Talking with parents, I hear more and more often that children are having trouble sleeping. Today’s kids aren’t getting enough sleep, according to the National Sleep Foundation’s 2004 Sleep in America poll. The poll results indicate that children are getting less sleep than sleep experts recommend. “A remarkable number of children have some kind of sleep problem,” says Jodi Mindell, PhD, the chair of the sleep poll task force. “Clearly sleep is a universal problem for parents of children of all ages.”

Children are showing increasing signs of stress. Overstimulation in our daily lives is a major source of the problem. Our children are suffering, as we are, from too much to do, from the onslaught of too much information and noise, from having too much to worry about. Excessive multitasking and overscheduling can drain children's energy and ability to focus, and challenge the reserves of patience in their parents, teachers, and caregivers.

We cannot shield children completely from stressors. But we can help kids fortify themselves for the demands of our fast-paced world by teaching them how to relax. Even kids who don't have trouble falling asleep or a sleep problem need to know how to calm down their minds and bodies. We can teach them how to let go of their day and unwind so they can sleep longer and better.

We know sleep is vital for normal growth and development in infants and young children. But in all children, sleep is important for normal learning and for the formation of memory. Children need enough sleep to pay attention in school, to think creatively and solve problems, and to heal faster from sickness and injuries. Too little sleep can cause children to be impatient, cranky, hyperactive, and easily distracted in school.

Our bodies and minds are inseparable. The combination of deep breathing and body relaxation not only relaxes our body but also eases our mind. It increases sleep time in children and makes sleep more productive in adults. Thinking about positive thoughts and memories while in a relaxed state reduces stress symptoms in the body and strengthens our immune systems. Research in the rapidly growing field of psychoneuroimmunology is confirming these things we already know with our own inner wisdom.

Recent research also shows that storytelling and positive guided imagery evoke calming mental pictures and pleasant feelings to override negative or overstimulating ones that sometimes bombard children from their surroundings. Storytelling and guided imagery, combined with relaxation instructions and pleasurable, soothing music, can reduce or completely eliminate anxiety and sleep problems.

I was inspired to combine these healing elements of body relaxation, music, guided imagery, and storytelling in Snuggle Down & Say Goodnight. I developed the CD as my gift to children. I hope it gives them the feeling that all is well as they sleep tonight.

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