You’ve probably got the whole breathing thing down-pat by now don’t you? After all, you’ve been doing it your whole life. You didn’t even need to teach your children, they intrinsically knew how to breathe from the moment they entered this big beautiful world.
It’s a blessing and a curse that we can perform such a vital function without even thinking about it.
If we had to think about every breath we took it would take up most of our day, but stopping to concentrate on breathing is one of the best things we can do for our mental and physical health and teaching children how to breath slowly and deeply is a wonderful tool to help them manage stress throughout their lives.
Slow, deep, belly breathing encourages little bodies (and big bodies) to relax by activating a certain part of the brain to trigger a relaxation response. It makes children calmer and more mindful and sets them up for a smooth transition into sleep.
One key reason deep breathing can help children with sleep is that it focuses their attention on just one thing which stills their minds while calming their bodies.
Deep breathing is not difficult - it’s remembering to use it as a calming tool and reminding your child that is the tricky part.
As long as you are encouraging your child to fill their belly slowly then push all the air out at the same speed, you’re on the right path when teaching them deep breathing.
Here are a few different ideas:
For more simple ideas and tips to help calm your child and create a peaceful bedtime tonight, sign up for the Madel Sleep Success Challenge.
Yoga to try this, it feels amazing!
It really does. All jokes aside, yoga is one of the best things you can do with your child to benefit their mind and little body and ease them into a peaceful sleep.
Yoga can help children in so many ways but two of the most important are:
Kids are so active in their days, the strength of their little bodies can seem incredible. Sometimes what they do - like pulling themselves up to get something Mum put where she thought it was out-of-reach - seems impossible and I know I’ve been in awe of what those little bodies can achieve on more than one occasion.
With this strength, children need flexibility so that their little muscles can move the way they’re meant to and support their bones and joints without putting pressure on them. This flexibility comes from stretching.
Balancing - their body and mind
Whether we intend it or not and even despite our best efforts, constant stimulation is a part of everyday life for children in this sometimes chaotic world. Their little minds and bodies just aren’t equipped to deal with it all and they need help to calm their minds and ‘declutter’ their brains at the end of the day.
Is his or her favourite food spaghetti? Have them stand tall with their feet together and with palms together stretch up as tall as they can like a piece of spaghetti.
Does your child love dinosaurs? Have them squat slightly, with knees out, arms outstretched like a pterodactyl.
You don’t have to think too hard though, there are plenty of resources with kids bedtime yoga poses and routines and pictorial explanations.
I also include a printable copy of some pre-bed yoga poses in my free Madel Sleep Success Challenge (you can join below) and there are plenty more yoga ideas online if you do a quick Google.
Just remember, yoga with children doesn’t necessarily mean super-flexible fancy poses, the point is more that your child will be focussing on something quiet and calming while stretching their bodies.
Giving your child the skills to stretch their body and calm their mind and body is a wonderful gift and will help them to work through stresses that they’ll meet in the future. It is so beneficial to have healthy ways of moving through stress.
Some schools in the USA have started replacing detention with meditation and yoga and the results have been overwhelmingly positive with children returning to class more focussed, calmer and best of all, less likely to do whatever it was that would have gotten them detention in the past.
I’m going to guess that the benefits of this will extend beyond the classroom.
Yoga is so beneficial to children in so many ways. I hope it can help make your child’s bedtime more peaceful and successful.
Bedtime yoga is just one of my tips for a successful bedtime. If you’re interested in finding out the rest, join my free Madel Sleep Success Challenge. Enter your details below to receive the PDF guide.
Have you ever noticed that sometimes your little one will sleep through you making almond meal in the high-powered-super-loud blender (the same one your neighbour thought was a power tool when you dared make frozen yoghurt late one night) but other times you drop a tissue at the other end of the house and it’s enough to wake them?
Here’s the thing, really little kids, unlike adults, have more regular periods of light sleep where things like an unfortunate sneeze might wake them. During their deep sleep period, you can break out the tap shoes and dance an Irish jig outside their door (ok maybe I exaggerate but you get the point) but when they enter the light period, it’s best to shelve the shoes.
Most littlies, by around 9 months, will be accustomed to little household noises like you moving around the house cleaning up after a big day of play. It’s the sudden noises, like a dog barking or a giant palm frond falling that will wake them so doing your best to block out these noises is key.
White noise is type of noise that can have a masking effect on sudden changes in noise. When a noise wakes a child or stirs them when they’re trying to get to sleep, it’s not the noise exactly but the sudden change in what bub’s ears are hearing (yep hearing still works while we’re asleep) that jolts them awake.
