Helping Your Child Sleep
Helping Your Children Sleep In order for us to get restful night, we need to be relaxed. In order to relax, a number of things have to happen.
First of all, we need to feel safe and secure. Obviously, if there is tension in the house - abuse, parents rowing, problems with finances or neighbours, or else problems at school or with friends, it will be much harder to relax and fall asleep.
Helping them to feel safe and sound is of the utmost importance. If children hear their parents arguing, if there are financial problems, trouble with neighbors or disagreements with friends, trouble at school, they experience tension and don't feel safe.
Of course it's even worse if their parents abuse them. Any one or combination of these situations won't let your children relax and enjoy a good night.
People have a need to feel cozy and safe in their beds. Unfortunately, some children experience sensory integration trouble. This means they may have sensitivity to touch, proprioception, which is body position sense, or gravitational insecurity.
That means if their beds are high, they will have trouble sleeping due to that sensitivity. Sometimes putting heavy blankets on them help them to feel more grounded.
All of this can be helped by setting up the environment well, and also by developing a regular routine so that the body learns the signals that tell it that it is time to slow down for some sleep. Here are some suggestions:
A warm bath and hot milky drink. The warm bath relaxes the body, helping the metabolism to slow down as it does not need to be so busy generating heat. Warmth also relaxes muscles. Warm milk contains an amino acid called Tryptophan which is a naturally occurring sedative.
Obviously avoid drinks such as Coca Cola, tea or coffee, which all contain caffeine. Avoid also activities that are arousing or frustrating; just before bed is not the time for them to be getting upset about their homework or frustrated with their Gameboy.
Have your children take a nice warm bath and maybe drink some warm milk. His or her body will start to relax and the metabolism will slow.
Warm water allows the body to stop the work of keeping itself warm. The bath will also ease tension in all of the muscle groups. Warm milk has Tryptophan in it. Tryptophan is an amino acid that is a natural sedative.
Drinking the milk will also help your children to wind down. It goes without saying that they shouldn't be drinking anything with caffeine. This includes Coke or Pepsi, and other soft drinks, as well as coffee or tea.
Also around bedtime they should be engaging in quiet activities, not worrying about homework or playing an active computer game.
Read your child a story at bedtime. Make sure that there isn't anything frightening in it. Besides having a calming effect, you are engaging in some special time together. Knowing that they are loved and cherished, tells children that their world is safe.
When you're finished reading, turn on a recorded story that is peaceful and quiet. Turn off the lights and soon he'll be listening with closed eyes and drifting off.
We can also play sounds that will help cover the disturbing noises and help us relax. White noise is good for drowning out the lorries and dogs. Turning on a fan or humidifier will produce that. A quiet radio in the background can also be good.
You must be careful as these sounds can actually be more arousing and stressful than relaxing. This is due to the pitch and the beat.
The higher frequencies energize us and the lower ones help us to relax. White noise and most radio music is high frequency. Having a cheap system with a poor bass response only makes it worse.
Most popular music has a faster beat, and we like to keep time with the catchy beat. We call this "entertainment" and say that our bodies like to align with the rhythms surrounding us.
Unfortunately, our heart rates mirror this behavior, and listening to a fast beat will speed it up. If we choose slow, quiet music, it will slow down.
If we want to introduce sounds to drown out the disturbing ones, we need to use care. Sounds known as white noise, come from fans and humidifiers. A soothing radio program can also help lessen the effects of the dogs and lorries.
Because of the pitch and the beat of the sound we introduce, we can cause more stress than relaxation, if we don't know what we're doing. Remember that the higher frequencies give us energy while the lower ones help us relax.
White noise and most radio music are high frequency. If your radio is a less expensive model, then the bass response is poor, making it worse. In general, popular music is played at a fast beat.
The worst type for sleeping is disco music. Most of us can't help somehow engaging with the music, by tapping or nodding to its beat. We refer to this as entertainment and tell ourselves that our bodies want to align with the rhythms of our universe.
The problem is that our heart rates also align with the beat. If the music is up tempo our heart rate increases. To slow it down for sleeping we need to play slow and calming music.
The ideal beat for creating a sleeping environment is 50 to 60 Hz. That matches the heart rate when we are relaxed. It should be pitched low and the rhythm should be slow. These factors will help our hearts slow their beating.
