Helping Kids Fall Asleep: 10 Bedtime Tools
Updated: Apr 17, 2018
Got a wiggler or a worrier who cannot settle down to sleep or who wakes frequently in the night? Check out this list of ideas and pick one or two to add to your toolbox, as appropriate for your child’s age and personality, and get him/her sleeping soundly sooner.
Routine – You’ve heard this from every source on children and sleep but it really makes a difference. It helps train my daughter’s nervous system and it mentally helps prepare my son. Here is our typical routine for our older children: bath and undies (they don’t sleep in PJs), teeth brush and potty, stories and snack, prayer, lights out with music and sleepy spray. For my one year old son, he takes a bath and brushes teeth with my daughter, hangs out while we read books, says “Good Night” to everyone, gets a fresh diaper and pjs, and nurses with Momma while listening to music and white noise.
Get in body, lower the better – When we are overtired, excited or stressed our energy tends to be focused in our heads and chest. When we are calm and peaceful our energy resides lower in our body. Bringing awareness to our lower body and moving energy out of our brains settles our nervous system and makes it easier to settle down. This is called GROUNDING, here are some ideas: Wiggle toes hard and fast then relax, Momma taps on their leg or foot and child counts the number of taps, Massage – light sweeping or deeper rubs from top to bottom or just focus on feet. I have some great sleepy yoga routines for infants that would work on any child – contact me for a lesson!
“Magic” – Using imagination and INTENTION helps their whole self get involved in welcoming sleep and it makes it fun: use essential oils (Lavender, Loving Care), use a wand to sprinkle sleeping powder (ask them to tell you what it looks like), swish the yuckies out of their bubble (this is called fluffing the aura – doesn’t matter what the yuckies are), feel the light come in and send the yuckies out (ask them to tell you where you missed some). When I do this last one myself I usually start breathing light into my own body from head to toe and am asleep by the time I reach my shoulders.
Pray – Prayer teaches them to rely on themselves by letting God take the problems! Ask them to pray for help getting the words out of their head, having good dreams, or whatever they are struggling with.
Music – We sing lullabies at my house and each kid has sleep music that they use nightly. The same sound used regularly trains the muscles and the brain to sleep.
Guided meditation stories – There are some great ones out there, sound and voice is a potent force. Here is one from YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=14ss46EvaCg
Breath – Slowing down breathing, using breath to quiet the mind and letting more oxygen in is a surefire way to help your child get ready to sleep. Sleepy meditation: close your eyes, listen to your breath in the silence and return to the breath when words come in. Also, taking five slow deep breaths with sighs help reverse the stress levels.
Sensory – Giving the brain a task and involving the senses brings them to the present. Get them to see five things in their room, share five sounds they hear, do they smell anything? Have a sip of water, feel their body on the bed. Help them focus on these.
Transition – Simple review of the day. Bury the words under their pillow/bed. Nothing else matters now except bedtime. Remind them that sleep doesn’t matter as much as rest. Sometimes the pressure to sleep is more stressful.
Remember When They Were Babies – Your child is the same child as when they were an infant. What tools did they need to calm down or get to sleep with they were an infant? Find a way to mimic or recreate those tools.
Does your child have nightmares or night terrors that interfere with her rest and your sanity? Here are some suggestions – you do what you feel is best and most comfortable for you and your child.
First of all night terrors, this good definition from raisingchildren.net.au, are “when your child suddenly becomes very agitated while in a state of deep sleep. A night terror can last from a few minutes up to 40 minutes. Children having night terrors might sit or stand up, shake, move around, and cry or scream loudly. They might look like they’re in extreme panic. A child having a night terror is inconsolable and won’t respond to soothing or comforting. During a night terror, your child’s eyes might be open. Children having night terrors might be moving and thrashing around, but they’re actually still in a state of deep sleep. Night terrors can run in families, so there might be a genetic component to whether children will experience them. Night terrors are natural events associated with the normal development of sleep in children.”
What to do? Short answer: nothing. Though they seem scary they aren’t directly harmful and children don’t remember them.
What could you do? Don’t wake them, it makes them harder to settle down, but comfort them. If you wanted to you could find a reiki or EFT practitioner to support their system or find a way to heal from them. You can also implement flower essences or essential oils during the event or later on. We often use Rescue Remedy in a pinch, but there are essences that can bring balance to this energy so they happen less often or not at all.
The first thing I suggest, for both nightmares and night terrors, is start being aware of triggers. Do they happen more often when your child is overtired, has had too much sugar, or there is stress in the house? Then take preventative measures. My daughter is sure to have them if she has had any amount of corn syrup.
I hope these suggestions help bring more peace and sleep to your family. If you have more questions please contact me!