26 Jul Five tips for better sleep
Bedtime – a time when your little darlings will be all relaxed and sleepy and will drift off into a happy and peaceful sleep without any fuss…
Hmmm. Not always like that is it?
Five tips for a stress-free bedtime (tried and tested with three boys as a single parent!) I’m writing this partly as a Relax Kids Coach and Kids Yoga Teacher, but mainly as a parent as I didn’t train in those things until they were all a bit older! These are just ideas, pick and mix whatever you think might work for you and your family, but consistency is key.
1. Routine, routine, routine
Such an obvious one but so true! Kids of all ages thrive on routine and everything being the same each night. Doing a bedtime routine in the same order and at the same time each night gives them a feeling of security and safety before they go to bed, which helps them to settle. It takes a bit of time to establish the routine and then to do it each night but if persevering leads to stress free bedtimes its all worth it in the end! It doesn’t really matter what routine you use as long as its consistent…. bath, pyjamas, milk and a biscuit, teeth, story, sleep has always worked for us. You could plan the routine together with the kids so it works for everyone. If you have more than one child do part of the bedtime routine with everyone together and then take some time to settle each child in their own room. Build in plenty of chat time… its an ideal time to have that quality time with your child and if they feel like they have your full attention they’re more likely to go to sleep once its time for you to leave the room. Talking of leaving the room… all this time working on a lovely bedtime then when the times comes for you to leave they ping awake again or start to fuss! Leave the room, be gentle but firm and consistent. Easier said than done, I know… but worth persevering even if its a struggle for a few nights.
Back to the routine – feel like you sound like a broken record? How about a chart to tick off all the things they need to do so they get on with it and you save your voice? You can buy charts with magnetic pieces to move around a board when each task like bathtime, pyjamas, cleaning teeth etc are completed or you could help your children to make their own, which gives them some say in the bedtime routine itself. They will enjoy feeling grown up and you’ll be less stressed 🙂
2. No screen time for at least an hour before bed
Its been proved by endless studies that looking at phones, tablets, games consoles etc before bedtime isn’t a good thing, for adults as well as kids. The stimulation from the games kids are likely to be playing on their electronic gadgets doesn’t go well with peaceful sleep… although there are some lovely meditation type apps designed for kids which may work for you. Listening is ok… as long as they’re not looking at the screen! Stay and listen with them, chill time for both of you and no chance of them playing games once you leave them unattended with a phone or tablet! The blue light from the screen is also thought to suppress the production of a hormone called melatonin, which helps us to become sleepy.
Bathtime was always an important part of our bedtime routine as they all enjoyed playing in the bath. I would sneak in some aromatherapy bubble bath or a few drops of essential oil which I’d let them choose. I’m a qualified Aromatherapist so they’re used to me using different essential oils on the house! Calming oils like lavender, chamomile, and frankincense work a treat as they not only smell nice but they’re absorbed into the skin and continue to calm them once they get out of the water (every little helps!) Try and buy quality essential oils if you can, Holland and Barrett sell them as well as local Natural Health shops. If you’re buying them online, look for the Aromatherapy Trade Council logo to ensure quality. The cheap sets with an oil burner you sometimes see for sale can be artificial perfumes rather than essential oil and won’t have the same effect.
4. Magic Sleep Spray/Relaxation Exercises
Still on the subject of aromatherapy, I’m a big fan of “magic sleep spray”, which you can buy ready made from various places (I like the Neal’s Yard Goodnight Pillow Mist). You can also make your own, I use 100ml of spring water in a spray bottle with 10 drops of chamomile and 10 drops of lavender. Don’t overdo it with the oils… lavender is very relaxing but if you use too much it becomes a stimulant instead! Spray it lightly over them once they’re settled in bed, that way it will be on them and their pillow for them to breathe in as help them to fall asleep.
Building a relaxation exercise into your bedtime routine once they’re in bed is a great way to get them to settle down ready for sleep. Some easy ones are:
– five deep breaths while thinking of five things that make them happy or five amazing things that happened today. They could count each breath on their fingers.
– tensing and releasing the muscles in each arm, leg, tummy, chest etc in turn working from the feet upwards. Get them to tense the muscles as tightly as they can for as long as they can before releasing, then that part of the body feels really relaxed.
– listen to some relaxing music, there are some lovely videos on you tube designed to send you to sleep.
– read them a meditation story (see below!)
5. Story time… or better still a meditation story
We always had one story, or an occasional extra one as a treat for being lovely that day. Sometimes we would read a page each, sometimes I let them choose the book, sometimes I would choose but we were both involved in the process. Once I trained in Relax Kids I would read meditation stories from their books and it was like switching off a light, my youngest would be asleep before I got to the end!
These are a couple of my favourites:
If you want to have a look I have both of these books at home. They both have 5 plus as an ideal age, but some of the stories in Magic Box can easily be used for older kids even teens and adults. Wishing Star is better for younger children.
To finish, this is one of my own meditation stories I use all the time, give it a try and see what you think. The trick is to read it in a calm and gentle voice, quite monotone.
Secret Room Meditation – by Carol Bailey
Lie down on your bed or somewhere really comfortable, with cushions or blankets if you like, and make sure you’re nice and warm. Have a little wriggle until you feel the most comfortable you can be, and close your eyes. Take a deep breath in through your nose and then breathe out through your mouth, then take four more of these breaths, slowing your breathing down each time. With each breath imagine yourself sinking further and further down into the bed, warm and relaxed and cosy.
Now imagine you’re not here in this room, but instead you’re lying down in a special secret room. This room is totally your own design and can be however you want it to be. It can be plain and square, or round and colourful, it could have a magic ceiling or walls to make it bigger or smaller, it might have no walls at all and just be a space outside. It could have no gravity with special floating furniture, it could be a treehouse, a spaceship, a castle, or completely made of bubbles, absolutely anything you want, as weird and as wacky as you like!
Think about what’s inside your room…. Do you have chairs, a comfortable bed or something else to lie on, a popcorn machine or a hot tub? Does it have windows? Think about what you can see outside…. It could be a beach, a mountain, the jungle, under the sea, space. The only limit is your own imagination.
Spend a few minutes thinking about YOUR room and how you want it to look. Think about what you can see in your room, what you can hear, what you can smell, and what you can feel.
This is YOUR space you have created in your mind. You can come here any time you like, in your mind. You can use your secret room to think, be creative, feel happy, calm down, settle down to sleep or have some time just for you, whatever you need.
If you have enjoyed this blog post, let me know! I run occasional sleep workshops at Mirfield Community Centre, usually on Sunday evenings with gentle games, yoga stretches, family massage, breathing exercises, positive affirmations for the coming week and relaxing sleep meditation stories. If you would like to book, get in touch 🙂
© Carol Bailey 2021