Sleep secrets doctors swear by
No matter what’s keeping your little one up, these simple strategies that doctors rely on when their own kids toss and turn will have your child drifting off to dreamland in no time!
For bedtime excitement
A soothing saying
“When my three kids are together, there’s a lot of energy and giggles, especially close to bedtime,” says Monica Aggarwal, M.D., coauthor of Finding Balance: Empower Yourself with Tools to Combat Stress and Illness. “To help bring on calm without abruptly squashing their fun, we do a breathing and mantra exercise.” She has them take 10 deep breaths while lying in bed. “Kids don’t want complicated instructions, so I just tell them to take a deep breath in and let it all out really slowly.” Between each breath, the kids repeat a mantra, like,
I am good or I am loved. “The combination of breathing and the mantra is very powerful. It gives the kids something positive to focus on, which calms their body and mind,” says Dr. Aggarwal. They’re usually asleep within 10 minutes.
For schedule-change restlessness
“My son didn’t always respond well to changes in routine, like back-to-school time,” says mother-of-three Rallie McAllister, M.D., coauthor of The Mommy MD Guide to Your Baby’s First Year. So she gave him a powdered magnesium supplement (like Natural Calm Specifics Kids, which also boasts the soothing amino acid L-theanine, $20 for 31 servings, NaturalVitality.com) at bedtime. “He’d be out like a light within a half hour,” says Dr. McAllister. The mineral relaxes tense muscles, which helps usher in sleep. To do: Add 1⁄2 tsp. of the powder to 2 oz. of hot water. Let fizz, stir, then fill the rest of the mug with warm water.
For stress-induced sleeplessness
A calming scent
“I’ve used a special ‘night-night spray’ on my children since they were toddlers,” says Sarah Villafranco, M.D., founder of Osmia Organics natural skin care. And she still uses it on her kids, now 9 and 13. “It’s especially useful in times of anxiety.” She fills a 2 oz. spray bottle with water and 5 drops each of calming lavender, chamomile, mandarin and atlas cedarwood essential oils and spritzes it above the kids’ beds at bedtime. If you can’t find all the oils, Dr. Villafranco suggests using lavender (it increases deep, slow-wave sleep) and mandarin (a natural sedative). “They wait for the mist to hit their faces and inhale. I’ve been doing this since they were small, so their brains and bodies are conditioned to know the scent means it’s time to sleep—and they drift off.”