Sleepy Time episode seven – Soothing anxious thoughts technique for five to eight year olds
When your child wakes in the night, they can feel anxious about getting back to sleep. But don’t worry, we’re here to help
Waking in the night can be a stressful experience for many children, especially if they find it hard to go back to sleep.
This episode is a form of body scan meditation, which encourages your child to bring their attention to parts of their body – starting with the toes and working up towards their head. This meditation will distract them from their worries and help them to go back to sleep.
Our bedtime podcast is brought to you in association with parenting website MadeForMums. Each episode is written by psychologist and yoga teacher Suzy Reading and narrated by Gemma David of The Quiet Heart.
Learn how children can manage anxious thoughts when they wake in the night
We all wake up from time to time and sometimes it can be hard to get back to sleep. Don’t worry about being awake. It is ok. You can just let your body rest and that is just as good as sleep. Let yourself just rest until sleep comes again. You can use your mind to help your body relax and soften into rest. Let’s try an exercise now where you bring your attention to different parts of your body. It is a good way to keep your mind calmly focused until sleep comes again.
Let’s start by just getting settled. Lie on your back with your arms loosely relaxed by your sides. Stretch your legs out long and let your toes drop out to the sides. Close your eyes. Let your eyelids soften and your eyes relax. Feel the soft support of your bed beneath you and the sensation of your covers draped over you. Let yourself sink into that comfy feeling of being snuggled up in bed. Take a few smooth breaths, just noticing how it feels to be breathing. If you like, you can let out a little sigh with your outbreath or maybe it might feel nice to make it nice and long through your lips like you are blowing out a candle. Have a little try of both and see what feels better to you. Just enjoy feeling your breathing for another couple of breaths.
Now we are going to focus your mind on different parts of your body, just noticing how they feel. You will notice that your mind will stay there for a little while and then it might wander off. That is perfectly ok. If worries pop up, just notice, and remind yourself that you are safe and it’s ok to be awake and then bring your mind back to that part of the body. It’s like a little dance, your mind will go here and then it will go there and it’s all ok, we just keep bringing it back to the body.
Beginning with your feet. Feel your feet. Noticing the part of your feet that sink into your mattress and the parts of your feet touching your covers. Notice your heels, the soles of your feet, your toes, the tops of your feet. Don’t worry if it is tricky at first to sense them. Maybe give your toes a little wriggle first, like you are greeting them. Then let them come back to stillness and just notice anything you feel. Are they warm? Are they cold? Do they want to move or are they happy being still? It’s all, ok, just notice. Have a few relaxed breathing just feeling your feet, letting them soften and drop.
Let’s move a little higher up now, feeling your ankles, feeling your calves, feeling your shins, feeling your knees. Let them all be just as you find them. If you like you can have a very gentle bounce of your knees and then let them flop back to stillness. Spend another few breaths feeling your lower legs.
Have you noticed your mind wandering off? It’s totally ok if it does, the mind likes to move here and there. When it does, just kindly bring it back to your body relaxing into rest. Move your attention higher up now to your thighs. Feel the strong muscles in your thighs and let them soften and relax. Imagine your big strong thigh bones and let them get really heavy and drop into the bed too. Don’t worry if they feel a little wriggly, just let them rest as best you can.
Relax all the muscles in your upper legs and take another couple of breaths here maybe using the little sigh or the candle breath. Every time your mind goes somewhere else bring it back to your upper legs releasing into the support of your bed. Take your attention now to your tummy. Let your tummy go totally soft and you might even feel it move with your breath. Your tummy might feel like it is filling up with your breath in and you might feel your belly button move back down as you take your lovely long smooth breath out. Listen out for any gurgles! Can you feel your clothes against your tummy too? What else can you sense around your tummy – sometimes we feel emotions there. Let it all just be as you find it. Enjoy focusing your mind on your tummy here for another few breaths.
Now you can bring your attention up to your chest. Just like before, you might feel your chest moving with your breath too. Take a moment to sense the breath moving through your chest. It fills up all the way to your neck as you breathe in and drops back down as you breathe out.
Next take your attention to your hands. Just notice where they are resting, what you can feel beneath them. There is nothing you have to do with your hands, just feel them and let them relax. Let your attention move up into your arms now, feeling the inside of your arm and the back of your arm. If your mind gets busy again, it’s ok, just bring it back to noticing your arms. Now direct your attention to the back of your body.
Feel the back of your shoulders release and the whole of your spine sink into your bed. Notice if you are feeling a little more peaceful now. Keep watching where your mind goes and bring it back to your body or your breath. Let your attention come into your neck and your shoulders now. Let them go soft and feel them flop into your mattress. Just let them drop and feel yourself relaxing deeper into stillness.
Now bring your attention to your face and head. Let go of all the expressions that you’ve made, relaxing your eyes, your eyebrows, your forehead, your jaw. Even let your tongue relax! Notice how calm and peaceful you feel when you relax your face and let your head grow heavy. Every time your mind goes somewhere else, remember it’s ok, and bring it back to your face.
Now feel your whole body, let your whole body flop and drop. Imagine that you can breathe with your whole body. Come back to the soft sigh or the candle breath if you like it and let your whole body relax into rest.
Every time the mind wanders off, gently and kindly bring it back to your whole body, held by your bed. Just resting here, making it easier for sleep to come.