Falling asleep easily and enjoying deep sleep doesn’t happen by accident these days. Lots of modern living habits disrupt our natural rhythm of shutting down at the end of the day so we have to mindfully create habits that bring us back into alignment with the rise and fall of day and night.
Here is one of my favorite practices that I use often to support my own sleep and have found is a useful way to help children fall asleep while creating an opportunity to lovingly connect at the end of the day.
Applying Oil Before Bed
Warm a few spoonfuls of sesame oil, coconut oil, or your preferred natural massage oil.
Have your child sit or lay on their bed with a small towel under their feet protecting the bed linens.
Apply oil to the bottoms of the child’s feet with gentle strokes. Continue applying oil to the tops of their feet, toes, and ankles. Try not to tickle!
As you apply, you can offer affirmations of gratefulness and appreciation for the work their feet have done all day and welcome them to rest now. For example, “Wow, these feet have been so busy today… Running, jumping, climbing, growing… Now let’s give them some warm oil and let them rest and relax.”
Watch your child’s face. You will see them softening.
Take a little oil on your fingertips and rub it on their earlobes and behind their ears. You can gently massage the area if they will let you, otherwise just applying the oil is enough.
Take a few drops of oil and gently rub it onto the crown of their head.
This can be done while someone else is reading bedtime stories to the child if they want something to hold their attention while they receive the massage.
After you are done applying, use the towel to wipe off excess oil on the child’s feet. If they have to get out of bed after applying, remind them that oil is on their feet so they should step carefully. Not only is this for safety so they don’t run and slip, but it also encourages them to remain slow and mindful of their movements to not disturb the soothing calm that has come from the practice.
When you see how much your child enjoys it, you very well may be convinced to give your self the same gift later on when it is time to put yourself to bed!
Benefits for Children:
Oiling the feet, ears and crown of the head before bed is a well known Ayurvedic practice to bring on restful sleep. The properties of oil counterbalance the movement and dryness that rise in the body during daily activities. When the agitation of thoughts and activity are calmed down by the oil, the body and mind are relaxed enough to surrender to the heavy stillness of sleep.
The calming touch of a caregiver transmits healing and love which strengthens your bond and further encourages the child that sleep is a welcome friend and an enjoyable part of life.
This practice primes the child for sleep. As soon as they feel the warm oil they will begin to feel sleepy. They will start asking for it once they know bed time is coming up, and this makes the process of putting your kids to bed so much smoother if they are enjoying it.
When I have had a busy day away from home and they have been at school all day and with other family or caregivers all afternoon, this few minutes of healing touch brings us back together so that their last thought of the day is not that we were missing each other, but that we always come home to share special, quiet time.