Bedtime Sleep Techniques for Restless Kids

Creative solutions to quiet busy minds
Girl sleeping happily on floor in yoga clothing
Danielle Donders / Mothership Photography

Mantra of a tired momma

Breathing in... I am calm.
Breathing out... I patiently fetch a glass of water.
Breathing in... I am relaxed(ish).
Breathing out... I give one last snuggle.
Breathing in... I am peaceful... (Really trying here).
Breathing out... why won't you go to sleep already?!?!

As parents, we've all been there. Tired and a wee bit impatient after a busy day. All too aware that morning will come faster than we'd like. And a kid (or kids!) who just can't, or seemingly won't, go to sleep. Anxiety levels rise. A parent who just wants some free time at the end of a chaotic day... a child who really is tired and could use some sleep, but for whatever reason is anxious, or overtired, or just wired. As the hands of the clock confirm it's well past bedtime and images of tomorrow morning's battle to wake up and get ready for school swirl in our heads, you might need a few clever sleep techniques up your sleeve to break up the party.

Sleep techniques for the young and restless

We can't force a child to sleep any more than a child can force sleep to happen, but as the hour on the clock creeps later and later, what we can do is choose together how this time will now be spent. Using sleep techniques that both you and your child enjoy is an effective way of preventing future struggles and forming the foundation of a bedtime routine. Some may be done together, while others you can encourage your child to take on independently. This way when bedtime struggles come your way, there's a clear set of options that you can both live with, and hopefully fall asleep with too!


Integrate some calming yoga poses to activate your child's rest and digest response and redirect their attention away from their worry of not being able to fall asleep. This pose brings a wealth of noted benefits, including easing anxiety, insomnia, headaches, and digestive issues.

Legs up the Wall/Bed Pose:

  1. Move over to sit in front of a wall or at the side of the bed.

  2. Lie down and swing your legs up to rest on the wall or bed, bringing your bottom as close as possible.

  3. Make sure you are warm. Pull a cozy blanket over your body.

  4. Relax your arms by your sides. Maybe reach over and hold hands. Slowly turn your head left and right.

  5. Take this time to come back to thinking about all of the good things in your life. Picture someone or something that makes you smile and for which you feel thankful.

  6. Use this time to quietly share some thoughts, share a moment from your day, or choose to simply rest quietly together enjoying each other's company.

Aromatherapy massage

Work in a little lavender essential oil rub with a relaxing foot, hand, or back massage. To make your own rub make sure you choose a high grade therapeutic essential oil and mix it with a carrier oil such as coconut oil or sunflower oil and rub it between your hands to warm it. Never use an undiluted oil on your child's skin.

Sleep mask

Using an eye mask blocks out light and stops the optic nerve from processing information. The gentle pressure of the mask around the eyes can also have a therapeutic effect. You can even make one yourself and try filling it with rice to create a little weight.

Guided muscle release

Guiding a muscle tensing and release of the entire body can be a wonderful way to lull a child to sleep. You can make up your own, starting with tensing the toes and feet on the inhale and relaxing with the exhale, working your way slowly through the entire body. Or choose from one of the many wonderful tracks available online.

Watering flowers meditation

For the worriers you may try introducing some mindfulness meditation in an accessible and creative visualization borrowed from yoga teacher Bernie Clark. With the idea that thoughts are like plants, go on to explain that worries are like weeds in a garden while good thoughts are like flowers. Encourage your child to visualize their own garden and start to plant some flowers. Think of a friend, something good that happened that day, or something they really like to do, assign and describe a flower for that person or thought. Any kind you like. Encourage them to create a colourful garden in their minds eye. When a worry or negative thoughts enters, see it as a weed in the garden. When we pay attention to the weeds it's like we are watering them and they grow bigger and bigger the more we come back to them. Kids can learn to choose to water the flowers instead. This technique helps us appreciate the good in our lives, and start to recognize and redirect negative thought patterns.

Try adding one or a few of the above sleep techniques into your own bedtime routine. If something doesn't seem to be working, move on and try something else. Above all, please remember that these struggles are temporary.You will get through it and your child will eventually sleep peacefully again.

*Originally published November 27, 2016