Sleep can often be a time of struggle and stress for parents and kids alike. By the time night rolls around, parents are exhausted, kids are often overtired and wound up, and the highly sensitive child has fears surrounding bedtime. Planning, establishing routine, and applying some Ayurvedic rituals can help get you and your kids sleeping soundly.
1. Routine Keeps Vata in Balance
Fear, anxiety, and nightmares are all imbalances of the Vata dosha. One great way to keep Vata balanced is to have a consistent and predictable routine before bed. Children thrive on routine even though they may seem to resist it. Routine makes them feel safe and secure and gives them a sense of certainty. As a parent, you may get tired and want to rush through bedtime or skip certain parts. If your child is waking up frequently to ask you questions, get a drink of water, or release some energy, sticking to a bedtime routine may cure this nervous energy.
You could create a routine, such as:
- Teeth brushing
- Getting dressed
- Laying out clothes for the next day
- Reading stories
- Practicing gratitude
- Snuggling before sleep
If you have a strong-willed child, have him or her help you plan the bedtime routine. Even if the order doesn’t make sense to you, think about the goal. As long as the list ends with your child in bed asleep, the order of activities is not important.
2. Sweet Milk and Refrain from Food 3 Hours Before Bed
The rule of thumb in Ayurveda is to eat your last meal at least three hours before bed for optimal digestion. We live in a society where snacking is the norm. Remember that healthy habits formed in childhood are more likely to stick into adulthood. If your child is hungry before bed and that is the source of wanting to stay up, try this Ayurvedic sleep inducer.
- Warm up a cup of grass-fed organic 2 percent or whole milk over the stove until it’s warm but not hot.
- Pour into a cup and add a pinch of ground cardamom, nutmeg, and, if you choose, a teaspoon of raw organic sugar.
- Stir and let your child drink this before brushing his or her teeth.
In the beginning, your child may not be accustomed to drinking milk this way, but the taste is pleasant and sweet. You can even cater to your child’s imagination by saying it’s a magical potion to give sweet dreams.
3. Keep Images, Stories, and Conversations Positive Before Bed
Children have a difficult time deciphering the imaginary from reality, and where events fit into the bigger picture. Be aware of what you’re watching in the evening and pay attention to what your child is watching, too. Children are highly sensitive to images and disturbing words. You may think your child is not paying attention to the news or an adult crime show you might be watching, but children are designed to absorb everything.
In the same vain, bedtime is not the time to reprimand your child or start an argument. Everyone involved is sleepy and things are likely to get blown out of proportion. Try to help your child “download” positive events from the day. When my children get ornery or start to complain, I counsel them to either write it down to discuss in the morning or set a time for us to talk the next day over a snack.
Story time should be a light and fun activity. Children spend all day in school learning and having to follow a curriculum. Any books that are uplifting and joyful will foster good feelings as your child drifts off to sleep. Even if your older child chooses a picture book, honor that. My older children loved reading me the picture books from their earlier childhood using the different voices I used to use. A couple of our favorite uplifting and more spiritual stories were Zen Shorts by Jon J. Muth and Buddha at Bedtime by Dharmachari Nagaraja.
4. Spiritual Rituals to Protect Sleep
When I was a younger parent, I didn’t realize the importance of taking to heart my children’s fears. By the time my third child came, I was much more experienced. Instead of brushing off my child’s fears with, “Oh, don’t worry, nothing is going to get you while you’re sleeping.” I now have a whole routine with prayers, asking God and Archangel Michael for protection, and my son even has a traditional Native American dream catcher in his room. These spiritual cleanses of the room before sleep has helped my son tremendously.
Your family’s religious and spiritual beliefs are an added asset here. Teach your child the means of spiritual protection according to your belief system.
An ancient practice of using white sage smoke to clear a room’s energy is something concrete you can do with your child in the daytime. White sage clears any negative energy. You can find bundles of white sage at health food stores or online. Light the end of the sage bundle and wave the bundle all over the room, in the corners, and around the floor boards. Open the windows to let the negative energy move out of the room. Make sure you have a plate to catch the ashes and supervise your child at all times since the end of the sage will be very hot.
5. Lavender Sachet and Eye Pillow
Who doesn’t like to feel pampered even at home? Lavender is calming and a natural sleep inducer. I keep a real lavender sachet (with actual lavender inside) under my son’s pillow. And most recently I got him a lavender yoga eye pillow, which he absolutely loves. He sometimes gets headaches at night and he’s reported to me that when he uses the lavender eye pillow, the headaches go right away.
6. Vata Oil Massage
You can calm a nervous or fussy child instantly by applying warm Vata oil to his or her feet. Give your child a five-minute foot rub and watch as sleep takes over and his or her body sinks into the bed. You can also do a Vata oil rub on the temples. For a child with an upset tummy, rub the oil in a circular clockwise motion around and to the outside of the belly button. Massage-grade sesame oil is another great oil to use.
Remember that what works for your child will work for you, too. If you have difficulty with getting to sleep, try these tips so you too can get a full and blissful sleep.