The other benefit of white noise is that it can reduce stimuli and help calm your little one’s mind and body after a big day of learning and exploring.
Now before you think ‘another thing I need?’, there’s no need purchase an expensive white noise machine. While some are fantastic, you can get the same effect from a radio switched on to static or a simple pedestal fan. The key is using a continuous noise from bed time through the night.
White noise can also help create a calm bedtime environment and playing it during your child’s bedtime routine can help to slow that busy little mind and body. The same can be said of soothing tunes - the type you would expect to hear at a day spa.
Music that has a tempo slower than a heartbeat, works to slow and calm the body and mind and playing a certain tune at bedtime can make your child associate the song with going to sleep.
If the idea of having a radio on static all night doesn’t sound all that peaceful to you, there are many different white noise apps available that play a range of sounds. Perhaps a recording of the rain on a tin roof would be more suitable for your family?
In my 14 Day Sleep Success Challenge one of the tips I share is playing calming music during the bedtime routine to help your little one fall asleep more easily and stay asleep through the night.
For more ideas that you can use tonight, to make your child’s bedtime more peaceful, download the free Sleep Success Challenge by entering your details below.
“Tiny luminous rays from a digital alarm clock can be enough to disrupt the sleep cycle even if you do not fully wake. The light turns off a "neural switch" in the brain, causing levels of a key sleep chemical - melatonin - to decline within minutes.” (source)
So if this is true then kids must need total darkness to sleep and kids night lights are bad?
Well, actually that’s a bit of a myth.
Let’s step back in time for a minute. Do you remember learning about the light spectrum back in your school days? Let me give you a bit of a refresher - light is classified according to the light spectrum and ranges from warm to cool.
Think of a sunset. Which colours come to mind? Oranges, reds - those sorts of colours right? These are called ‘warm’ colours and research has shown that they are the colours that signal to our bodies that it is time to sleep. Back in the days before electricity, this was the last light of the day so it makes sense that the colours of sunset signified winding down and readying for sleep.
Now think of the morning and sunrise. Do you think of bright, blues and greens and lots of light? Exactly. It makes sense that these are colours that enliven us doesn’t it?
Most of us have the lights on for at least a couple of hours after the sun goes down and at the end of a long day, we usually indulge in a bit of screen time be it television or a game or show on the iPad.
The light from these screens and devices is classed as ‘blue light’ - the same sort of light that tells our bodies that it’s time to be awake. It’s why sleep experts recommend no screens in kids’ bedrooms and no screen time at least for the hour before bed.
But what about light in your child’s bedroom?
A lot of sources say that our children (and us) need total darkness in order for melatonin - the sleep hormone ie the one that tells their bodies it’s time for sleep - to be secreted and for them to drift off into the land of nod. They say that any sort of light, even kids night lights, can decrease melatonin and mess with our child’s circadian rhythm (the daily biological schedule which is driven by exposure to light and dark).
It sometimes has the complete opposite effect on children’s sleep - some children can find complete darkness isolating and scary.
A fear of the dark keeps so many kids awake and is one of the reasons parents are frequently called back into the bedroom after saying goodnight for the 50-millionth time.
So what is the answer?
It turns out cool-coloured lights are actually the bad guys not lights in general. Back to the alarm clock - what colour do they generally have on their display? Green or blue - not a colour that is conducive to sleep.
The general recommendation is that using a dim red or orange children’s night light is the best. It’s not going to tell your kids’ bodies it’s day-time when it’s night time like other colours.
So there’s your answer - a dim red or orange night light that is not too bright but bright enough to comfort your child. That’s where the challenge comes for most people. Nearly every night light for kids, even if it’s the right colour, while having been designed to appear 'dim' when you turn off the bright main bedroom lights it’s still way too bright. Once your child’s eyes have adjusted to the darkness the night light is not dim at all.
This means kids are being kept awake by the brightness, disrupting their bodies’ ability to recognise night time which means an awake or restless child through the night. Not ideal is it?
The Madel Night Light has ‘sleep mode’ which lowers the light to an ultra-low level that has been tested as perfect for sleeping. It will seem almost too dark at first, but give after a few minutes you'll notice it's just right.
They also include the option to sleep in complete darkness with a motion sensor – so if your child gets scared of the darkness they can wave at the light to bring it back to life for a few minutes.
The light’s colour can be changed using the wireless remote and includes a warm red and orange - perfect for signalling melatonin secretion and sending your little ones off to sleep.
