Sleep is crucial for everyone, but especially for children who are developing mentally and physically. For children of all ages, sleep is essential for restoration, strengthening the immune system, muscle growth, and regulating hormones. Children that get adequate sleep and are well-rested have improved attention, behavior, learning, memory, and overall physical and mental health.
Sleep needs vary for each child, but generally there are guidelines regarding how much sleep a child should be getting each night. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends 10-13 hours of sleep for children ages 3-5, 9-12 hours for children ages 6-12, and 8-10 hours for teenagers ages 13-18.
Some children have difficulty sleeping—they struggle with falling asleep, staying asleep, or both. During the pandemic, the number of children with sleep disturbances doubled due to changes in bedtime routines, the inability to be active consistently, remote learning, and lack of in-person social activities. Even as children start to return to a “new normal” many are still struggling with getting consistent and restful sleep.
You can help your child improve their sleep by helping them practice good sleep habits.
Tips for better rest: incorporating meditation
Many families incorporate meditation into their sleep routine. Meditation can help children and teens (and adults!) calm their mind, so it’s easier to fall and stay asleep. At bedtime, children want to feel safe, comfortable, and at ease. Meditation combines relaxation and visualization techniques to encourage your child or teen is able to calm and de-stress before bedtime.
Meditation before bed can lead to deeper sleep, ensuring your child is well-rested and prepared for the activities of daily life. There are many types of meditation, including mindfulness meditation, guided meditation and body scan meditation.
Mindfulness meditation involves focusing on the present. It is done by increasing awareness of breathing and body.
You can also help your child follow these steps for a 3-5 minute meditation (overtime, once they are comfortable with meditation, they can increase the time to 15 minutes):
- Find a quiet area. Sit or lie down, whichever is most comfortable. At bedtime, lying down is recommended.
- Close your eyes and breathe slowly. Take long, deep breaths. Focus on your breathing. You can even put your hand on your belly to feel your breath.
- If a thought pops into your head, try to let it go by focusing on your breathing instead.
Remind your child to be patient, as meditation is a practice that takes time. It is hard to calm the mind!
Guided meditation is when the child is led through each step of the meditation by another person. The guide might instruct the child to breathe a certain way, or visualize images or sounds. There are many resources that offer recorded guided meditations. There are meditation podcasts, mobile applications, websites, and youtube channels.
Some of our favorite guided meditation resources for kids:
- Cory's Conscious Living: this YouTube channel offers over 500 meditations for children. It is vetted by kids, and has different themes and topics.
- New Horizon Meditation & Sleep Stories: this YouTube channel and mobile App offers guided meditations for children and adults with the goal of helping with sleep.
- Smiling Mind
Body scan meditation
During body scan meditation, the child focuses on each part of their body. The goal is to increase awareness of physical sensations, such as tension. The act of focusing helps promote relaxation, which can help the child sleep.
You can help your child do body scan meditation by following these steps:
- Remove all distractions and lie down in a comfortable position
- Close your eyes and breathe slowly. Notice the weight of your limbs and head.
- Focus on your face, try to soften your jaw, eyes, and facial muscles. Remove your tongue from the roof of your mouth.
- Move to your neck and shoulders, try to relax them.
- Continue down your body, moving all the way to your fingers and toes. Notice how each part feels.