and hints for grown-ups hidden in here too! Sweet slumber- a highway to inspiration and renewal…
Sleep is a much needed refreshment, a chance for the unconscious to try to work things out, a break from the day, a night time creation of images, stories and feelings. It is vital for body and soul to receive…
Many children and people struggle with sleep: either going to sleep or waking up in the night. Our unconscious becomes active at night giving us dreams and sometimes nightmares. Our day time defences and distractions are absent and for many children night is a frightening time where danger lurks. This has objective truth as much in life that is sinister, lurks under the cover of the night!
Below are some top tips for promoting deep and healthy sleep.
There is no one certain method of ensuring sleep however these ideas could turn things around.
Stick to a regular bed time. Their body really does get used to it. Observe your child closely and notice when they are looking tired or behaving in a tired way. Adapt your bed times slowly as they age. We all need different amounts of time asleep and some people need less sleep than others or may be more morning or night energised. Ask yourself if your child should be going to bed later or getting up earlier. This could help with either difficulty going to sleep or waking up. If they wake earlier then they may be more tired at their bed time. Just make sure they have something to do and permission to do it if it turns out to be too early for you!
Have an hour away from looking directly at screens before bed time and this includes the TV.
Make sure your child has had plenty of exercise in the day. Sometimes it is just that the muscles need to discharge more cortisol [stress hormone] before settling down. Children really do need run around time rather than screen time as their muscles are growing and need to exercise. Exercised muscles are tired muscles which create a tired child ready to sleep. Physical exercise in terms of playful rather than competitive movement, has a way of releasing mental as well as physical tensions and renewing mental clarity and calm. Do look at relaxkids.com which is a website devoted to resources to encourage calm and relaxation in children.
Bath before bed when possible with lavender flavoured bubble bath. Boots produce one! Scent diffusers in a bedroom using essential oils of lavender, bergamot or geranium which all have reputed sleep giving and anti anxiety notes in them. For more advice see http://essentialoilbenefits.com/best-essential-oils-to-help-children-sleep/
Check out this link which talks of the benefits of the dream pad pillow [ a music pillow for anxiety and stress relief] and other new innovations in sleep technology
If bath time produces lots of excitement and stimulates rather than calms, move it earlier and do something else to settle your child down.
Reading aloud to a child, making sure to kiss them goodnight and leaving them feeling secure about you is important. It is good if you let them choose the stories but if you want stories that are specifically sleep inducing then I can recommend
These sleep scripts are based loosely on key fairy tales and select the least disturbing elements of the story to suggest peace and calm. This collection allows the child to make the choice and select images and tales that they are drawn to. Read the section of lifestoryhub.com entitled Therapeutic Stories and if you have created one of your own then bedtime might be a good time to read it aloud.
If the child does not want stories read to them anymore then invest in a CD player in their room and together select stories that are comforting. Paddington Bear stories certainly fit this category. Visit your library together for changes of CD’s though not too often as there is comfort in familiarity.
Make sure you allow your child to have talked through their day and their feelings about tomorrow or anything else going on in the family or at school. In this way they relieve their mind of the concerns and have your comforting presence to reassure them rather than lying alone with them in the night. Beware of this becoming a device for you to stay in their room for longer and longer each night. It may also stimulate their mind still further, so you must be judge here.
If the reason for the lack of ability to go to sleep is something that you feel is about their sense of anxiety about separating from you then it might be a good idea to give them something that in some way represents you; a ‘calming’ piece of material or something they choose of yours. In this way they can hold it and know you are close. This might also be a useful device if they are nervous about a school trip or nights away. It can get squeezed in with any soft toy animals that have become love objects for your child. These objects in much younger children are known as ‘transitional objects’ which is a term coined by D.W.Winnicott https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comfort_object
The going to sleep or back to sleep after waking is in itself a transitional state and involves the necessity of letting go and can be particularly difficult for children who have experienced loss. Loss of consciousness into sleep is a leaving of sorts of the familiar world of every day and means facing the darkness of the unknown.
If your child continues to talk of worrying about things once they are actually in bed and of not being able to sleep then choose a blank book for them to have by their bed and to draw their feelings or worries into. You can encourage them that this action can make them go away until another time. Tell them that you can look at them together the following day if they want to. You thus avoid bed time becoming firmly associated with the sharing of worries and your detention in their bedroom. If the worries continue over considerable time then it might be good to think further about what is bothering them so deeply and seek advice about whether counselling or therapy could be an option. The life story pack has a list of therapeutic resources and therapy websites.
Leave a small light on in your child’s room if fears about shadows and shapes in the room rear up. You can get battery operated candles that flicker and appear real which are warm and comforting or a traditional night light. Fairly lights from Ikea in star shapes add a warmth and gentle light to the room which does not prevent sleep. There are some who feel that only a black out blind and total darkness allows their child to sleep. It is worth questioning if there is too much light as a factor in their sleep difficulties.
