I want to start this post by letting everyone know that I love sleep. I love the idea of getting into my cozy bed at the end of the day and drifting off into a peaceful slumber. I enjoy lying down next to my husband, and thinking about how grateful I am to be healthy, loved, and fortunate in so many ways. There is just something about sleep that makes me so, so happy… and then I had L.
L is 5 years old. She is a lovely human. She is caring, sweet, funny, extremely helpful, artistic, socially mature, smart, and she is a horrible sleeper. I guess with how much of a joy she is to have around during the day, something has to give. Since she was a baby, she has fought sleep. I don’t think she has ever liked it.
When she was 1, she absolutely had to have a pacifier to fall asleep, and would wake up every time it fell out of her mouth. When she was 2 she had a lot to say to me at bedtime, and would attempt to continue conversations late into the night. When she was 3, she would wake up multiple times to tell me completely insignificant facts and ask for water – over, and over, and over. When she was 4, the night terrors and bad dreams began. Sleeping is overrated, right?
I had talked to a few of my mom friends, along with three pediatricians about her sleep habits. I got some advice about sound machines, blue lights, bedtime routines, etc. I did it ALL. Nothing worked; not even a little. One of my girlfriend’s said that her troubled sleeper finally started sleeping around her 5th birthday. So obviously, I counted down the days until L turned 5. I remember being excited on the night of her 5th birthday – like she was suddenly going to start sleeping through the night. Nope. No, that didn’t happen…
A few days after she turned 5, Kindergarten began. Kindergarten is a big adjustment; new place, new friends, and a lot of new information. L started coming home from school with all kinds of facts. Apparently, some of these facts kept L up at night as her imagination blossomed. One Saturday morning at 5:20am she decided that it was imperative that I know that she was afraid of meteorites. Why? Just why? And how can one sleep if, right before bed, they see a commercial during a basketball game where hundreds of spiders are crawling out of someone’s mouth?
Anyway, you get it. L, for one reason or another has always had a hard time getting to sleep, and staying asleep. I know it, she knows, everyone knows it. I have spent countless hours researching ways to help her sleep better. I have spent hundreds of dollars throughout the years on sleep related gear. I have tried EVERYTHING. Or I thought I tried everything.
Over the last few months, I have been attempting to focus more on self-care, positive self-talk, meditation, affirmations, etc. My husband has shared a few phrases that he has learned as well. One of them is, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right.” The other is, “The universe is a ‘Yes’ machine.” I have taken time to unpack those statements, and I feel like I get it. Remembering the statements consistently in daily life is not always easy, but at least I’m thinking about these things.
While I was thinking about applying the mantras to my life, it dawned on me. Can this work for L? I have spent the last 5 years talking about her “sleep struggles” and about how she doesn’t sleep well. The universe is a yes machine. Of course she is a bad sleeper – I have been affirming that fact to her, and with her almost every day since she was a baby.
So, about a month ago, I came up with some nightly affirmations that I could walk her through at bedtime to help her settle in and believe that she could have a good night’s sleep. The first night, after bath, jammies, brushing teeth and reading books, I told her that we were going to do something new. I gave her a kindergarten explanation of what manifestation was, and she was eager to begin her “aftermations.”
I had her get cozy in bed with her arms down at her sides, and asked her to repeat after me. I sat next to her and as I ran my hands down the length of her arms, I quietly said, “I am loved, I am safe, I am comfortable.” I did this about 10 times in a row, and each time I stated an affirmation I repeated the arm motion. During the first few repetitions, she had her eyes closed and a huge goofy smile on her face. She was laughing a little and talking in this silly baby voice that she uses when she is trying to be cute.
About halfway through, she started calming down. By the last time through the set of 3 affirmations, she was relaxed and whispering. She yawned (which she NEVER does at bedtime) and I added in a few more minutes of random affirmations. “I am brave, I am confident, I am smart, I am strong.” I ended with a few more, “I am loved, I am safe, I am comfortable,” then we said goodnight, I kissed her forehead and left the room.
I went to bed, and I woke up to my alarm in the morning. Panic ensued. Is L alive? Where is L? Did I sleep all night? What day is it? I got out of bed, ran to her room, opened her door, and she was asleep in her bed. Oh my god, it WORKED. It actually worked. Night after night went by, and night after night, she got better at her affirmations. When bedtime came around, she excitedly reminded me about her affirmations and would get in bed, actually eager to get to sleep.
Every night, except for two nights since we started this practice just over a month ago, she has slept all night! She has slept so well that I have to wake her up in the mornings. It has been a total game changer for both of us. So, will this work for all kids who aren’t great sleepers? I have no idea. L may have been the perfect specimen and the perfect age. Is it worth a try? YES! Even if your child is a good sleeper, saying daily positive affirmations is a great habit to get into. If nothing else, this quiet, peaceful time that L and I have together at the end of each day has been really special for us.
Try it, and let me know what you think!