Guided meditation recommendations for kid with insomnia.
March 11, 2013 7:02 AM   Subscribe

My son is almost 9. He suffers from mild anxiety, and very often can't sleep at night. He gets plenty of exercise most days as he plays sports year round. He reads at night, but this doesn't always do the trick. He's a very intense kid, and rather than cut down on the sports (which very often is the source of his stress, even though he loves playing) I'd like to manage the anxiety. I think some sort of guided sleep meditation might be really useful here, and I'd love some recommendations. Most of what I've found so far either is sort of corny and a little babyish, or is not specific to sleep and is more about mindfulness and not as good for relaxation. Thanks!
posted by missuswayne to Health & Fitness (18 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Set him up with a tablet or laptop (with screen on low brightness) or something in his room, and let him watch videos from this youtube as he falls asleep. They're just simple little videos of a person fiddling with neat objects. I find them extremely relaxing; they put me right to sleep.

I had really bad insomnia from probably age 10-13, and I know that having something like that to focus on instead of my own racing brain would have helped a lot.
posted by phunniemee at 7:06 AM on March 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

Progressive muscle relaxation might be a tecnhique that works well for him. There are tons of resources on the web. This looks like a nice script to follow as an example. You can record your child or yourself slowly reading the instructions to guide him through the exercise until it becomes a routine he can follow without thinking.

If he's not alrealy working with a therapist, finding one who specializes in working with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy would probably be useful to help him develop some techniques to reduce the anxious thoughts at night time too.
posted by goggie at 7:16 AM on March 11, 2013 [4 favorites]

I've really been enjoying the iPad meditation apps from Meditation Oasis. They have a sleep-specific app which costs a few bucks, and allows you to combined different bits of meditations into playlists and set them to background music or nature sounds. This one has stuff that is very sleep-specific and I think would probably be very kid-friendly because it's a little more concrete. But I actually prefer their Relax and Rest one for falling asleep, it's more general and I find it more soothing. From a glance at their store it looks like you can get meditations from them in a variety of formats, not just iPad apps. Ever since childhood I've been the kind of person who takes at least an hour to fall asleep, and for the first time in my life these meditations are putting me to sleep within 10 minutes.
posted by ootandaboot at 7:35 AM on March 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

You might also want to try a nightly yoga routine. I've never slept better than the nights when I was doing yoga before bed.
posted by MsMolly at 7:36 AM on March 11, 2013

It's a pricy option, but we used the Turnaround program with our kids with anxiety and it was helpful. It includes a couple of different guided meditation for relaxing at bedtime. It addresses anxiety more globally, teaching kids cognitive-behavioral techniques, so is probably overkill if you're just looking for specifically bedtime help, but we found it really useful.
posted by not that girl at 7:49 AM on March 11, 2013

Most of the advice I've seen emphasises the idea that bed is only for sleeping. In other words, reading or watching videos may well be counterproductive.

Blackout curtains/blinds seem to work well with my kids - we keep their rooms very dark at night, with just a dim nightlight to provide reassurance should they wake in the night. We also reduce the overall lighting levels in our home in the hour before bed.

I'd suggest a few things:
1. Try to move any reading/watching activities to a different area of the home, or at least get him to read in a comfortable chair rather than in bed.
2. Keep the room as dark as he'll tolerate.
3. Consider how you might provide a quiet, relaxing hour before bedtime. A warm bath or a story are good things. TV, computer games, and physical activities aren't so good.
4. Routines are very important, especially for children who get anxious. Try to keep the whole evening/bedtime routine calm and consistent.
posted by pipeski at 7:49 AM on March 11, 2013

You could look at some of Bellereuth Naparstek's stuff, for sleeping. Guided visualization but I find it a sort of cross between hypnosis and meditation.

