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Is Your Child Not Sleeping Well? Try Mindfulness, Deep Breathing To Help Your Kid Sleep Better

Is Your Child Not Sleeping Well? Try Mindfulness, Deep Breathing To Help Your Kid Sleep Better
A cute little girl is sleeping in a white bed . Concept of child development and sleep. The view from the top.

Are you wondering what you can do to improve your kid's sleeping patterns? Here is how mindfulness training can lead to sleep changes in children.

Written by Arushi Bidhuri |Updated : July 14, 2021 10:12 AM IST

Is your child not sleeping properly or not getting enough sleep? If yes, then you must know that lack of sleep can impact their health. Over the years, studies have emphasized that children and adolescents need to sleep at least nine hours every night. If you did not already know, sleep is an essential part of your child's mental and physical well-being because it allows your kid's mind to relax and recover from all day's work. While there are many things you can do to improve your child's sleep, a new study has found that mindfulness can help improve children's sleeping patterns.

For the unversed, mindfulness is a practice in which you make yourself aware of yourself and your surroundings. The study led by the Stanford University School of Medicine found that mindfulness will teach students to relax and cope with stress by focusing on the present moment. This, in turn, will help kids sleep properly.

Lack Of Sleep In Children Can Lead To Several Problems

Sleep problems can have negative effects on children's behaviour and performance. It may also cause:

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  • Behavioural problems
  • Accidents and injuries
  • Impulsive behaviour
  • Mood problems
  • Learning problems
  • Overeating
  • Slow reaction
  • Problems in performance

Try Mindfulness For Children To Have A Sound Sleep

After engaging in a mindfulness curriculum in their primary schools, at-risk students got more than an hour of sleep every night, according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. The researchers examined how school-based mindfulness training affects children's sleep using polysomnography techniques, which monitor brain activity. The curriculum taught students how to relax and cope with stress by concentrating their attention on the present moment, but it did not teach them how to sleep more soundly.

The findings suggest that children who participated in the programme slept an additional 74 minutes each night than they did before the intervention. Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which includes dreaming and aids in memory consolidation, was also prolonged in youngsters who learnt the strategies. Senior author Ruth O'Hara, a sleep expert and professor of psychiatry and behavioural sciences at Stanford, said they obtained a half-hour REM sleep. Evidence suggests that REM sleep is a critical stage of sleep for neuronal growth as well as the development of a cognitive and emotional functions.

How Was The Study Conducted?

For the study, the researchers recruited 58 children from the curriculum group and 57 children from the control group for three in-home sleep evaluations, one before the programme began, one year later, and two years later. These children were part of the study resided in two low-income, predominantly Hispanic areas in the San Francisco Bay Area. The intervention was delivered to one neighbourhood, while the control was delivered to the other. Both featured high rates of crime and violence, and families were stressed by factors such as food poverty and crowded, unstable housing.

Since study's children were having a hard time letting their experiences go and considering that to fall asleep you have to relax, researchers included a programme that focused one's attention on the present moment. The programme exercises including slow, deep breathing, and yoga-based movement.

For two years, yoga instructors and classroom teachers taught the curriculum twice a week in all elementary and middle schools in the neighbourhood that received the intervention. Instructors informed students about stress and urged them to utilise strategies to help them rest and relax but they did not teach them about sleep-improvement practises like keeping consistent bedtimes.

The Findings

At the start of the trial, researchers discovered that children in the control group slept 54 minutes longer on average and had 15 minutes more REM sleep each night than children in the training group: Children in the control group slept around 7.5 hours per night, whereas those in the curriculum group slept approximately 6.6 hours per night.

However, the sleep habits of the two groups changed in distinct ways. Over the course of the two-year research, overall sleep decreased by 63 minutes per night, but REM sleep stayed constant, which is consistent with sleep decreases reported in late childhood and early adolescence. Children who participated in the programme, on the other hand, slept for 74 minutes overall and 24 minutes of REM sleep.

The lead author of the study, Christina Chick, PhD, a postdoctoral scholar in psychiatry and behavioural sciences said that hormonal changes and brain development also contribute to changes in sleep at this age. The average quantity of sleep got by research participants in both groups was low, even though healthy youngsters should get at least nine hours of sleep every night.

The researchers hypothesised that children might experience improvements in sleep via reductions in stress. However, the children who gained the most sleep during the study also reported increases in stress, perhaps because the curriculum helped them understand what stress was. Nevertheless, they slept better. The researchers wish to further understand how certain aspects of the curriculum, such as activities that encourage deep, calm breathing, may alter bodily functioning to allow kids to sleep better. We believe that breathing exercises alter the physiological milieu, possibly boosting parasympathetic nervous system activity, which leads to better sleep.

Some Other Tips To Help Kids Sleep Better

In case you are facing problems making your kid go to sleep on time, here are some other suggestions to help your kid sleep better and longer:

  • Set a consistent bedtime routine and stick to it every night. Wake-up time should not differ by more than one to one and a half hours.
  • Give your child a warm bath or read a bedtime story before putting them to sleep.
  • Caffeine-containing foods and beverages should not be given to children fewer than 6 hours before bedtime.
  • Avoid offering big meals to youngsters near bedtime. Also, make sure that the noise level in the house is low.
  • Turn off the television, computer, mobile phone, etc., at least an hour before bedtime.
  • Put your infant in bed when they seem sleepy but are still awake

If you notice anything out of the ordinary, talk to your child's health care provider.

(with inputs from agencies)

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