Seeking Sleep: Soothing Practices Before Bedtime

In the past, we’ve shared how a simple foot massage can be deeply relaxing for littles. Recently we’ve found breath practice and guided meditation also help with a restful night’s sleep.

Breathing with Longer Exhales

Taking deep breaths any time brings a sense of calm. We’ve been trying this practice right before bed, focusing on making our exhales longer than our inhales. 

While the sympathetic nervous system manages your flight and response system, the parasympathetic nervous system, when turned up, can help put your body in a calm state.

Taking longer exhales is actually a simple practice to do together. 

  • Sit comfortably together
  • Count “1-2” for each inhale
  • Count to “1-2-3-4” for every exhale
  • Repeat 3 times

You can also do Snake Breath together. The hissing sound you make while you exhale naturally prolongs the out-breath.

Guided Meditation for Kids

The second practice we have been experimenting with before bed is doing a guided meditation together. 

Doing a guided meditation has been a very natural integration into our bedtime routine.  We don’t do it all the time but when we do my kids seem to quite enjoy the practice.

Try one of our guided sleep meditations on InsightTimer or you can use an app like Headspace, which has a section just for kids’ meditations. When choosing a meditation, keep it relatively short — no more than 5 to 10 minutes — depending on your child’s age.

My older daughter (7) responds to all the breathing cues in the meditation such as inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth. My younger daughter (4) isn’t quite old enough to keep up with all the cues, but as soon as the guided meditation begins, she quiets down pretty quickly and is more easily able to drift off to sleep.

I’m all for trying new ways to help our kiddos relax before bed.  What are some of your favorite practices?

This post was originally published May 2017 and updated October 2020.

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