The earlier suggestion about progressive relaxation is good. I have an old "tape" that combines progressive relaxation with self -hypnosis and that is very effective. But for a child, I would try Naparstek's stuff first.
posted by PickeringPete at 8:02 AM on March 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

You might find them a little simple - and my son isn't nuts about them, but we've tried Indigo Ocean Dreams and they're not bad. I'm pretty sure we found it at the library, they also have good stuff about not sleeping and anxiety and meditation focused on kids, that's where I'd start. We try something simple, too, we just do this where we breathe in for four slow beats (me tapping with my hand, our eyes closed) and then breathe out for four slow beats. It's a good way to work up to more involved stuff. Maybe something like a lava lamp to look at, too.
posted by lemniskate at 8:12 AM on March 11, 2013

My 8.5-year-old also enjoys Meditation Oasis, specifically "Deep Rest" and "Sleep Meditation for Children." We download them as pod casts.
posted by Ostara at 8:15 AM on March 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

I like the Meditation Oasis podcasts, too. They also have one that's music-only which I sometimes use as background music when I'm reading before bed.
posted by camyram at 8:57 AM on March 11, 2013

I had insomnia as a kid, and still do as an adult. My mother helped me a great deal by telling me that if I couldn't sleep, I should lay very relaxed and still, in the dark, with my eyes closed and call it "deep rest". She reassured me that even if I didn't sleep at all that night, 8 hours of deep rest was enough, and that I would be fine the next day. I often spent considerable time in deep rest, and still do, but always eventually went to sleep. It definitely increases your feeling of control and decreases the anxiety that insomnia itself brings.
posted by artdesk at 9:34 AM on March 11, 2013 [6 favorites]

Reading or watching a video (or playing on the computer) before bedtime has been shown to disrupt sleep. I give my children herbal teas. My favorite right now is Yogi's Bedtime. It helps.
posted by myselfasme at 11:03 AM on March 11, 2013

I like Meditation Oasis podcasts though I haven't used them for sleep yet. I've had good luck with the sleep episode from the Meditation Podcast. I listened to this episode over a dozen times before I heard it to the end; it worked that well for me.

The sleep hygiene idea that people mentioned above (a dark room, the bed is only for sleeping, etc.) is an idea worth pursuing, as are other ways of dealing with his anxiety.

Hope you all get some good rest soon.
posted by purple_bird at 2:44 PM on March 11, 2013

I was an anxious bookish insomniac child. Reading keeps me awake, but audiobooks were about the only thing that reliably calmed me enough to sleep. Repetition is fine and the words eventually become a sleep trigger. (Radio 4 and the shipping forecast does the trick, these days)
posted by corvine at 3:05 PM on March 11, 2013

For some folks, reading makes them alert rather than sleepy. Your son might be one.

Is there quiet music he likes? That is what I personally use to fall asleep-mostly because I just like it but it does help you relax if you have a lot going on.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 3:55 PM on March 11, 2013

Also have him write down anything he might need to remember for the next day. That act is wonderful for helping one get stuff out of the brain. Oh, and once when I was having similar issues a decade ago I had a therapist tell me to mark out a twenty or thirty minute period and do all my worrying then. Believe it or not it helped..
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 3:56 PM on March 11, 2013

Response by poster: So many good suggestions here! I got him to turn off all but one small light in his room. And I made him a playlist of quiet, mellow music to listen to on his ipod and hinted that he should just close his eyes and listen, rather than read.

We'll see how this works tonight -- of course bedtime is late tonight due to a baseball tournament :-/

Thanks for all your feedback. I'm going to check out some of those podcast/download suggestions for meditation.
posted by missuswayne at 7:42 PM on March 11, 2013

Repeating the Meditation Oasis recommendation. There are a couple of free apps so you can get a general sense for what the tone and music are like. But the paid one specifically for sleeping is worth the couple of bucks, I think. (You may or may not like that it's really about 'deep relaxation'. So it's about relaxing, and drifting, with the hope that you get to sleep, but they also specifically talk about it being fine if you don't actually sleep, just rest and relax. I think. I have yet to stay awake through the whole thing. Maybe at the end they get more vehement about how you must sleep.)
posted by Stacey at 8:08 AM on March 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

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