Have you ever ‘slept like a baby’ after a yoga session or a relaxing massage? Is it possible for parents to use yoga and massage to encourage positive sleep health in infants? Susan Wallace, founder of Settled Petals Sleep Consultancy explores…..
Baby Massage and Baby Yoga have been used for many years, but only recently have they been recognised by western society as an important part of baby care. Baby massage can stimulate the production of oxytocin, a hormone which can have a positive effect on pain and therefore help as a natural pain-reliever for symptoms associated with infant teething. It can also be used to help relieve symptoms of colic, constipation and wind, thus preventing interference with babies sleep. Massage has been found to lower stress levels in both parent and baby, helping babies to have an improved quality of deep sleep. In addition a more relaxed parent, is more likely to create a calming environment for their baby which again promotes improved sleep quality in infants. Research suggests that babies who were massaged for 15 minutes per day cried less, had lower levels of stress hormones and went to sleep faster (Field, University of Miami). Baby Massage can also act as an effective part of a baby’s night time routine – offering baby a calm, relaxed environment where they can experience one-to-one bonding time with a trusted caregiver, whilst acting as a ‘sleepy cue’ which baby uses to predict that sleep-time is approaching.
Amongst an array of benefits, baby yoga has been found to increase relaxation thus promoting longer sleep duration for infants. Again it helps to relieve the symptoms of colic, constipation and wind preventing sleep interruption from such ailments. It can promote increased trust, bonding and social interaction between care-giver and baby and therefore encourage a safe atmosphere where baby feels relaxed and able to enter deep sleep. It also promotes a baby’s ability to self soothe and reduce stress, which in turn promotes positive sleep.
Children’s Yoga can increase the awareness of breath as well as increasing breath depth which increases oxygen levels in children. This promotes relaxation of both the body and the mind. The Australian and UK Yoga Practitioner Survey (Penman 2006) found that yoga was related to improved sleep patterns, as well as a positive effect on energy levels. Whilst Hardy (2015) describes how yoga can assist in calming the nervous system, promoting more effective responses to stress and the development of self-regulation skills promoting better sleep and overall health and well-being of children diagnosed with autism.
But why is sleep important? Lack of sleep can be associated with Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, heart disease, dementia, obesity and diabetes. Whilst adequate sleep is associated with increased memory, restoring the brain’s capacity for learning, increased immune system, regulation of appetite and lower blood pressure (Walker 2017).
If children are supported to achieve positive sleeping habits, they are less likely to disturb their parents as frequently during the night. Thus, having a positive impact on sleep quality of both child and parent, increasing positive outcomes for all parties. Therefore the increase of baby yoga, baby massage and kids yoga should be welcomed as a positive step towards the health and well-being of both children and their parents.