On some occasions a small amount of a warming Bournvita, Ovaltine, Hot Chocolate before teeth brushing may signal to the child that it is almost time to rest. Be aware of drinks with caffeine as ingredients for they stimulate the body and mind as might chocolate but the idea of it being a treat and soothing might counteract the stimulation of the body! Avoid food for at least an hour before bed time as digestive processes also prevent the wind down necessary before sleep.
Listen to Headspace children’s section which has access to a going to sleep meditation that can be listened to through head phones but beware of this extending to any other electronic gadgetry. Here is the link: https://www.headspace.com/kids
Assure your child not to worry about the worry of not being able to sleep! Fear builds upon fear. Be confident about the situation in front of them. You could say that they would have to not sleep for at least three nights in a row for not even a wink before they would have a real problem! Tell them that as long as their muscles have a chance to be still then they will be just fine. It is here that you might think about:
Rescue Night Remedy. Here is the link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Bach-Rescue-Night-Drops-10/dp/B00FWYC214/ref=sr_1_4?hvadid=80470545552402&hvbmt=be&hvdev=c&hvqmt=e&keywords=rescue+night+remedy&qid=1552132362&s=gateway&sr=8-4&tag=mh0a9-21
This is an extremely useful ‘going to sleep medicine’ as four drops on the tongue [natural ingredients from flowers] induce sleep or at least the belief that sleep is coming. It is now alcohol free too! You then tell the child that they have to wait very quietly for at least ten minutes in silence before it works.
Make their bedroom somewhere they want to spend time in. Involve them in the choice of colour, curtain, furniture and most importantly bedding area and light effects. The more choice they feel about this and pride in the room they have the more likely going to bed will not induce a sense of being exiled against their will but of returning to a safe space that reflects their feelings. Many children don’t have the luxury of their own room but this does not mean their section of room can’t be made uniquely theirs. Sometimes it is those that don’t share a room who can feel most alone at night.
Kiwi’s for Supper Research in Taiwan [ Good Housekeeping September 2017 ] showed that eating two kiwis an hour before bedtime helped 24 volunteers with every aspect of sleep; falling asleep, deeper sleep and overall sleep time. It won’t do any harm to try half a kiwi with your child as they are full of vitamin C.
The Placebo effect…
If you don’t fancy buying anything you could make your own sleep medicine with water and a few drops of food colouring. Obviously all other options need to have been tried before suggesting this solution. It’s power only remains if not used too often.
All other options above are worth trying and fine tuning them to your child’s particular likes and dislikes. You may want to do these anyway before trying the script.
The ideas below may help your child to help themselves by giving them their own prompts of what to think about to settle them into sleep. They may want to go back through their whole day starting in the present through the story they have just had, then to the bath time, then to TV time, then to supper time, then to the journey back from school and so on until they remember waking up in the morning.
Each child is unique in what will feel pleasurable and relaxing to think about whilst waiting to sleep. It will also depend on their imagination. Here are some suggestions:
Think about your favourite holidays and what you have enjoyed most about them.
Your top ten favourite animals and what it is you like most about each animal you choose.
Go to the seaside in your mind on a lovely warm day with lots of wet and dry sand and a gentle sea that you can swim into with a lilo if you want one.
Take your favourite people on a holiday of your choice where you can do and go wherever you want to. You can climb up rocks and you can all fly like birds to explore the area if you need to. You will always be safe on this dream holiday whatever you do.
Sample sleep script:
You have been playing out in the woods with your friends all afternoon, hiding, finding, running, kicking and catching balls. The leaves have rustled beneath your feet and there has been a blur of fiery red and gold colours about you.
You have been out all afternoon in the countryside which is covered in a thick white blanket of soft snow. It has been a wonderful day playing with family and meeting friends, sledging down a snowy hill and walking back up over and over again, throwing and ducking snow balls.
Imagine that the sky is full of scudding clouds whilst it’s deep blue lies quietly behind them. The sun has peeped in and out at you throughout the day. You have been flying a yellow kite with
You are on a beach. You have been jumping and playing in the waves all afternoon with your friends and family.
Help them yourself with your voice by reading aloud slowly the enclosed sleep scripts to your child. They are based on feelings and atmospheres inspired by the four seasons in the UK. Your child may want you to read it aloud to them as they begin to feel sleepy or they may want to listen to it on a phone/laptop/I pad/pc. They can choose a different season each night and assure them that it will get them into a sleep friendly state. See how it goes… You may want to encourage your child to learn it themselves if you feel you are inducing a dependence on your presence to bring sleep. They will feel more confident if they can slowly learn to do it for themselves but all depends on trying not to give them pressure on the idea of getting to sleep. A hard ask!