Written by: Jenny Smith
Sleep deprivation is known to be one of the hardest things to bear. It is used as torture as a way of extracting information out of ‘enemy’ nations during wars because of the way it can wear someone down psychologically. This said, it is really clear that getting a good nights sleep for all the family is an important part of family life.
Ways to unwind before bedtime
There are lots of practical things that you can put in place that will aid relaxation and sleep. Having a period of wind down time for children is a great practice to help their minds and bodies relax and move out of busy dynamic mode to chilled sleep mode. Make it a habit to turn off all computers and other screens at least an hour before bedtime and use that hour to do gentle things that do not tax the mental faculties. Baths, showers, playing with the dog, listening to a story or soothing music, drawing, massaging are all ways to give everyone’s system a message to slow down and prepare for sleep.
The essential oil lavender is very soporific (sleep inducing) as is the herb Chamomile. Burning the oil, putting it into a bath or having a drop or two into a hanky that is under the pillow can support good sleep. Drinking chamomile tea or putting some of the flowers into a bath is another way of soothing away stress and worries and preparing yourself or your kids for a deep rest.
Make sure your bed or your children’s bed is somewhere that they have positive associations with. Is it comfortable? Does it support their backs well? Do they have the right amount of pillows that they need for good neck support? Is there something like a cuddly toy or soft blanket that they are attached to that they can hold on to for comfort and reassurance?
Lots of children resist bedtime because they don’t want to miss out on things and because they don’t feel tired at the point that their parents decide that they need to go to bed. One helpful strategy is to explain simply to them how sleep benefits them and what is happening in their bodies during zzzzz time. You can tell them that their brain is like a battery and when they are asleep their brain gets full again so that it can help them in the following day to be able to think clearly and do all the physical things that they love to do.
Watch what you eat before you go to bed
The food that you eat throughout the day is directly related to your energy levels. Ancient wisdom teaches to eat like a king in the morning, a prince at lunchtime and a pauper in the evening because at night we want to give our digestive system time out for rest. If you eat a heavy meal before you go to sleep you are giving your body a message that it is time for work and as your system will naturally want to slow down at night undigested food can end up laying heavy on your system…. not pleasant! Also, use your common sense around stimulants such as caffeine (which is in chocolate) and sugar and minimise these beyond a certain time of day.
Minimise stress levels
Sleep and stress do not go together well. If you are going through a stressful phase it is really important to recognise it and put some things in place to support your nervous system to stay as balanced as possible. Things like physical exercise, meditation, good diet and off loading to a friend are all excellent ways of reducing stress.
Avoid taking excess naps in the day even if you are really tired. See if you can allow yourself to have a power nap, for just ten minutes and be strict with yourself about getting up again. Too much sleep in the day can really cause problems with sleep at night and once a cycle of sleep disturbance is set in it can be hard to break it.Â For young children this is obviously very different. Let your little kids have the time to sleep in the day that they need and follow their natural rhythm as much as your lifestyles can allow it.
Think about how you wake up. The days of having a loud buzzy alarm clock are over and there are now lovely gentle alarms that wake you up gradually which is far more pleasant and good for your nerves! You can set your phone to play a harp or the sound of a waterfall, whatever pleases you to invite you to come into the start of another new day!