Sleep is crucial for everyone, but especially for kids who are developing both mentally and physically. For kids of all ages, sleep is essential for restoration, strengthening the immune system, muscle growth, and regulating hormones. Kids 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 kids 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 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 meditations, 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 kid 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, and it 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.
Additional tips for better rest
Meditation is one activity that can be incorporated into your child’s bedtime routine, ie, a set of activities that are carried out before bed every night. Kids benefit from routines at bedtime, as they help them transition from the busyness and stress of the day to a state of relaxation and calm, ready for sleep. Studies have shown that children who follow a bedtime routine are more likely to go to sleep earlier, fall asleep faster, and sleep longer. They are also less likely to wake up during the night.
An ideal bedtime routine begins before your child climbs under the covers and turns off the light. Depending on your kid's age, their bedtime routine will be different. Older children may be able to complete the routine themselves.
Typical bedtime activities include:
- Brushing teeth and using the bathroom
- Taking a warm bath or shower
- Reading a book individually or with a parent
- Listening to calm music or a podcast
- Singing lullabies (younger children)
Bedtime routine example: Molly, age 7, 1st grade
Molly needs to get up at 7:45 to get ready for school. She does her best when she gets 11 hours of sleep.
- At 7:45pm, an hour before bedtime, Molly turns off her tablet
- Molly, with the help of her parent, takes a bath and brushes her teeth
- Molly’s parents help her find a 10 minute guided meditation on their favorite mindfulness app
- At 8:45, she goes to bed with a reminder from her parents. Her room is dark (with a night light), and free of distractions and sounds.
Bedtime routine example: Alex, age 12, 7th grade
Alex needs to get up at 7:05 am to get ready for school. He does best when he gets 10 hours of sleep.
- At 8:00 pm, an hour before bedtime, Alex turns off the tv
- He takes a bath and brushes his teeth
- He reads a book quietly in his room
- At 9:00pm, he goes to bed, with a reminder from his parents. His room is quiet, dark, and free of distractions like his tablet.
- Alex wakes up at 7:05, rested and ready for a successful day at school!
Bedtime routine example: Cleo, age 17, 12th grade
Cleo needs to get up at 6:45 to go get ready for school. She does her best when she gets 8 hours of sleep.
- At 9:00pm, an hour and 45 minutes before bedtime, Cleo puts away her homework
- From 9:00 to 9:45, she enjoys her favorite tv show and snapchats with her friends
- At 9:45, an hour before bedtime, she puts all electronics away, and puts her phone on silent
- She takes a warm shower and brushes her teeth
- She goes into her room and does a 20 minute meditation using an application on her phone
- She turns off the lights and goes to sleep
- Cleo wakes up at 6:45am, rested and ready for a successful day at school
When your child has a regular sleep pattern, they are more equipped to cope with the challenges and stresses they experience. An enforced bedtime and consistent routine will help your child sleep more, be more alert during the day, and will improve their overall health.