S.L.E.E.P .. is a little bit magical, especially when you become a parent. As a parent who also lives with anxiety and depression, sleep is an essential part of (everyones) wellbeing. For the first little while I let it get to me, the phases of good, bad and worse sleep .. the resistance to sleep. How can you explain to a toddler how desperately you need them to just go. to. sleep!
It is futile, the fight. It ends in tears and guilt most times. Based on my own experience I suggest a more holistic approach, try something different every night, within your bedtime routine. Mix it up, take the pressure off and encourage a bit more peace during wind down time! You could try one of these 30 ideas for a month, or one every night for a month, whatever works for you and your own little people.
30 Ideas to Help your Baby or Little People Sleep:
Meditation: If you’re not already meditating, please start. It will make the world of difference to your sense of calm, and your ability to deal with any bedtime anxiety. Your little people soak up your energy, and you need to start with yourself when it comes to radiating zen at night time!
Guided Meditations: I use these a lot for myself and for bedtime with my little man. My favourite meditation teacher Tom Cronin has just released his own book and guided meditation HERE .. I plan to check this out soon. It’s never to early to bring meditation into your parenting and the lives of our future generation. There are also lots of apps in the app store if you search for sleep meditations.
Lullabies on an iPod or CD: We have been playing the same ‘lullabies’ at bedtime for nearly 6 years now! It is a non-traditional lullaby .. Cradle Songs by Karin Schaupp. Beautiful soothing guitar, I have offered to change this on occasion and I am consistently declined!
Lavender Oil: I use this in a spray bottle with some water as a room spray, and also in a little roller for the pulse points. It is traditionally a very relaxing essential oil so well worth a try at home.
Chamomile: If your little people are a little older you can try a very watered down chamomile drink, I use a very light dip of the tea bag into some warm water.
Books: The most obvious and common form of bedtime activity is reading, be sure to choose the books for this time of day carefully as you don’t want to create lots of hype and excitement at this time! I tend to go for books about kindness, emotions or gentle stories such as In My Heart, Buddha at Bedtime or something like I Think I Am by Louise Hay.
White noise machine: I used one of these when my little man was a newborn, and then realised that a fan was pretty much the same so we have had fans in our rooms every night ever since. It drowns out any other noise really well and creates a bit of a familiar sound for sleep.
Darkness: Seems really obvious, and I have experimented with this a lot. Dim the lights in every room of the house when your bedtime routine starts, use lamps for reading and soft night lights. It can make a difference.
A good sleep routine: Although you may need to try lots of different ways to encourage sleep and calm, having a rough outline of what is going to happen at bedtime creates a sense of safety and routine for children, which aids sleep. Do your best to keep this routine as consistent as possible. It will change as you move through the different ages and cycles.
Calming voice: HA .. this one may be the hardest. Keeping your cool when the resistance to sleep reaches epic levels. I have been through every possible emotion here and there are still some nights I lose my shit. Forgive yourself, apologise to everyone within ear shot and move on. You are human, and there is nothing more frustrating at the end of an incredibly long day than a little person who is literally taking hours to drift off, and using every excuse and stalling tactic known to man.
Warm milk with honey and turmeric: I discovered this one recently thanks to Whole Family Rhythms. I now call this Magic Milk and it is simply a small cup of milk heated with a dash of honey and sprinkle of tumeric to make it a soft golden colour.
No screens after 5pm: For the older children, and even the younger ones who watch ABC2 .. ensure that there is no access to screens after 5pm if possible. Of course there are nights when the TV is a part of your family routine, just try to keep the viewing of a calm and settling nature rather than crazy action movies if sleep is your priority! I am very strict with the iPad going off at 5pm, that type of screen is the antidote to sleep.
No screens or electronics in the bedroom: I am strict on this one too, we have a small screen in the bedroom with a DVD player but no access to TV or anything that involves the internet. There is the odd occasion if my little man is home sick and he wants to lie in bed and watch a DVD, or with a friend although this is only about once a month. I will never allow iPads or computers of any sort in his bedroom.
