"Can I have some Goldfish, first?"
"But I am so thiiiiirsty."
"Just 10 more minutes of this show, mom. Pleaaaase."
As a mom of three kids, going to bed has always been preceded by these kinds of statements, and associated with words like stress, struggle, and force. My kids never went to bed willingly; the process of getting them to sleep was long, painful, and something I dreaded on a daily basis. And bedtime is no waltz into dreamland for me, either. While I've always loved sleeping, I despise the hour or two prior to the moment when my head hits the pillow.
Even then, I toss and turn as my mind races with thoughts of anything and everything that has ever (and could ever) go wrong in my life. I have an active mind, and bedtime is the perfect time for me to think back to that time three years ago when I yelled at my daughter. What kind of damage did I do? It's also the perfect time to rehearse that upcoming presentation at work, as the butterflies kept me wide awake. And God forbid I roll over to look at the clock and start the fun game of "how many hours of sleep will I get if I fall asleep right now." Sleep and me just don't mix. I was no better than my kids, fighting the process of falling asleep. It's a process that should be enjoyable, relaxing, and calming, yet it's always been one of the most stressful parts of my already-long day.
But then, I discovered the world of sleep-meditations. After a friend told me about how she successfully lost a lot of weight using a private-practice hypnotist, I began searching for a weight-loss hypnotist for myself on YouTube. Somehow, that random search for a quick-fix to my fluctuating weight led me to Michael Sealey. Sealey is trained in hypnosis and has a large collection of guided meditations and sleep stories on YouTube that are intended to lead you to bedtime relaxation. There are meditations for calming anxieties to traditional soothing thunderstorm and rain sounds and more. Each meditation runs anywhere from 30 minutes to 8 hours, and his meditations have changed my sleep routine forever.
Sleep is such an important part of our emotional and physical well-being, and these meditations have forced me to focus on resting, while putting everything else on the back burner. They lead me to quiet my mind, slow my breath, and, as Sealey reminds me during the meditations, let go of any stray thoughts as I take deep breaths in and out. Falling asleep truly feels like a relaxing journey now. My sleep immediately became more restorative, and I now wake-up refreshed and ready to go each morning. In fact, a recent study confirmed what I was experiencing: mindfulness and meditation can improve sleep quality.
I soon decided to pass along my new and improved bedtime routine to my son, who continued to struggle with falling asleep. He is an active little guy, a constant talker, and full of energy from the moment he wakes up until the moment his eyes are supposed to close. Sealey's meditations were a bit advanced for a 7-year-old, but a quick search led me to New Horizon Meditation and Sleep Stories for kids — and my son was hooked from day one.
New Horizon's meditations for kids are bedtime stories about unicorns, dolphins, and fairies that incorporate breathing techniques. Not only do these stories encourage kids to take slow, deep breathes, but they offer the greatest visualization aids, which my son has used during the day when he gets frustrated or emotional. One story tells the kids to imagine their feet are growing roots that are firmly planted in the ground, sending the message that they are safe and grounded. Another one suggests that kids imagine their thoughts are balloons above their heads and when a thought comes into their mind that they don't want, they simply cut the string of the balloon and let them go.
These meditations have been saviors to both me and my son. He no longer resists bedtime with requests for food or drinks. Many nights, he even initiates bedtime on his own, saying "I'm ready to go up, now." He may think he's simply hearing a bedtime story that helps him fall asleep, but he is also learning how to calm his anxieties, focus his thoughts on the positive, and recognise that he is safe and surrounded by love.
Just recently before he went to bed, he asked me, "Do you want to know where my safe places are, Mom?"
Hmmmmm. I wondered where he had heard of this concept. "Sure, Emmet. Where are your safe places?"
"My safe places are in the car and at school."
I couldn't believe what I had just heard! How fantastic that my son has two safe places and he knows to identify them as such. I kissed him goodnight and hit play on his favourite unicorn sleep meditation, and then I heard the soothing voice. "You are now in a safe place," said the voice.