Just like us, our children live in a very busy world. From the moment they are born, kids are bombarded with ever-increasing pressures: innumerable lessons, academic expectations, competitive sports, socializing, and the business of just growing up! And we think adults are stressed? The white-knuckle pace of our children’s lives often leaves them too wound up to settle calmly into bed and drift to sleep. My daughter has always had trouble shutting down her day and falling asleep. Over the years, we’ve tried several methods to relax into sleep and, not surprisingly, a few “tricks” from yoga and Ayurveda have really helped her learn to surrender to rest.
First, we started doing “Happies” every night. Just as some families say prayers before bed, we list three things that made us happy during the day. For a while, my daughter listed “cookies” as her number one. But eventually, her list began growing to include family, friends, things she learned at school, and other big ideas. We found that the “Happies” helped her focus on positive feelings as she was tucked in, rather than worrying about the next day.
I also taught her a meditation practice suitable for her age (she was about 2 or 3, just having learned the alphabet). I gave her a topic to think about and she had to come up with something that matched the topic from each letter in the alphabet. So, for example, the topic may be animals. We would start the list together with Aardvark, Bear, Cat, Dog, etc. Then as I tucked her in, she would keep going. She knew if she got stuck to just skip that letter. This practice kept her mind focused on one topic, rather than racing around thinking about the details from the day and all the activities coming up tomorrow. She’s nearly 15 years old now, and still uses this technique! (Her favorite topic? Harry Potter).
Like many children (ok, adults too), my daughter enjoys a sweet after dinner. For many years now, I have made Peaceful Sleep Spiced Milk. I was introduced to this through Denise O’Dunn of Balance & Bliss Ayurveda. The spices and milk proteins help settle the nervous system and build the Ojas (Deepak Chopra defines ojas as “the pure and subtle substance that’s extracted from food…the vital nectar of life”). The recipe is very flexible depending on your child’s taste (it’s great for adults who need to settle down, too):
- 1 cup organic milk (cow, soy, almond, rice, cashew)
- 1 spoonful Ghee (clarified butter) – you can make this yourself or buy it at some grocery stores
- Maple syrup, to taste
- A pinch or two of each spice, to taste:
- Ground cloves
Warm ghee until it is melted. Add the milk and spices and heat. When warm, sip slowly.
There are also several yoga poses that promote sleep for your child. Perhaps making these practices part of your little one’s bedtime routine will help both of you get a better night’s sleep.