Where do we look to find the appropriate sounds? Some nature recordings, such as rolling waves will do the trick, as will certain classical music. I recommend tapes or CDs that are made expressly for relaxation.
Some of the best I have found are by Steven Halpern and the Sound Health Service CDs called "Relax" and "De-Stress". Play them softly in the background so as to make a gentle sound environment in the bedroom.
They will also help to drown out those disrupting background noises. Some children don't sleep deeply enough and are awakened frequently. If your child has that problem, consider playing a CD on continuous play. It will calm your child throughout her sleeping period.
Muted tones of blue, green and pink are often used in bedrooms. Blue is serene, green for harmony and peace, and pink is all warmth and coziness. Be careful of the blues and greens though, as they can make an atmosphere feel cold. Bright reds and yellows will fire us up and make it hard to sleep. Even though these effects are subtle and unconscious, they are very real.
Think about the colour spectrum. Blue is meant for us to feel serene, green harmonious and peaceful, while pink signals warmth and feeling cozy. These quiet colours are perfect for bedrooms. Be careful with the blues and greens however, as they can also feel cold. Using yellows, reds and other lively colours in a bedroom, isn't a good idea.
Even though the effects are subtle, they may get our blood flowing and keep us from sleeping. These effects are usually subconscious but that doesn't make them any less real.
Be sure to consider lighting when you design a bedroom. Bright, blue or cold lights tend to wake us up. An example of these are the fluorescents. That's because they imitate the early morning sun. At twilight the sky has the warm colours of orange and red.
The most relaxing lights for nighttime come from low wattage bulbs, candles, oil lamps or a nice fire. If you add these lights to pink furniture, soft and slow music, the waves on the beach you get the picture.
How do we get around not putting a candle, oil light or open fire in a child's bedroom? One way is to use electric bulbs that flicker. There are also fiber optic lamps available that create a low level light, changing from one colour to another.
The slow, gentle changes are relaxing, assuming that they aren't too bright. Some children like sleeping in a completely dark room. This is when the thick curtains will come in handy to screen out late night and early morning summer sun.
Aroma. Smell is, in fact, the most primitive and basic of our senses. How often have you had a brief whiff of some smell that has brought certain memories and emotions to come flooding back? Smells affect our emotional state, and the right smells can help us to sleep. Recommended for sleeping are the essential oils of mandarin, chamomile roman, lavender and palma rosa.
For children over five, neroli, geranium and nutmeg can be added to the list. These oils can be combined, with a mixture of mandarin, chamomile and palma rosa, and also of chamomile, geranium and nutmeg being particularly effective.
The oils can be put in bath water, rubbed on the skin with massage oil, or put in the water of the humidifier. Once again, moderation is the key. It is subtlety that we are looking for, not an overpowering smell.
Were you aware that our sense of smell is the most primitive of all our senses? It's true. You can most likely think of occasions when there was some scent in the air, even momentarily, that reminded you of something from your past.
The experience can be quite emotional. Following that idea, it stands to reason that some aromas will enable us to fall asleep faster, and get a better rest during the night. There are several essential oils that serve that purpose specifically: mandarin, chamomile roman, lavender and palma rosa are among them.
Others that are safe for children older than five are neroli, geranium and nutmeg. Combine these for your child with mandarin, chamomile and palma rosa. Mixtures including chamomile, geranium and nutmeg are considered to be the most effective.
You may need to do some experimenting to find the best combination, but remember to be moderate with your mixtures. Ways to use them are in the bath water, rubbed on skin (add massage oil), or added to humidifier water. These subtle aromas can be most effective relaxation techniques.
There are three ways to improve humidity. Turn the heat down and use more blankets. Remember, this can also help a child feel grounded. Add some moisture to the air with a humidifier or drape a wet flannel over the radiator.
The humidifier will create white noise as well. If you put a drop or two of essential oil in the water or on the flannel, you will also create a pleasing aroma.
There are three possibilities for helping to improve the humidity in the bedroom. First, consider turning the heat down and covering your child with more blankets. This also serves the purpose of helping him to feel grounded.
Second, you may want to use a humidifier. They can actually fulfill two purposes; creating both moisture and white noise. The third option is to lay a wet flannel or towel over the radiator.
If you add a small amount of essential oils, the child also receives the benefit of a soothing aroma.
I wish you peaceful nights and happy dreams.
author of Helping Your Child Sleep is Peter King
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