Bedtime Routines and Worry

BY LIZ HAYMAN

For both children and adults, good sleep is absolutely essential for navigating our day to day lives. As we all know, without adequate sleep, our ability to function in our lives is greatly impaired. Worry is often something that can get in the way of sleep for many reasons but one of them being that worry can show up most powerfully just as we are trying to get to sleep. One of the ways to combat this, especially with kids, is with a soothing bedtime routine. It is important that kids feel they have a space for their worry and for the adults around them to help them find ways for their bodies and minds to relax, so they are able to rest and sleep. Here are some ideas for creating a bedtime routine:

1) Have a routine!
It's important that bedtime be relatively predictable (without being rigid, of course). Set a general time that your child will go to bed. Check with your doctor about how many hours of sleep your child needs for their age. Create a general step by step nighttime routine, that is age appropriate, for what bedtime entails (read a story, brush teeth, turn out lights, etc.).

2) Create a “worry time”/ have a worry journal.
Often, when we lay our head on the pillow, our worries come rushing in, especially if we feel that there hasn't been time or space for them in our waking hours. Set a time to have a brief worry conversation with your child before bed or have your child keep a journal by his or her bed to write out worries before going to sleep. This helps kids to know that their worries will be attended to, so they can put them down to be able to sleep.

3) Try out some different soothing things as a part of a bedtime routine.
This is a place to get creative with your child about what can feel relaxing to start winding down before bed. This can look many different ways- an aromatherapy pillow spray, a cup of tea, a guided relaxation tape, calming music, etc. It helps to have something that cues the body that it is time to start to relax.

4) Wrap up stimulating activities in advance of going to sleep.
Things like watching TV, being on iPads/computers, and high energy play are stimulating activities. Try to wrap up these types of activities with some time before actual bedtime to help kids start to unwind. Replace this with some low energy activities and paper books, and be mindful that the books are relatively calming (Many kids like to read Harry Potter before bed- this is a pretty stimulating book!).

Feel free to reach out to me if you have questions about brainstorming ideas for bedtime routines.