Any child can have trouble dozing off, whether due to anxiety, excitement, or fear of those monsters under the bed. Luckily, these doctors (who are also parents themselves) have figured out the best ways to help your little ones get some shut-eye — naturally.
Keep scrolling for three doctor-approved ways to help your child fall asleep and stay asleep.
Bedtime anxiety? Have a DIY dream session!
“We moved when my youngest was 8, and often he refused to sleep anywhere but our bed”, recalls Shauna Jain, M.D., a pediatric emergency physician in Ontario and a mother of two. To get him to sleep in his own bed, she cuddled up in his bed and asked him what dream he’d like to have. “He liked imagining himself at a beach resort. We talked about getting on the plane, putting on bathing suits, racing to the pool”, says Dr. Jain. Soon he’d nod off and, sure enough, have the dream he wanted. “He loved that he could control his dreams”, says Dr. Jain. “His sleep issue was centered around the fear of being alone, but he learned that he could get himself to a happy place where he knew he was safe.”
Too much late-night energy? Try head-to-toe exercise
“The kids have a hard time relaxing after a particularly active day”, says psychiatrist Sean Paul, M.D., founder of NowPsych.com, a telepsychiatry service. When that happens, Dr. Paul has them practice progressive muscle relaxation. “Once they’re in bed, I have them tense their toes as they breathe in for five to 10 seconds, and then relax the tension as they breathe out”, he says. They work their way up their body, tensing and relaxing, finishing with the muscles in their face. “They’re done in 15 minutes and are asleep soon after”, he says. “While tense muscles usually relay to the body that it’s stressed, once the kids take control of their bodies, it promotes relaxation.”
Trouble staying asleep? Try tea and essential oils!
“After my daughter watched a scary movie at a sleepover, she woke up every night for a week”, says father-of-three Gus Ferrer, M.D., a pulmonologist in Weston, Florida. To nix the restlessness, Dr. Ferrer gave her a cup of chamomile tea with honey 30 minutes before bed, then put a few drops of lavender essential oil under her pillow. The tea has compounds that act like anti-anxiety medications, and lavender has been shown to improve sleep quality by 20%. “She was asleep within 15 minutes and, more importantly, she stayed asleep”, says Dr. Ferrer. “Years later, she still comes to me for warm tea and lavender when she feels uneasy.”
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.