Sleep and Memory
Sleep is important for cognitive skills especially memory consolidation. As we learn something new during our day a new connection forms in our brain between one nerve cell and another. Sleep reinforces these connections, stabilising our new learning into a memory.
Research shows if we compile a 'memory list' last thing at night we will remember it better first thing in the morning, compared with doing it at the start of our day and trying to remember it later on.
Taking a few moments last thing at night to reflect on the day’s events with your child, and write a brief diary (as much as possible in their own words), can give your child a very clear memory of their childhood – what a gift.
Light and Sleep
We need darkness for sleep and a gradual increase light for the morning – specifically blue light.
In the evening we need red light to prepare us for sleep, exposing ourselves to blue light e.g. from laptops, phones etc at this time can have a negative impact on the quality of our sleep.
Three Positives before Sleep
Research shows it's best NOT to focus on a negative memory just before sleep as this can strengthen the memory and the emotion of fear that goes with it.
With your child dwell on the positive aspects of the day e.g. together see if you can recall three positive things, or things they are grateful for, from the day. These will be consolidated into a positive memory whilst your child sleeps.
Yoga for Sleep
Bedtime can be a stressful time – young children finding it hard to make the transition from running around to being still and calm!
As we get older we tend to ‘learn’ how to change our alertness levels – but children often need a few physical cues to help them move from an alert state to feeling drowsy and relaxed.
There is no one perfect exercise which will improve sleep. However, yoga’s relaxing poses and stretches, combined with the calming breathing exercises that accompany them, may be helpful especially if you, or your child, are stressed. As part of a bedtime routine they can help your child lower their blood pressure and heart rate so they feel more relaxed.
It’s nice for your child to have their pyjamas on and be ready for bed i.e. teeth brushed before they start. Hopefully your child will be feeling relaxed after doing the poses and they can just hop into bed. Ideally do the poses barefoot as this will help with relaxation and slippers can slip!
Try to do these activities with your child, or encourage brothers and sisters to join in, as:
Children learn new movements best through copying the actions.
Research shows toddlers and young children bond with their parents and ‘key people’ not only through touch but also by moving with them.
The poses give you a chance to wind down and relax. (Remember if you have health concerns, especially back issues, do check with a health professional before doing any of the poses suggested)
To get the full benefit do poses slowly and repeat 2 -3 times this is really calming.
Keep your voice soft and low.
Make sure you can see! But turn the lights down a little if you can - or just put on the bedside light. Your child will be looking up as they do some of the poses and bright ceiling lights can overstimulate.
Carpet is fine, but a non-slip fabric mat, can be both soothing and safer. I think rubber mats can be a bit stimulating and often encourage rough play! If your child is able to use the same mat each night they will start to associate it with becoming calm and ‘getting ready for bed’.
Children Inspired Bedtime
Some interesting research highlights seated forward bends, twists and, of course, the relax pose are particularly calming. Taking time for a simple breathing activity will also relax and calm
So off we go... on a children inspired bedtime yoga story...
Our dreamtime ship is ready to go - we pull up the anchor heavy and slow
Sit with legs stretched out in front and do gentle, rhythmical slow rocks forward and back reaching for toes. Focus on the froward bends,
Do not force - it's fine for your child to bend their knees if this is comfortable, they may be having a growth spurt - at these times bones grow faster and muscles need time to adapt.
The wind blows our sail and bedtime tale
Cup hands over mouth and do 3 slow, deep breaths into hands concentrating on the out breath.. (exhalation)
It whispers a song, helping our boat along..
Lie down on back and bend up knees, keeping feet flat on ground. Let knees gently rock side to side for a calming spinal twist.
The waves reply with a gentle sigh ... our ship is on it's way
Straighten out knees to lie flat. Your child can place a favourite toy on their tummy, then do a few abdominal breaths so their toy bobs up and down on the waves with them.
Using Music in your Bedtime Yoga Routine
Often playing soft soothing music can help relaxation. At Children Inspired we love our Rainbow song.