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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

To bed......... and now to sleep

I often hear from parents whose gifted children have trouble falling asleep at night. Even if they have happily gone to bed, they are still awake quite some time later.

Sometimes the child is anxious about something in particular or perhaps about life in general. Sometimes they just can’t seem to ‘turn off’ and fall asleep. A regular routine helps in the wind down towards bed, but sometimes the child needs something more to help them drift off and recharge before the next day.

One seven year old boy who had been regularly still trying to fall asleep at an unsociable hour told me about his ‘lub-lub’ machine which had been a great help in getting to sleep. This device could be set to one of a number of sounds but the one which worked for him was a heart beat. He told me that listening to that made him feel calm, his brain could let go and he could go to sleep.

I have met other children who set a radio just off station providing enough distraction for them to stop replaying the details of the day in their mind and drift off to sleep. Others use ear plugs, play white noise or listen to music or guided relaxation.

For the child who likes to write, keeping a private journal where they can record their worries means they have been handed over to somewhere safe and the child doesn’t need to continue thinking about them for the time being, but they have not been dismissed as ‘silly’ can be helpful. Some people find drawing works in the same way for them. This probably works on the same sort of principles as the Guatemalan Worry Dolls which were popular when my children were young in the mid 1990’s.

What ever the best strategy for you and your child might work out to be, it is likely to change or evolve over time. Stress and anxiety levels  change as do our coping skills. And what once works might lose its effectiveness if it is used for too long. The most important thing is that there is not one right way to go to sleep. Keep thinking outside the box and try a variety of things. Sometimes the novelty can be enough to break the pattern and relax the anxiety that tends to build up when they start to worry about not going to sleep.

The seven year old boy I mentioned is now 13 and we talked recently about sleeping. He still finds it hard to fall asleep early although it often easier now. He doesn’t use his ‘lub-lub’ machine nowadays but he is interested in polyphasic sleep patterns and wonders whether he might actually have a sleep cycle that isn’t compatible with the expected 8-10 hour night time sleep and waking in time for school.

Photo credit David Castillo Dominici


musicartwords said...

It's the "turning off" that I STILL have not conquered! In addition to all those outside things, now that I am a mom and teacher, there are even more problems to solve, questions to answer....

A couple of solutions for me - when I was much younger, I read that imagining writing and erasing on a whiteboard the numbers backward from 100 works better than counting sheep. It works for me.

Also, now there are all kinds of relaxing music machines and apps. I use "Relax Melodies" on my iPad.

I read about one that somehow "reads" your sleep cycle, and is supposed to wake you at the right time in your cycle, but haven't tried it.

hawkeyejlp said...

1 mg of melatonin has helped my nonstop thinker get out of the loop so she can sleep. It's been HUGE in our lives.

Derrin said...

Actaully that reminds me, using a few drops of marjoram oil on a tissue under the pillow also worked for my girls when they were young (they found ways to manage themselves better as they got older - one of those is actually melatonin). Magnesium can also be good, its a great muscle relaxer.

Petra van Berkum said...

When I was a little bit older I put on some earphones with music. Helped me a lot.

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