When you have a child who can’t fall asleep, it can be frustrating for everyone involved. Sometimes they are just playing around too much, but sometimes they really do need our help. Use these 5 ways to help your child fall asleep naturally and get the rest that they (and you) need!
5 Ways to Help Your Child Fall Asleep Naturally
If you have a child that has trouble falling asleep, you know that feeling of despair when you check in on them at 11pm and they are still lying awake. I have one child who can fall asleep as soon as his head hits the pillow (he takes after his dad). But I have another who can quietly lie awake for hours and not fall asleep (she takes after me).
I used to get angry at my daughter because I thought she was just playing around too much. I would say things that now make me cringe. Like “Now you will only get 6 hours of sleep and you will be so tired tomorrow” or “You better go to sleep or…(fill in the blank)” she would cry and tell me that she couldn’t sleep.
I finally took a step back and realized that she really couldn’t fall asleep. Instead of punishing her, I should be helping her. She has a mind that never turns off so I think the root of the problem may be slight anxiety. Here I was telling her that she wasn’t going to get enough sleep and I was just make her more anxious, therefore keeping her from falling asleep. So I promised myself that I would no longer scold her for lying awake but instead I would help her manage the sleeplessness.
After trying several things (some of which did not work), I am excited to share these things that did work for us.
Note: After writing this article, I realized that I didn’t mention that warm showers before bed also help. They relax the body and calm them down from a day of excitement.
Tools to help your child fall asleep
1)Turn off Electronics 1 hour before bed (or at very least 30 minutes before)
There is more and more research showing that blue light from electronics activates a part of your brain that keeps you awake and alert. Blue light is emitted from all electronics including phones, computers, TV’s, Kindles, etc. I have found that turning everything off an hour before bed really has a big impact on how quickly the kids are able to settle down and fall asleep.
Also be aware of any blue light in the bedroom from other appliances. For example, we have an air filter in her room with a built in night light. The built in night light is blue so we never turn it on at night. Remember that it is the blue light wave that is associated with keeping the brain alert, so it doesn’t come only from electronics.
2) Reading A Book Before Bed
By this, I mean letting her read a book to herself. If I read to her, I tend to get more animated and it makes her too excited. Reading is a great way to calm the mind and relax the body. The only problem we have with this approach comes when she is reading a book she loves and she has a hard time putting it down. Now that she is reading chapter books, I will let her read to the end of the chapter then put it down. This is an old technique, but it is worth a try!
3) Guided Meditation for Kids
This one is huge because it has had such a positive impact on her sleep. These days there is so much talk about meditation and mindfulness but there isn’t much support for children in these areas. And it is just as beneficial for kids! I started by streaming Meditation videos on YouTube for my daughter (I just turned my phone upside down so she only had the audio). After a while I found that we were using it every night so I bought her the CD. As a side note, I also suspect that Wi-Fi may be interfering with our sleep, though I haven’t found any solid proof to back that up. For that reason, she is not allowed to keep electronics (with wifi) in her room, hence the reason I bought the CD.
If you only try one approach on this list, meditation should be it. Just search YouTube for Guided Meditation for Kids”. There are so many to choose from but this is our favorite: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k4oS680-Dnw. Some of the stories can get exciting, so I would recommend finding 2-3 that work and only listening to those. This works for my daughter because she already knows the story and won’t try to stay up to hear the end.
4) Weighted Blankets for Kids
There is so much to say about weighted blankets that I could probably write a whole post on it. They are said to stimulate the body by touch. It triggers a feeling of safety and comfort and allows the child to relax and fall asleep. The best comparison is to imagine sleeping in a bed with a big, heavy comforter. It gives you that cozy feeling and makes you snuggle up and relax. I am not a fan of sleep supplements, so many may be happy to hear that weighted blankets are said to increase seratonin and melatonin levels, thus helping you fall asleep.
There is a formula to determining what weight your blanket should be, based on age, weight and materials used. When buying a blanket be sure to buy the right weight. Heavier is not always better.
The blanket alone does not make her fall asleep faster, but coupled with the other tools on this list, it does help her stay asleep longer. She claims that the blanket does help her relax because it is harder to mover her legs! Haha, The blanket coupled with meditation works every time.
Interestingly enough, diet does play a role in sleep. There are certain foods that generally need to be avoided. Here are a few things to avoid giving your child before bedtime:
- Caffeine – I know they aren’t drinking coffee, but caffeine is also found in chocolate, energy drinks, coffee flavored desserts (tiramisu, ice cream, etc) and protein bars
- Fatty food – fatty foods like hamburgers and bacon create acid as it is digested. This can mess with the body’s ability to rest and relax
- Sugar – this goes without saying, but there are some sources of sugar that you may not consider. Such as sugar from fruits. High sugar fruits like apples may be attributing to insomnia
Food to eat before bed
- Cherries – cherries contain melatonin so they may help you sleep!
- Bananas – contain magnesium and potassium which help relax your muscles
- Sweet Potatoes – contain potassium, like bananas
- Almonds – they contain melatonin which help sleep
It is worth noting that some people (kids included) may have a food intolerance. This means that they may not be allergic to a food, but the way that the body processes it is disruptive to their health. For example, my daughter is not allergic to anything. However she is intolerant to dairy and eggs. For us, this means that we limit these items on a daily basis, and avoid them when she is getting sick (as a way of controlling her asthma).
I also noticed that dairy keeps her awake at night. When we cut dairy from her diet, she has a much easier time falling asleep. So it may be worth looking in to if you really don’t see any changes using the techniques above.