Health

Top 5 Practical tips to help your tween sleep better

Teenagers need more sleep than adults and yet while many school aged children and teens are shattered during the daytime and evening they can have trouble falling asleep at night. When all the usual tricks to wind down in the evening (such as milky drinks and warm baths) don’t work, it can be hard for parents to know what to try next. We’ve put together 5 practical tips to help.

1) Calm Sleep Stories

When your child’s brain is constantly filled with the thoughts from the day and worries about the future it can become nearly impossible for them to turn their minds off and fall asleep. Sleep Stories on the Calm app (free to download on Apple and android phones) have been called ‘sleep inducing masterpieces’. The narrators of the stories (such as Stephen Fry) have been chosen for their soothing and soporific voices. Guided meditations and relaxation tips are woven into the narrative, which help the body and mind relax and get ready to sleep. One girl’s review of the app’s sleep stories reads:

‘Ever since I downloaded the Calm app my life has been getting better.
I’ve been going to sleep earlier, doing better in school… Love it’

2) The 4-7-8 breathing technique

A health expert claims that this simple breathing technique can help children fall asleep in under 60 seconds. US sleep expert Dr Andrew Weil, founder of the Arizona Centre for Intergrative Medicine at the University of Arizona, explains that the technique works by calming the mind and relaxing the muscles. To make sure you are doing it right Weil says:

‘You have to keep the tip of the tongue behind the upper front teeth. You breathe in through your nose quietly and blow air out forcefully through your mouth making a whoosh sound.’

How to carry out the technique:

1. Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.

2. Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four

3. Hold your breath for a count of seven.

4. Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.

5. This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.

It’s a simple technique that parents can teach their children to use that may help them clear their minds of all the thoughts of a busy day and drift off to sleep.

3) ASMR

When children are very young parents often help them to sleep by whispering songs or stories to them or by gently stroking their faces or bodies. ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response) builds on this idea to help older children and adults drift off into slumber. It uses a series of soft sounds (such as whispering voices and paper rustling) that produce a ‘tingling’ effect in the body, triggering a feeling of relaxation and getting it ready for sleep. Some experts believe that it can really help with insomnia. According to Dr Mark Winwood, director of psychological services for AXA PPP healthcare, ASMR may work by tapping into early associations of infancy:

‘The soft sounds and whispering associated with ASMR might be directly linked with parent and infant bonding, involving soft and caring vocal tones and focused attention, which in turn can help to create a sense of trust, closeness and emotional security, through the release of certain hormones.’

On You Tube there are plenty of ASMR channels, some especially created for children. According to ASMR You Ready: ‘This content is not only relaxing children, and their frazzled parents, but allows them to pause and unwind, thus acting as a gentle gateway into the bedtime routine.’

4) The Whole Body Relaxation Technique

The National Sleep Foundation recommends the ‘Progressive Muscle Relaxation’ as an easy technique parents can teach their children to help their bodies relax and better encourage sleep. It involves slowly tensing and relaxing each part of the body from tip to toe. The Mayo clinic describes it as follows:

‘Start by tensing and relaxing the muscles in your toes and progressively working your way up to your neck and head. You can also start with your head and neck and work down to your toes. Tense your muscles for at least five seconds and then relax for 30 seconds, and repeat.’

5) Lush Sleepy Balm

This little pot of cream infused with oatmeal and calming lavender has been hailed as ‘magical’. When it was first launched (in 2016) there was an overnight stampede of comments on social media from people claiming that it was the secret to a good night’s sleep:

‘Sleepy lotion is the one product that can actually help me through the worst of my nights.’

‘WOW @lushcosmetics sleepy is the only lotion I would ever describe as “dreamy” 10/10 recommend’

While some admit that the very act of rubbing a balm into your skin that promises a good night’s sleep might produce a placebo effect, the benefits of lavender are supported by both the NHS and National Sleep Foundation who say it can ‘decrease heart rate and blood pressure, potentially putting you in a more relaxed state’. It’s definitely one to try.