Mindfulness and Good Sleep Hygiene for Children
Updated: Nov 13, 2022
If bedtime is a struggle for your child, we have good news for you. If they have a hard time switching off and getting ready to sleep, there are some simple steps you can take to create a mindful bedtime routine that prepares your child for bed each night.
It might take a while for them to get used to the mindful routine and for their bodies to learn that this process leads to sleepy time, but in the end, they will have a much easier time getting to sleep each night. One of the best parts of the routine is snuggling up with you and reading Kelly Caleb’s Now Cow mindfulness books for children.
Continue reading to learn what other steps can help your child get ready for a peaceful, mindful transition from waking to sleeping.
Mindful Preparation for Sleep
Mindful preparation for sleep can start as early as nine hours before your child goes to bed. It’s that early that your child should stop having any caffeine whatsoever, and that early that they should curb their intake of sugar. This may seem like a long time, but the fact is, caffeine can stay in the blood for up to nine hours in a younger child, making it hard for them to get to sleep hours after the caffeine has been forgotten about.
One other thing to remove from your child’s routine is the use of screens, whether that’s a computer, phone, TV, or different screens. The light these screens emit encourages cortisol production. Cortisol is a stress hormone and puts your child in a flight/ fight/ freeze mode that discourages relaxation and the ability to slow down and prepare for sleep. There are dark modes on some screens that your child could use, but it’s safer just to eliminate screen usage one to two hours before bedtime.
Now let’s talk about what kinds of mindful activities you can add to your child’s bedtime routine to help them transition from waking to sleeping. You could add a shower or bath to your child’s bedtime routine to lower their body temperature, which helps them sleep. At the same time, make sure that their room is cool rather than overly warm or hot, because people sleep better in cool temperatures.
Another activity to add to your child’s bedtime routine, as mentioned above, is reading with you. Reading mindfulness-focused books like Kelly Caleb’s Now Cow books can be especially helpful, but any book that allows you two to be in the moment together is a good choice. Not only does this help your child’s body calm down and prepare for sleep, but it builds good memories that will last a lifetime.
Sometimes a child’s mind is buzzing with ideas or things to worry about for the next day and that can keep them from falling asleep. For younger children, set a timer for 10 minutes and encourage them to talk to you about whatever is on their minds for those 10 minutes. For older children, set the same timer and allow them to write in a journal about whatever is on their minds. Getting their thoughts out verbally or physically can help them “put their thoughts to sleep” so their mind is ready for sleep, too.
Once they’re in bed, you can provide your child with calming scents like lavender or vanilla using a diffuser or other method, and a soft, cozy stuffed animal or flannel sheets or pajamas for sensory comfort. Finally, make sure the room is as dark as possible when your child is falling asleep. If they need a nightlight, make it as small and weak as possible.
By going through the same routine each night, your child’s body will remember that these mindful activities are the path to sleepiness. By the time you put your child to bed and give them their sensory comfort items, they will be half asleep already.
Mindful Bedtime Activities Put Your Child to Sleep
Each activity described is mindful in that it keeps your child’s mind in the moment rather than worrying about the past or future, except for the one activity that allows them to “get rid” of the past and future worries they might be holding on to. We’ve created a “Sleep Box” that holds items that can help your child get to sleep, pictured above.
You can create your own by simply putting in a sleep mask, a packet of Sleepy Time tea, a lavender sachet, and a stuffed animal. It’s a simple and effective toolbox to help your child get to sleep easily every night. Another important item to include is one of Kelly Caleb’s Now Cow mindfulness books for children so you can read together every night with your child.
Come back next week to learn some of the consequences of a lack of sleep over a period of time.
Operation Jack’s Village
If you’re a parent, therapist, teacher, or another caregiver of adolescents, we invite you to check out Operation Jack’s Village—an organization that focuses on a comprehensive approach to adolescent suicide awareness and prevention. Help your adolescents survive, thrive, and soar.