Really, when it comes to sleep (and a lot of life), Mother Nature knows best so following her lead when it comes to light at bedtime is your best bet for a good night’s sleep for the whole family.
If you’d like to make bedtime calmer and more successful TONIGHT (ie you put your child to bed and they stay there!), download my free 14-day Sleep Success Challenge.
Would you rather spend for-ev-er trying to put your child to bed, unsuccessfully or try one of my quick tips for a peaceful, successful bedtime and put your child to bed just once tonight? Enter your details below and enjoy your night!
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Bonus tip - make sure your child spends as much time in bright light during the day as possible - this will help their little body know the difference between awake and sleep time.
You’ve just put your little one back to bed for the 5th time. So far you have taken them to the toilet, given another hug and a kiss, gotten rid of the ‘spiders’, found their teddy (that was right next to them) and gotten them a drink of water.
You’re getting a bit over it by now right?
Or maybe you’ve been asleep for a couple of hours and you hear your toddler call out to you. At first it’s part of a dream and then you realise, nope, it’s your child, night-waking, yet again.
Either of these scenarios aren’t much fun.
They’re not fun for you when you’ve had a big day and yes you love your little munchkin more than anything in the world but you really would like a glass of wine on the couch.
They’re not fun when you finally get to sleep after running through your to-do list for the next day 58 times in your head, only to be woken and start the whole process all over again.
Despite the fact that they sometimes think it’s funny, these scenarios aren’t much good for the little people either because they really need their sleep to grow and develop.
I’m sure you have a little bedtime ritual. It probably involves a bath, pjs, teeth cleaning and a story...
Research has found that creating a peaceful bedtime routine can not only help your little ones drift off to sleep faster (ie you get your wine earlier) but can help them to stay asleep through the night.
There are three elements of a peaceful bedtime.
Creating a peaceful physical environment for your child at bedtime is very important for a good night’s sleep. The physical environment includes everything that affects four of your child’s senses; sight, touch, hearing, smell.
After a busy day of play, your little one’s body needs time to slow down and ease into a time of rest. An active little body is not going to want to go to sleep.
Little people not only need a still body and clear physical space to drift into slumber, they need to be in a happy and relaxed state of mind. Meditation is the best way to achieve this but it doesn’t have to mean sitting in silence for half an hour.
In it, I give idea and tips for how to create a clear space, still body and calm mind for your little one which leads to a more peaceful bedtime and ultimately, more sleep for the whole family.
You can find out more here, or if you’re already keen to join me simply enter your details below.
Here’s to a beautiful night’s sleep.
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Many children are afraid of the dark. A toddler or preschooler tends to be afraid of unfamiliar things that they don’t understand or can’t control. Their active imaginations, and their inability to always distinguish between reality and fantasy, means they may believe that monsters are under the bed or in the wardrobe waiting to spring once the light goes out.
If not addressed, a child’s fear of the dark may linger and continue to disrupt their bedtime routine and sleeping habits. There are many ways that parents can help their child to overcome a fear of the dark.
Throughout our lives, one of the very best things we can do for our health is get the sleep we need, and this starts from day one. The body needs sleep for a multitude of reasons, using this time at rest to regroup and recharge. Making sure your child gets the proper amount of sleep with benefit their health now and for years to come.
Here are four of the main reasons sleep is so important for your child’s health:
Growth and Development
As we mentioned, when we’re sleeping, that’s the body’s time to recharge. We fully digest the foods consumed that day, allowing key nutrients to move throughout the body to where they need to go, the muscles repair themselves after a day’s worth of activity and our energy is restored.
When we’re tired, the body’s immune system, which is our first line of defense against illness, can become taxed and lead to sickness. If your child gets enough sleep through the night, their body’s defenses (which are very limited in the beginning) can get stronger to keep them well.
No matter their age, lack of sleep can mean one cranky child. An exhausted kid can become more easily overwhelmed or angry, leading them to be more combative throughout the day.
Lastly, getting proper sleep can help your child’s memory and focus the next day. This helps them learn colours and their first words as babies and will help them remain attentive during school when the time comes, soaking up everything they can.
Of course, as any parent will tell you, getting your little one to sleep isn’t always a simple task. Here are some tips to help them get the amount of rest they need:
Setting the right routine in place from the time your child is born will do wonders to help them get the sleep they need each night. They’ll anticipate bedtime and their bodies will wind down more naturally. Will there still be some bedtime battles? Of course, but the end result will be a happier, healthier child.