Falling asleep comes naturally to many of us but to many more it is not an easy task doing so. For me sleep comes pretty easy but that might be because at the end of the day, I am pretty exhausted from a work at home job on top of all the home during work duties that manage to overwhelm my stay at home as a work from home mother of 3 energetic kids. But that is another article for another day. Right now this article is about how to get your picky sleeper kid to sleep better.
So as I was saying, I nod off to sleep a few seconds after my head hits the pillow. My son who is 7 years old is the same. As soon as he is horizontal, he is asleep. and continues to sleep for the remainder of the night and has to be woken up in the morning from his deep slumber. He wakes up fresh as an apple ready to take on the world and he does.
My oldest daughter, who is around 12, on the other hand has major issues falling asleep. She could be dead tired and not have slept a wink for the whole day, but she still can’t fall asleep without a major battle. Sometimes she drifts off to sleep easily but at other times she keeps tossing and turning. It was one such day that I found her wide awake when I went to check on her.
She had worked hard to finish her homework after coming home from her basketball practice. I had assumed because she had had such a long day, she would be fast asleep by the time I was checking on her. But she said that even though she wanted to sleep real bad and was dead tired, she couldn’t fall asleep. She said she was closing her eyes shut, but they seemed to not want to stay closed and she had spent the half hour in bed just tossing and turning getting even more tired.
“I want to sleep so bad Mom and I am so dead tired, but no matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to fall asleep… ” she lamented.
I told her the time, saying it was way past be bedtime. She doesn’t like sleeping and tries to push sleep away as far as possible. Naps are a definite no-no for her and no matter how tired, she pushes those extra few minutes that turn into hours.
“Well you have exhausted your body way too much by not sleeping on time. As such your body is completely stressed out… “
“I am not stressed… ” she whined.
I explained to her that stress does not need to be in the mental or emotional. It could be physical too.
“When your body gets too tired, that means you are stressed too. When your body gets stressed, it releases a hormone called cortisol into the bloodstream.”
I checked on her to make sure that my lecture did not put her to sleep. (yes that is one good technique to get your kids to sleep too;-) She was still wide awake.
“Cortisol is a hormone that the body generates when it senses danger. Stress triggers the body into thinking that it is in danger and once the hormone releases the whole body and mind are alerted to be on standby. It’s like you are being attacked by a lion and as such every part of your body and mind are ready to start running as fast you can to get out of the way of the big cat. Your body does not want you to sleep at a moment like that. So it makes sure that you don’t fall asleep. That is what is happening to you right now!”
She was watching me wide eyed. She’s a pretty smart girl and as such she seemed to get what I was telling her.
“So what do I do?” she asked.
“You need to relax yourself and tell your body there is no lion lurking around anywhere and it is safe for you to fall asleep.”
“How do I do that?” she continued.
I don’t know from where nor do I know how it came to me, but my yoga instructor’s words came to mind. In our Vinayasa Yoga class we are encouraged to turn off our minds from day to day things. We are asked to accomplish this very hard task by concentrating on our breathing by following the ujjayi breathing technique. This is a form of breathing where we breathe from the nose. Most of you might be laughing, thinking that is where we normally breathe from. Well, if you pay attention to the way you breathe many of you will notice that the mouth comes into play into our breathing process. For some of us it play a major role and for many of us it plays a minor but discernible role.
The goal of ujjayi breathing is to keep the mouth completely closed while breathing. So you are not talking or chewing your lip or eating anything. Your mouth is completely closed. You start breathing through your nose and most importantly you make yourself aware of this by concentrating on your breathing. You slowly make your inhales and exhaled deeper and deeper.
You start of by exhaling all the air out of your lungs and then some more. You keeps exhaling until one can’t exhale any more and then what follows is a natural deep inhalation. You continue to do this until the inhales and exhales are really really deep. Also when you are breathing out you should constrict your throat so that when the breath comes out, it makes an audible sound. Then you stop your mind from wandering by paying attention to the breathing. Slowly but surely you will realize that you have switched all thoughts from your mind and all you are thinking about is the breathing exercise. All your senses will be tuned to your breathing and slowly but surely you would have lost consciousness outside of your own breathing!
I told my daughter to do the same. She listened very attentively because she really wanted to sleep, the poor girl. She started to breathe through her nose and had a little bit of difficulty in doing so because she is primarily a mouth breather. I corrected her and soon she was taking deep breaths through her nose. I could feel her muscles relax as the breathing got deeper and deeper. That’s another good side effect of ujjayi breathing – it slowly relaxes your muscles – the neck muscles, the back muscles, the jaws, the tongue and so on until the whole body is relaxed. Soon her body started to become limp and she mumbled that I should take her with me to my yoga class. In a few minutes she was completely knocked off and sleeping like a baby. I patted myself on the back and also kicked myself for not thinking about this brilliant idea earlier. It would have saved my daughter from many a troublesome night trying to fall asleep.
I can’t wait for the youngest of my brood to be old enough to understand and practice this technique. Yes, he has trouble falling asleep too. I can’t wait to impart this precious sleeping technique to him and make his sleeping life easier!