By Melissa Sanford

Are you a frazzled mom sitting up in the middle of the night trying to get your child to go to sleep? Are you out of ideas, out of patience and out of your mind? Are you desperately Googling “How do I get my five year old to sleep?” from your dark bedroom? Well, we have a method (backed by science) that you can do RIGHT NOW to help get your child ready for sleep.

Let’s face it, when you have a child who will not go to sleep or won’t stay asleep it can be the most frustrating thing for a mother. You adore your child, but when he does this night after night, you want to throttle him! He needs his rest, you need your rest as does the rest of your family. You’re both exhausted, anxious and tired of fighting, but you both still need to get to sleep. Now what? Well we have an idea (backed by solid research) that you can do right now to help get your restless child to sleep.

Deep Breathing to Calm Your Child Down for Sleep

Deep breathing – it seems too simple a concept to actually be effective – but trust us, it’s one of the fastest ways to calm down. In fact, recent neuroscientific research out of Stanford University School of Medicine revealed that there is a tremendous connection between our state of mind and our breathing. Most of us have heard about the power of breathing deeply to calm ourselves down. Kids, unfortunately, don’t know how to do this – unless we teach them. So if you’ve been awake for hours battling your child to stay in his bed or even his bedroom, slowing down his breathing is a proven method that can help immediately. 

When you take a deep breath in, your heart rate increases just a bit. Then, as you slowly exhale, your heart rate slows down. If you repeat deep breaths in and out to a slow count of three, your heart rate starts to sync up with your breath. This reduced heart rate leads your brain to release calming chemicals called endorphins. When you are breathing more shallowly, which happens when you’re upset or anxious or stressed, those endorphins are not released. That’s why deep breathing is so helpful to get a child to sleep. Here’s how we suggest you do it:

First, we recommend YOU do some deep breathing to settle yourself and enter a state of calm. You can’t help that sleepless child if you are stressed and anxious yourself. So, sit somewhere quiet (try putting on headphones with meditation music or earplugs if your child is currently crying or screaming) and close your eyes. Take in a long, slow, deep breath to a slow count of three. Next, exhale through an open mouth to another count of three. Try to focus on the breath moving in and out of your lungs and not your churning thoughts. Breathing this way for just three to five minutes will do wonders for your state of mind; calming your brain, releasing endorphins and relaxing your body so you can deal with the situation more effectively.

Once you are calm, it’s time to turn your attention to your child. First, tell your little one that you thought of a great game you want to play with them (because, let’s be real, children don’t actually WANT to calm down or go to sleep). Explain that, to play this game, she has to sit cross-legged next to you. Next, it is very helpful to turn on some calming, meditative music such as the calming tracks on the Ninja Focus app. Then, ask her to close her eyes and take a nice, deep breath in. While she does this, you count slowly to three, then ask her to let the breath out through her mouth to a count of three. To make it more game-like and appealing to her, ask her to make any noise she wants on the exhale. Maybe she can quietly “moooo” like a cow or “caaaaw” like a hawk as she lets out her breath. Offer to demonstrate the inhale/exhale for her if she’s struggling. When she tries it herself, be sure to give her lots of positive reinforcement and support and do not, we repeat DO NOT, tell her this is going to help her get to sleep. It’s just a fun game the two of you are quietly playing.

Now, once your child has the deep breathing down, you can sit next to them while you do it together. Even if your child can only manage three or four deep breaths, they should begin to feel a sense of calm which is the first (and most important) step to sleep. After he has mastered this in a cross-legged position, tell him it’s time to do it lying down using a quiet exhale. Lie next to him as he does this deep breathing to let him know you’re near. Once he has done this breathing for a few minutes, he should be much more calm thanks to the endorphins released by his brain. The next step could very well be drifting off into sleep. If he becomes agitated or anxious again, simply return to this breathing game until he is able to get off to sleep.

Sometimes, with extremely sleep-resistant children, you might need additional help you get your child on board. Ninja Focus is a fun, interactive, child-centered app that teaches children how to breathe deeply, meditate and improve their focus. It also offers beautiful music tracks you or your child can play to calm down and drift off to sleep more easily. Download your free Ninja Focus trial right now if you need a little extra help getting to sleep tonight.