7 Creative Sleep Aids for Children That Don’t Require Pills
Thought your partying days were bad? Once you have kids, you realize that nothing – absolutely nothing – ruins a good night’s sleep like a child can.
Unless you have absolutely perfect kids or the luxury of a nighttime nanny, you’re probably going through what the rest of us are: trying to conceal your panda-like dark circles and laugh-crying in commiseration with Go the F*ck to Sleep.
Not to mention what’s happening on your children’s end – according to WebMD, seven out of 10 children aren’t getting enough z’s. No wonder they’re so cranky.
So what’s the solution for under-slumbered kids and parents? Are there natural, gentle sleep aids for children that don’t require popping pills?
Why yes, yes there are. Some are a little unconventional, but all of them are mighty effective and bring the benefits of easier, deeper sleep minus the side effects.
So here goes – here are 7 gentle yet effective sleep aids for children to try out the next time you find yourself up against the bedtime battle.
Aromatherapy for sleep
Are there scents that can instantly lull a hyper kid to bed? Not exactly. But there are calming, relaxing scents that are effective at inducing drowsiness, reducing anxiety and even promoting deeper, better quality sleep.
Armed with just a handful of the best essential oils for sleep and an oil diffuser, you can set the mood for a peaceful, uninterrupted night of slumber for your little ones. Best part? It’s totally natural and will make your house smell like a spa.
You can also make use of both the placebo effect and your child’s imagination – after tucking your kid into bed, use something like Nutravana’s Sleep Time Roll-On Scent or if you want an organic option, Badger Balm’s Night Night Balm, and create a story about how it brings about sleep.
This way, aromatherapy can also become a lovely part of your child’s nightly ritual – one that he or she will look forward to like a bedtime story or book and one that definitively signals it’s time for bed.
A warm glass of milk before bed
Usually you want to make sure your child is avoiding putting their digestive system to work before sleep – which means no snacking or big meals within a few hours of hitting the hay. But an exception can perhaps be made for a warm mug of milk before bed.
And this whole milk-before-bed is a lot more than an old wives tale – many dairy products promote tryptophan, a naturally occurring chemical which helps lull the body into sleepiness, making them one of the best
foods drinks for sleep. The milk route has the added benefit of being relaxing and soothing, too, taking away any night time anxieties.
Massage your little one
We know you’re tired and in dire need of a massage yourself, but just a few minutes of massaging your little one is a surprisingly effective, all-natural way of getting kids to sleep. Fast.
It doesn’t have to be anything fancy – gently stroke your child’s shoulders, arms and legs, belly and even use your fingernails for a light scalp massage. And don’t worry about “doing it right” – it’s mostly the warmth of touch and the sensation of comfort and support that massage promotes that helps make the process of drifting off much easier.
Most importantly, nighttime massage becomes a lovely bonding time that helps create a sense of intimacy between parent and child. The result? Children come to associate nightly sleep with something warm and comfortable, making the process of going to bed much easier in the future.
Enlist the help of sleep toys
There are tons of stuffed animals competing for space on your child’s bed – so why not get ones that earn their keep in helping your kid fall asleep?
Our favorite by far is Cloud B’s Sleep Sheep, which is plushy goodness combined with 8 soothing sounds ranging from a simple heartbeat to rain sounds and whale song.
Is your child afraid of the dark? Try Cloud B’s Twilight Turtle, who projects actual star constellations in 3 soothing colors (and has a timer to ensure complete darkness for when your child falls asleep).
Tea time before bedtime
Although there are a whole host of different herbal and naturally occurring sleeping remedies out there, some of them may still be too strong or slightly alarming to use as a sleep aid for children.
Lucky for us, there are a few sleep aid teas that are gentle and effective for kids. Our top recommendations? Chamomile, of course, for its proven anxiety and stress relieving properties and its lack of side-effects or that heavy sedation you can get from other sleepy time teas.
Another top contender is valerian tea, which has a proven track record – with very little in the side-effects department to cause alarm – of easing young kids into a peaceful night’s sleep. Plus, drinking it as a warm tea makes for a lovely sleep-inducing ritual in and of itself.
Give yogic breathing a go
Those of you who practice yoga already know that rhythmic breathing can go a long way in grounding and supporting you in the most difficult of postures. But these breathing techniques aren’t just for yogis – some are extremely helpful for promoting a sense of ease and diluting any latent anxiety that may come with trying to sleep.
Not to mention, the process of trying them out with your kids is fun in and of itself and will help get your kids’ minds off whatever is troubling them.
Our favorite yogic breathing techniques for helping kids (and adults) gently relax into sleep are ujjayi breath and brahmari breath. The first is best for older children as it takes some practice to get used to, but the latter is easy and fun for kids of all ages.
To do ujjayi breath, simply close your eyes and your mouth and start by taking a few long, deep and slow breaths. Now, focus your attention on your throat and slightly constricting your throat muscles, pretend that you are breathing not through your nose, but through your throat instead.
You should be making a soft, oceanic sound that’s audible to yourself. As you continue to breathe, allow your entire mind and body to be consumed by this pleasant sound and the slow rhythm of your breath until you gently drift off to sleep.
To do brahmari breath (humming bee breath), take a deep inhale and then, mouth closed, exhale with your nose while producing a humming sound like a bee. Repeat until you fall asleep.
Melatonin for kids…?
Although melatonin supplements for kids appear to be effective and relatively safe across the board, there is still a need for some long standing research to be carried out and if you’re in the boat of parents who don’t want to resort to melatonin supplements for your kids – rest assured that there are ways of boosting natural melatonin without pills.
For starters, amp up your child’s natural melatonin levels with foods abundant in melatonin. Also, make sure you’re setting the stage for your child’s body to naturally release melatonin by dimming or turning off the lights and shutting off electronics at least an hour before bedtime.
Just those two steps can be enough to allow the benefits of natural melatonin to do its job without resorting to supplements.