Thursday, 7 November 2019

Using mindfulness and relaxation techniques to help our kids to sleep

Girl asleep in bed

Sleep is extremely precious in our household. Estimates say between 50% and 90% of autistic people have some sleeping difficulties, whether that's falling asleep, staying asleep or sleeping at the wrong time. Two out of our three kids are autistic and have a variety of associated challenges, including sleeping difficulties.  One of our kids has even been to the sleep neurology team at Evelina's Children's hospital to try and help.

We know that the first step to helping kids is to establish a good bedtime routine. Many people with autism and ADHD can find routines helpful, but many children thrive on them.  We have established a routine that happens every night that gives the boys notice of their bedtime, helps them calm their senses and creates an environment to help them be ready for sleep. This includes going upstairs, having a bath, low lighting, a story, hugs and night lights. But sometimes it's still really hard, particularly when they are stressed or busy.

A report released by Barnardo’s found that school causes nearly two thirds of children to suffer from stress. A third of pupils are unhappy at home with a quarter are concerned about their weight.  Research report from the The Children's Society says that girls are particularly affected by their mental health, citing peer pressure and, rather worryingly, a dissatisfaction with their own looks as key issues.

Just under a year ago, Lord Layard, a government adviser for mental health training in schools, trialed weekly ‘happiness classes’ which were based on mindfulness for eight year olds.  Both Anthony and Jane often tell me they just can't stop thinking about something, worrying about something or just can't 'stop' when they are trying to get to sleep - even when they are tired.

Then, a friend of mine told me about a book she has just written which incorporates mindfulness and relaxation techniques into bedtime stories.  Anthony has used some techniques we learned at Forest Bathing as part of his bedtime before.  So I was interested in seeing how the story book would work.  Honestly, I was delighted.

The Sleepy Pebble and Other Stories

Perhaps I shouldn't be surprised. My friend is an expert on sleep having studied the science of sleep for over a decade and published a book on it.  We've found a few books particularly helpful at bedtime.  Adding in relaxation and making a book interactive seems like such a simple connection to make and I'm wondering why no one thought of it earlier? I guess most of the time interactive stories are energetic but this book is the complete opposite.   The book ties a simple routine and exercises into a story that makes reading it part of preparing the body and mind to sleep.

It's had a significant impact on my kids' state of mind as they settle down in their beds.  Generally I think my kids find life very busy.  There are a lot of pressures on kids and my daughter Jane seems to feel them soo deeply.   Since reading all the beautiful stories, Jane still asks me to talk her through the simple steps that repeat in each one so that she feels ready to say goodbye to the day.  She loves the interaction between what's happening in the story and what she's thinking about and doing to relax.

Anthony hardly ever really relaxes or stays still but there’s something about instructions in the book that help him. He's able to do physio exercises but most of the time he's interested in simply getting them done so he can do something else he likes.  The Sleepy Pebble and the other stories provides a slow pace that allows him to relax through the gentle techniques too.

There are five lovely stories with dreamlike illustrations in the book.  It's been printed in hard copy so can withstand the kids but the texture of the cover and pages are also helpful, providing a soft feedback that makes them easier to handle if older kids would like to read the book themselves.

Although David doesn't really follow the story or the exercises he has still benefitted from the relaxed atmosphere that is created while the family reads.  While Jane and Anthony may be squeezing their hands in an exercise he can join in by squeezing a sensory stress ball.  He loves these and finds them very calming too. Jane has also started introducing the techniques to her other stories and thinks about them when she is feeling stressed which is such a relief to see. I'm often concerned that even as the youngest, Jane is growing up and taking on more responsibility than many of her peers. I'm glad she's able to find ways of dealing with her emotions.

Hopefully, this will be another string in our bow that will help us all get some better sleep.  If the kids drift off well and not too late, us parents can get some relaxation time in the evening too.  And I'm all for more of that.

This post contained a giveaway which has now closed and can be viewed on Rafflecopter

Conditions: UK Residents only. Entrants must be aged over 18. Entry is via Rafflecopter. Entries can be made up until midnight on Friday 22nd November as indicated.  One winner will be chosen from all valid entries at random the day after closing. The winner will be contacted within 48 hours of the closing date and have 48 hours to respond. The Prize is one copy of The Sleepy Pebble and Other Stories.  Prize is sent direct from publisher. The exact book could change with an alternative product of similar or higher value sent. No cash alternative.


  1. What a great idea. Although winding down is part of the bedtime routine, children can so easily get wound up, anyway. Thanks for the review.

  2. An interesting idea and would be a great present for my daughter! xx

  3. Very interesting and exciting

  4. Love the sound of this book, great that it is several stories too, so added variation. The illustrations look beautiful too.

  5. Beautiful - will be an asset - love the variety - love the simplicity

  6. what a gem of a book, every parent needs this at bedtime #KCACOLS

  7. This sounds like such a great book for those of us that find bedtime hard!Thanks so much for linking up at #KCACOLS. Hope you come back again next time

  8. I've been thinking of trying to find some kind of mindfulness guide to use at bedtime with our boy. This would be wonderful to try, sounds really good to me! x

  9. I'm in the US but I re-tweeted. I'm a big believer in reading as part of a bedtime routine to wind down. So sad how stressed out so many of our children are. #KCACOLS

  10. Elizabeth Gaskell17 November 2019 at 04:17

    I think anything that helps with a bedtime routine to calm children ready for a good nights sleep is to be welcomed. I'd love to try the book.

  11. Such a great idea! I used a lot of Guided meditation and relaxation techniques when I was teaching and they really work! #KCACOLS

  12. I use meditation with my sons. I think in this day and age we need to teach our kids these techniques to keep them grounded and stable

  13. What a good idea.However, I find that my grandchildren are very attentive when I am reading to them!

  14. Thanks for suggesting good list. I appreciate your work this is really helpful for everyone. Get more information at best sheets for adjustable beds. Keep posting such useful information.

  15. It's a super idea. Always read stories but could incorporate this into bedtime routine.

  16. I think this is such a great idea, love that there are a few different stories in there too

  17. I think it's a great idea. Children really need more wind down time nowadays. My children read before bed.

  18. I think it is a great idea. Very positive and nurturing.


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