more information on the award and it also contains a link to my article:

If you’d rather just read the article and learn simple ways to improve your indoor air quality, here’s the link to my article:

And if you’d like a personal consultation with me on how you can cut back on the amount of toxins in your home, contact me at

– Michelle

Daylight Savings Time

For the past 2 years, I’ve been on top of every daylight savings time and always gave advice about them in my monthly newsletters.  For some reason, this daylight savings time has totally surprised me and I just realized on Monday that this weekend we changed our clocks!  Oops!!

Anyway, for those of you who may be wondering what this means for your child’s sleep, I have some tips for the weekend coming up.

First of all, if you have a child who wakes early in the morning, this may be a good time for you.  If your child wakes at 5 or 6 in the morning, once we change the time, they will wake at 6 or 7.  BUT – that is only if you change all the other times to the new time as well – so if your child’s bedtime is currently 7, you would need to make sure they are going to bed at 8 the new time.  If that is doable, try it and see if it helps!

2013-03-05_21-18-43_377For children who are not early rising right now, you could either do the time change gradually, or do an immediate change.  For a more gradual change, which would be good for young children, start putting them into bed a little earlier each night.  You could do 10 – 15 minutes earlier each night.  Since it will be lighter out when they go to bed, you may want to think about room darkening shades or curtains if you do not already have them.  You could also start waking your child up earlier by 10 – 15 minutes earlier as well.  Do not forget to change meal times and nap times gradually as well.

You could also do an immediate change on Sunday and wake your child up at their normal wake up time according to the new time.  So if they normally wake at 7, you will actually be waking them at 6 (old time).  Then make meals, naps, and bedtimes according to the new time.  Children adjust pretty quickly and in a few days everything should be back to normal!

Let me know if you have any questions!  Weren’t these time changes easier before kids?!

By Michelle Winters