Back to school time is an exciting time for kids and parents, but along with that comes the stressors of a new routine for the household, especially when it comes to bedtime.A relaxing yoga routine before your child's bedtime could be the answer to the "bedtime blues," providing the perfect sleep solution by helping your child shift from having a busy, distracted mind to focusing their attention and calming the nervous system through gentle movement, relaxation techniques and breath work. An additional benefit of practicing yoga with your child is creating space in the day for special one-on-one bonding time with you, which will help you both relax!
According to the Sleep Foundation, the average preschooler age 3-5 years needs 10 to 13 hours of sleep, school age children ages 6-13 need 9 to 11 hours, and teens in high school need a minimum of 8 to 10 hours per night. But studies and anecdotal evidence confirm that MOST children aren’t getting nearly that much. As parents, caregivers and educators well know, when children are sleep deprived, they are likely to have a hard time managing their emotions and behavior. This can lead to potential challenges at home and at school, and can be exhausting for anyone who cares for them.
In his book Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, Marc Weissbluth, MD, states, "Sleep problems not only disrupt a child's nights -- they disrupt his days, too, by making him less mentally alert, more inattentive, unable to concentrate, and easily distracted. They also make him more physically impulsive, hyperactive, or lazy."
One major cause of childhood (and adult!) sleep issues involves participation in an overabundance of stimulating activities at, or just before bedtime. It is best to have no computers, no video games, no music, and no TV, for a minimum of hour prior to bed, ideally two hours. TV viewing at bedtime has been linked to poor sleep. And, one study found that children who kept electronic devices in the bedroom were more likely to be obese, in addition to suffering poor sleep. So, keep the technology out of the bedroom and make sure the noise level remains low so your child can easily fall asleep and stay asleep.
Sally Delisle, RCYT and Director of ChildlLight Yoga Teacher Trainings says, “Practicing yoga, or mindful movement, and focusing on the breath, triggers the parasympathetic system which tells brain and body it’s time to unwind.”
Delisle recommends the following 6 tips to begin a bedtime yoga routine:
1) Create a calm environment.
Begin by dimming the lights and keep the space free of light-up and noisy toys so that there are fewer distractions. Try creating and using some ‘magic mist,’ a mini spritzer bottle with a few drops of relaxing lavender essential oil mixed with water. Let your child mist the room with the relaxing scent to prepare for your yoga time. Finally, playing soft, soothing music particularly piano or guitar instrumentals, can help children relax their minds and bodies. Try the Soothing Relaxation channel on YouTube.
2) Use props.
Using yoga or heavy blankets provides weight and pressure which is grounding for anyone, especially children whose proprioceptive systems are still developing. Bolsters and even battery tea light candles can also be beneficial to include in your child’s bedtime wind down. Ask your child what helps him relax. Maybe he’d like his furry stuffie, or a picture of his favorite place within view of his yoga space.
3) Read a special book together.
Reading any book together can help you and your child relax and bond while also promoting literacy. You might also integrate gentle movement by following along with a bedtime-themed children's yoga book like Yawning Yoga, by Laurie Jordan, or Good Night Yoga, by Miriam Gates.
4) Practice bedtime yoga poses.
Begin with a Child's Pose, then a few rounds of Happy Cat / Scared Cat, then back to Child's Pose. Continue with a Butterfly Pose to relax hips (feel free to sing the song), then Sitting Twist. End with Balloon Breath while in Legs Up over the side of the bed.
5) Include relaxation.
Use soft calm voice while you practice the yoga activities together and allow for silence while you rest together at the end of your yoga sequence. Make relaxation enjoyable and engaging. If you know your child enjoys having her back or feet massaged, do that. Let him choose the music. Try Back-to-Back Breathing or Back Writing as a peaceful, bonding activity with your child.
Having a bedtime yoga routine will not only make for a more restful night's sleep, but will go a long way toward helping your child have a more peaceful, productive day at school and home. Best wishes and sleep tight!
All activities, songs and materials can be found scripted and illustrated in Yoga for Children: 200+ Yoga Poses, Breathing Exercises and Meditations for Healthier, Happier, More Resilient Children, by Lisa Flynn, founder and CEO of ChildLight Yoga and Yoga 4 Classrooms. Copyright protected photos used with permission.
Ann Biese, RYT 500, E-RYT 200, is an international Yoga Instructor and Teacher Trainer for ChildLight Yoga. Ann enjoys volunteering as an instructor for Go Give Yoga in Haiti as well as in Boston area homeless shelters. She was featured in North Shore Magazine for her work in Massachusetts...(continue reading here).
Join Ann at the National Kids Yoga Conference in her teen yoga class as well as her upcoming ChildLight Yoga & Mindfulness for Tweens & Teens Teacher Training in Hartford, CT November 18-19, 2017.