The Rhythm of Sleeping and Waking
Why do some children have difficulty achieving a good night’s sleep?
By Rachel Ross M.Ed.
Why is it so difficult for some children to fall asleep at night and for others, it is a struggle to wake up in the morning? What can we do to help these children?
We are living in a world of sense impressions which are often not self created or self regulated. It is challenging even for adults to digest many of the incidental impressions experienced in daily life without adding various media impressions. For our children this task is sometimes impossible. The stress levels are way up in most of our lives and there doesn’t seem to be enough time to breathe! Yes, the operative word is, breathe. We do not just breathe with our lungs, but with our whole body and being. The gesture of today is one of inhalation, the gesture of fear, and it is becoming more and more difficult to truly exhale. Our whole rhythmic system is off balance and needs harmonizing, which has a direct impact on sleeping and waking.
That being said, lets talk about children:
Children who have difficulty falling asleep are often suffering from too many sense impressions from the day which they cannot fully digest (make sense of or integrate them into a meaningful real context), and at the same time they cannot let go of them either. We know this experience as adults, when we lie awake in the middle of the night still thinking of work or some event that has happened or will happen the next day. Children experience many unvoiced fears and anxieties that to an adult seem unimportant or trivial, but to the child are intense and real. How can we help our children experience a healthy rhythm of sleeping and waking?
Fear of falling asleep:
¨ These children need reassurance that their parents will be there in the morning (especially mom) and that all will be well.
¨ They are helped by talking over the next day at night, every detail of the morning, getting ready for school, what they will wear, the breakfast they will eat, their teacher who will be waiting for them at school and the first lesson of the day. It is vital that you follow through on what you say you will do and never be late picking them up from school or not be there when they get home.
¨ These children need to feel trust and secure.
¨ Nutritional or calming lavender baths at night can also be helpful.
¨ A set routine at bedtime with an evening ritual, lighting a candle during a story and a bedtime verse are very reassuring.
¨ Children who can’t let go of the day need to talk through what has happened during the day and about their worries so that they can be helped sort their feelings out.
¨ Try to reduce or monitor what type of impressions the child is receiving, especially before bed at night. No T.V., video games, homework, etc. right before bed. Reduced sensory stimulation is very important at night.
¨ The same suggestions as stated above are also helpful, including deep pressure massage of the lower legs and feet to calm the nervous activity of the head.
¨ Some of these children need to eat a light snack before bed to help them sleep through the night.
Children Who Cannot Wake in the Morning:
These children sleep so deeply that it is actually painful for them to wake in the morning.
¨ Have all clothes laid out the night before to reduce morning decisions.
¨ Be ready before your child is up.
¨ Wake them with a warm wash cloth with a bit of lemon or rosemary essence to help them wake up while they are still in bed.
¨ Get a warm drink in them (warm honey tea) before they reach the breakfast table.
¨ Everything should be packed and ready to go for school the night before so that there is not searching at the last minute. Have the child help make and pack the lunch the night before. And do not forget the jacket; warmth is so important in this whole picture.
Parent and child survival:
¨ Anyone who has not had a good night sleep is not a happy camper.
¨ Children need a good breakfast before they come to school to be ready and able to learn.
¨ Pick your battles wisely. Figure out what are the real issues and deal with them appropriately. Children cannot put themselves to bed at night, a parent is required. The quality of the bed time ritual will set the tone for the morning. If there is chaos at night, there will be chaos in the morning.
¨ Many children who come to school without breakfast are cranky and sleepy, have forgotten half their things for school and are not dressed warmly enough. What kind of day would you have at work if you started your day like this? Would you be a happy camper?
¨ Children who tend to wake in the night and crawl in with the parents or can’t fall asleep without a parent lying beside them, are children who tend to need more deep pressure touch to feel secure in their bodies.
¨ Children who are bed-wetters sleep deeply and do not wake up when they need to urinate. These children are helped with Therapeutic Eurythmy.
¨ Nightmares are often either organically based or come from emotional stress in the child’s surroundings.
¨ Sleep walking can be addressed through homeopathic remedies and Therapeutic Eurythmy.
¨ There are exercises in the Extra Lesson which also assist in sleeping and waking. The exercises help to harmonize the relationship between the astral body and the etheric body, thus promoting a more rhythmic breathing.
Adapted from: Adventures in Parenting, 2008. By Rachel Ross M.Ed.
Working with Anxious, Nervous, and Depressed Children, 2001
by Hennig Kohler, MD
The Association of Waldorf Schools of North America
3911 Bannister Road, Fair Oaks, CA 95628
ISBN # 1-888365-28-5
The Extra Lesson, Audrey McAllen, 2004
Rudolf Steiner College
Fair Oaks, CA 95628