Saturday, January 13, 2007

Question of the Day-Children & Sleep

Amy J. of Las Vegas/Cedar City asks:

"Can you give me any suggestions to help establish a bedtime routine to help avoid the "wailing and gnashing of teeth" that I regularly experience?"

Hi Amy. I get this question a lot. Without going into a full description of how food and nutrition and TV contribute to this, I will state the basics:
1. No sugar or dairy for at least 3 hours before bedtime- sugar for obvious energy related reasons, and dairy because it is hard to digest. If our body is busy digesting, it cannot rest well in preparation for sleep. (Yeah, ye olde "drink a warm glass of milk before bed" tale doesn't fly with me!)
2. Optimally no one should eat for at least 2 hours before bed
3. No TV right before bed, or as they are going to sleep. It really does interrupt sleep cycles and creates permanent anchors that make it harder for them to go to bed without it. Just ask my dad, going on 55 years of the TV singing him to sleep! (Of course who wouldn't want to go to bed with the theme song from "Gunsmoke?")

Just like my mother and her mother, and I am sure Great-Grandma Ruia, I have created a bed time ritual. It is not always to the letter, as days are different, but I try to stay close.

This sometimes involve one or all of these:
-Sometimes a bath with some great calming essential oils thrown in.
-A story or a reading from a book we are currently reading together
-A visualization or meditation or just lying down and listening to calming music

EO's: Everyone lines up, feet ready, and I massage EO's on their feet. I sometimes use the Beautiful Dreamer blend, Bliss, or just Lavender and Lemon, Mandarin or another citrus besides orange. I also love Coriander for children at bed time-it is a sedative and helps with insomnia. Lemon is said to historically help with bad dreams and nightmares.
Roman Chamomile is wonderful as well for it's calming abilities. Rose essential oil sends me to a land of fairies and cloud pillows. It is anciently known for it's clearing out of negative energy and thoughts. Rose oil is one of the oldest known oils. The historical tales are abundant, and it was written about originally over 7000 years ago!
My oldest son prefers Jasmine. It speaks to him, and I hope it speaks sleep! He is getting to the age also, that he likes to apply the oils himself.

So, I rub their feet. This is a gentle way to reconnect with our children and give them some love and nurturing. Many times this is our favorite part of the day. It heals a difficult day, that may or may not have involved screaming. ;)
My children are almost 11, almost 8 and 3.5 year old twins, and they all enjoy it.

Herbs: Everyone gets a couple squirts of Chill herbal tincture.
Can be found here: Herbally Grounded :: Home
-Brush our teeth
-We say our family prayers
-Hug goodnight

Now this doesn't always assure that the house will be as quite as can be and the only sound will be our real live mouse,"Gus"squeaking away on his wheel. But,when it is followed the results are usually good ones.
Sometimes, I will let the older boys quietly read in their room. I will also put calming oils in the diffusers in their rooms and set them for an hour.

What I find key, and comes from a wise man I call Dad... is consistency. You could pat their heads and say goodnight, and if they knew that this meant bedtime, over time, this would be all it took for the most part. If I am consistent, and I do not waver, and they have been paid attention to, gotten love and their needs are met and we have established this routine, then it only benefits all of us and mama's sanity. For as you know, if I were to have a tattoo, it would say, "If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy." Of course the inner journalistic nymph in me would correct the ain't to isn't.. you get the picture.
Every child and family and situation is different. Because of my husbands schedule, 4 out of 7 nights I am the sole "go to bed soothsayer", and this what I have established that works for us. Pick one thing and try it, then pick another until you have created your own night time ritual.

Here are some interesting and valuable points on sleep I have researched and observed:
-Children need to know what time bed time is. This helps with everything! It also offers them security, wether they show it or not. Children like to know when things will be happening.
You can point at the clock and if they know, and you are consistent, then less arguing is bound to ensue. Of course the occasional stay up late or Friday Night Movie Night is perfectly fine, they will still know their boundaries.
-Every hour of sleep you get before midnight is worth double what the hours are worth after midnight. (This continues to discourage me, and I try to jump in bed at 11:59, hoping it will count.)

- Every child needs sleep. Every parent needs quite time at night. This cannot be accomplished if there are no boundaries and bedtime is simply when everyone falls asleep. Granted different ages of children may dictate this, but there can still be consistency.

-Sleep factors into children's behaviors more than we know. A well rested child is a happier child. A well rested parent is a happier parent. Seems so simple! Shyeah!
P.S. Make dream pillows! (see below)

Bonne soirée!

Dream A Little Dream-Dream Pillows

Dream Pillows are a fantastic asset to your bed! I have heard about them for years, but never partook in their glory. I would often drop a few drops of EO on a cotton ball and put it near my pillow, and of course put on my sleep blend "Beautiful Dreamer" before bed, but the dream pillow seems to complete the whole aromatic sleeping experience.
I have studied a lot about cultures and their obsession with scent. From the very beginnings of time, to the Pharaoh's castle to the less affluent tribes, scent has played a part. In Ancient Egypt, women would make scent cones out of tree resin and essential oils. They would then wrap their hair around them, and as the sun would beat on their heads, the scent would be released and run down their chest and necks. Scent was reserved for special occasions in the lower tribes, and was used daily by the royalty. Baths were scented, hair, bodies, candles, table linens, and of course the bed. Back in a time where the bed was considered as monumental as the throne, scent played an important role. Often the bed was the most decorated of all furnishings. The bed would be carved out of precious wood, inlaid with jewels and gold and silver, draped with beautiful embroidered, tasseled and woven linens. Small packets of herbs would find themselves tucked under blankets, pillows, and tied to bed posts. Each herb and oil had a different use, purpose, chant, prayer or desire associated with it. So, when I heard of dream pillows, I automatically associated them with these ancient rituals.
Recently I made my own. Now, anyone who knows me knows that my poor mother who is a master seamstress tried diligently to pass on her skill. Sadly what came out of it was a massive amount of odd looking hair scrunchies and a pair of pants fit for a genie. (Not to mention a C- in Home EC.) However, I hope that what I lack in sewing prowess I have made up for in the kitchen. I like to cook, and enjoy good food for my family. I also like to concoct all sorts of body care products, which eventually turned in to my business. However, with dream pillows, it is a simple enough job that even I, who was not blessed with sewing skills could make quite a nice looking one. It is really quite simple. Pick out some fabric, scraps are fine. I like my pillows about the size of my palm or a small bean bag. Cut the fabric into two equal squares, sew inside outs together, leaving a small gap to insert the herbs, and flip outside in. Fill with herbs and oils, sew shut. Now you can see why I was not asked to be a commentator for the Saturday morning show "Sewing With Nancy", as my sewing dialect is neither understandable or easy to follow! So, I will post a link that does a much better job. How to make Dream Pillows - Crafts
I think I will include these with my Christmas gifts next year. I love how my pillow smells when I lie down. As scent is immediately transferred into memory, it is a simple yet powerful way to associate these smells with good sleep. It is truly a dreamy aromatic experience. My children will be my next test subjects. I hope the dream pillows will stay just that and not turn into flying objects that smell good. We shall see!
BOOK Recommendation: For more insight into the ritual of scent in ancient cultures as well as a very good story, I recommend the book Sarah by Marek Halter. I just finished it in 24 hours and it was fascinating!