Back to school is around the corner. Gone will be the carefree days of summer, the long lazy mornings, and the late nights spent under the stars or visiting with friends and family. I, like many other mothers, are thinking, “How am I ever going to get my kids up and out the door on time?”
With that in mind, I’ve started to readjust bedtime to more closely reflect a school night. Knowing that it takes about two weeks for any routine to become part of daily life, this process begins now, so that we are ready the night before that first day back to class.
Here are some yoga tips to creating a bedtime routine that will lead to a restful sleep for children and parents alike.
- Reduce Stimulus – Children need a winding down period before hitting the hay. In order to maximize a restful sleep begin about an hour before bed to reduce sensory stimulus. In yoga, this is called pratyahara (the 5th limb of Yoga according to the Yoga Sutras by Patañjali). Take away video games, turn the TV off, lower the lights, introduce soothing music or the blessed sound of silence. The body will transition from activity to inactivity beautifully when given time to adjust and flow smoothly into relaxation.
- Connect – Taking time to connect with your mind and body is essential to health and wellness even for little ones. Encourage your children to do some restorative yoga poses such as child’s pose, ragdoll, hero’s pose and gentle twists to get the kinks out and reduce muscular strains and stresses from the day’s activities. Also, be sure to take time to connect with one another. Read a story together, chat about the day, share your lives, concerns, hopes and simply enjoy one another’s company.
- Establish a Routine – Children thrive on predictability and structure. In yogic terms this is called tapas (self-discipline). Establish an order of events (1. cleanup, 2. bedtime snack, 3. brush teeth, 4. yoga b4 bed, 5. read together, etc.). Create a chart with easy to follow graphics. This is helpful for all children whenever they are learning a routine, but especially for pre-schoolers and those with special needs.
- Be Content – Practice santosha (contentment) one of the yoga niyamas (observances) by learning to be happy with who you are, where you are, and with what you have. Encourage the attitude of what you have is enough and that there is satisfaction and happiness to be found in each day. Five Good Moments is a simple gratitude game you can play daily with your children to develop a thankful heart and mind.
- Practice Pranayama – Yogic breathing techniques are extremely effective at reducing stress and anxiety, which often hit children as they are laying in bed waiting to fall asleep. Swimming Stuffies and Take 5 are wonderful breathing exercises that help connect the mind and body. Even very young children can develop breath awareness and practice these safe and simple techniques before drifting off to sleep.
Be sure to allow sufficient time (about an hour) in order not to rush your children as they transition from the day’s activities to calm relaxation. Speak in a calm tone of voice and provide 2-5 minute warnings whenever an activity will change (”In five minutes you’ll need to put away your toys and get into PJ’s.”). Most importantly, love your children. Use the time before bed to demonstrate daily how important they are to you.
Remember, it takes time to create a routine and fine tune it to your personal needs. Stick with it and you will create a better sleep environment, manage stress and anxiety, as well as calm and nurture yourself and your loved ones.