Often when I’m listening to my clients, it really does take me back to when I was in their shoes, the exhausted mum who felt helpless, low and fearful that nothing was going to get better. If only back then I had used these 4 mindful ways to get more sleep I may have coped better in those first few months.
I remember after 9 months of very little sleep, life just seemed pretty rubbish. My husband and I were continuously arguing, mostly about who deserved more sleep! I was always unwell, crashed my car twice, started to resent our son, my healthy eating went out of the window. Life felt totally out of control, and I felt like I’d lost every part of me.
As I became more and more sleep deprived, my negative thoughts were spiraling out of control, I could see it happening but I just couldn’t find a way out of the dark side. However, having worked so hard to be a mindful and positive person prior to having a baby, I decided to return to mindfulness which I seemed to have had a holiday from since having Oliver. Rather ironic as I needed it more than ever!
Mindfulness is the practice of being mindful and aware in the moment, observing your thoughts whilst not passing judgment on them. Having restarted my mindfulness journey, I could see the benefits, in fact, It was the driving factor in resolving Oliver’s sleep challenges, who now sleeps through the night 99% of the time and for 2.5 hours a day.
For this reason, I always recommend mindfulness for all of my clients I am working with. Here are four simple mindful steps you can take to help you and your child whilst the household isn’t getting much sleep.
It all starts with you
Mindfulness has been scientifically proven to reduce the likelihood of developing Anxiety, Depression, Insomnia, Alzheimer’s and Dementia, Obesity…as a few examples but the list goes on. Not only that, it has also been documented that it helps with managing everyday plate spinning, coping with life-changing events and work-related stress.
However, before you can teach your child to be mindful, you need to master it yourself, otherwise, it would be like trying to teach your child to ride a bike when you don’t know how to do it yourself. Learning how to be mindful takes time and commitment, it isn’t a skill we can learn overnight. However, by taking 3-5 minutes out of our busy days you can strengthen your mindful “stamina”, which helps you to cope with the stresses of modern parenting.
The easiest way I have found to practice mindfulness is through the app Headspace (https://www.headspace.com/), the app is free and allows you to use “Take 10” – 10 days of mindfulness which you can keep repeating for free. However, I highly recommend subscribing because there are various “packs” relevant to most situations in life, including ones specifically for children. Although there is a pack for 0-5-year-olds, I really think this is for 3 years +.
The Great Outdoors
As busy parents, we don’t always want to be going outdoors, especially during the Autumn/Winter months. However getting into appropriate clothing and being outdoors every day in the fresh air with your child is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to be mindful.
Listening to sounds, feeling nature, seeing animals are all examples of how your family can be present in the moment. Even with new-born babies, you can put them in the sling, go for a walk and they experience the sounds of the outdoors as well as getting a lot of fresh air.
From a sleep point of view, exposure to natural daylight helps your child to very quickly learn the difference between day and night. Not only that, whilst you both maybe sleep deprived, the daylight helps you to remain alert and awake during the day. Here is a great blog with some examples of mindful outdoor activities for pre-schoolers.
We can encourage our children to be mindful from a young age, by exposing them to play and experiences which require the use of all five senses. During an awake time in the day, it is important to stimulate your child enough so that they are ready to sleep. A understimulated child may find it difficult to settle to sleep. For example, they may find the sheets uncomfortable against their skin or hear every slight noise which keeps them awake. There are some great sensory play examples found here.
Reduce The Blue Light
Although I know how tempting it is to give your child your phone or sit in front of the television when you are exhausted yourself (trust me!). Exposing your sleepless child to blue light such as mobile phones, tablets, computers, and televisions not only delays the hormone melatonin (sleepy hormone) from being released but it is also not teaching them to be mindful in their own body and minds. Exposure to blue light significantly impacts your child’s ability to fall and stay asleep. Therefore I recommend that your child is not exposed to screen time 2 hours before bedtime.
Hang on a minute, “she just recommended an App for children which you access via a mobile phone or on the computer” I hear you say. The American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP) suggests different recommendations for screen time dependant on your child’s age. You can find them here..
Taking AAP recommendations into account, if your child is watching a very short video before bed on the Headspace app, make sure your device is in “bedtime mode” on your phone which blocks out the blue light. Find out how to use screen time safely in your household as well as alternative activities to screen use here.
So you may be thinking after reading this, this sounds great, but I feel so tired that I just need some more sleep in order to be more mindful and positive. You can grab a copy of my free E-Book “Six Core Steps to Sleep Success”. http://sixcorestepstosleep.kathrynstimpson.com/
Feel free to reach out to me with your thoughts and questions.
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