Night light: We love a soft night light, and I know that this helps our sleep routine when it is time for me to leave and for my little man to self soothe and put himself to sleep. It is well worth a try if you have a little bed hopper.
Massage: You can use the lavender for this too, in a massage oil. Some nights this only results in giggles and more hype, although there are times when he loves a little back massage while reading.
Comfort toys: I think this is a really personal thing, I know that some families discourage the dependance on comforters however I have embraced these and they are hugely helpful for sleep time in our house. My little man has always loved to combine his thumb sucking with a comforter and he still sleeps with these at age 6 which is perfectly fine with me. He will know when he is ready to drop them.
Comfort blankets: We also have a couple of small blankets that live in his bed and these are very similar to the comfort toys. Just so you know, we do go away on short breaks quite a lot and at these times he is only allowed to bring one of his comforters, we do not cart a bed full of things on holidays! This has worked well and on the occasion that something has been lost on holiday he has coped well, having a conversation prior about that possibility and it being his responsibility.
Cuddles: Obviously this is always going to help with any tears, fears or anxiety at bedtime. It can be tempting to rush the sleep routine and wish for it to be over .. remember though that your children are only small for a limited time, there will come a time when they do not want you anywhere near them at bedtime. I am personally terrified of this time, and although I have on occasion ached for bedtime with sheer exhaustion, I am now learning to soak it up for the fleeting joy that it is.
A timer: I find this can work well for the various parts of the bedtime routine if you have trouble sticking to a time frame. For example you may want to set a time for the start of the bedtime routine if you have trouble getting your children to stop what they are doing when watching TV or playing.
Reading a chapter a night: I think at around age 5 we started this practice, with James and the Giant Peace by Roald Dahl. It gave us something to look forward to each night, I read 1-2 chapters and we have continued this with more Roald Dahl including The Twits and most recently the BFG.
Counting: I find that numbers are something that my little man loves to focus on so some nights we do a few little number games in bed or we ask each other simple maths questions while lying in the dark (with the night light on). The other thing that he likes along these lines is word games, such as listing words starting with a particular letter.
Healing stories: I am reading this book and it is perfect for learning more about story telling, and also includes loads of stories to read to your little people.
Brain dump: you can do this with a note pad or just out loud, with your child/ren just let your feelings and thoughts about the day loose and empty your brain so that you can go to bed with a clean slate.
No sugar: this one is pretty obvious, if you do have sugar in your life keep it away from your kids after lunchtime or keep it away all together if possible.
Comforting food: I find that dishes like pasta and heavy roasts or (mild) curries with rice are great for creating a sense of comfort and chill at night time.
Warmth: A bit of an obvious one but making sure that there is a sense of warmth and cosiness in your bedrooms can really help to create the right conditions for sleep.
Fresh air: I find that it is also important to have some fresh air, we always have the fan on or a window open even in Winter.
Gratitude practice: Some nights we do this at the dinner table, tell each other 3 things we were grateful for that day, it also works later in the day while getting ready for sleep as it is such a positive thing to end the day and prepare for sleep.
Read ‘Buddhism for Mothers’: This book is one of the best ‘parenting books’ I have ever come across, mostly because it is not really a traditional parenting book. It helps you to think about the ways you can bring the principles of Buddhism into your parenting, it has helped me to be more mindful and calm amongst other things.
Remember ‘This Too Shall Pass’: The longest night will come to an end, the sun will rise, the coffee will lift you out of your dark night and you will feel better about parenting again. Never forget that you are not alone in your frustrations, your anger, your questioning and your guilt.
I’m not a baby whisperer, a parenting guru or an expert on sleep .. far from it! I am a Mother who cares about other Mothers, all of these ideas have been tried in our home and every little bit helps me to feel like I am being the best Mother I can be to my child. Please reach out if you are ever feeling overwhelmed xx