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Now I lay me down to sleep …

Many of us are familiar with this opening line to a standard children’s bedtime prayer.   It started out so peaceful and usually closed with invocations for blessings for those we love.  Comforting and harmless, right?

Well, I don’t know about you, but there was a part in between the sweet opening and blissful ending that tripped a nightmare switch in the mind of one particular seven year old.

You know the line, “If I should DIE before I wake …”

For me, the rhyme might just as well have been—

There’s a good chance you won’t make it through the night, But, anyway, kiddo, sweet dreams … sleep tight!

Getting the best sleep

I guess it was one way to prepare children for the idea of death—repetition combined with a rather, matter of fact perspective about it.   I understand this and, on the surface, it seems to make sense, but as a child prone to anxiety, it didn’t work for me.  And, after years of research, I have learned that the thoughts we think before sleep are in fact extremely powerful and influential in our lives.  As such, they should be limited to only thoughts of positivity and inspiration.

In addition, as a high school teacher, I spent many hours counseling adolescents who couldn’t fall asleep at night due to anxiety and an inability to slow down the stream of rapid negative thoughts. My personal childhood experience coupled with the daily complaints from my insomnia laden teenagers inspired me to do some research and ultimately to write an instructional book on the topic—

The book, “The Best Thoughts to Think Five Minutes Before” explains the science behind the Unconscious Mind (Reticulating Activation System) and how its purpose is to interpret and manifest what we believe and FEEL, whether fact or fiction. The book then offers six techniques to help adults and children ages 12 and older fall to sleep with ease and joy, thereby ‘setting the stage’ for the Unconscious to match our thoughts throughout the day.  For greater appeal, it is written in a rhyming scheme and includes whimsical pictures to help illustrate each technique.  It is most powerful when read aloud as a family, and YES, this is a promo!

However, I am always motivated to help parents by providing strategies within the article to be used immediately in your home. So, here are some hints to choose from to help make bedtime most pleasant for your child.  Once you model and do these activities with them, they will learn how to fall asleep with peace independently and so will you!

An hour before sleep-

  • Offer alternatives to technological stimuli. Social media, gaming and television choices have great potential to provoke negative thinking. We know you’re busy, but any of the following now and then will help your child immensely!
  • read aloud or read silently together
  • hold conversations about happy memories, “The day you were born …”
  • play acting
  • word games
  • board games
  • drawing
  • crafting
  • gratefulness-list things for which we are grateful
  • Maintain light eating and drinking an hour before bed. Snacking is best prior to this time, but if kids are hungry, one cookie or something soft and easy to digest along with a non-sugar, non-caffeinated beverage is recommended.

Five minutes before sleep-

  • Choose soothing music or sounds for your child to fall asleep to.
  • Provide a little light. We are creative creatures, and when the lights go out, our minds can have trouble distinguishing between what is real and not real. Give your creative child a little help with this by providing a small night light or leaving the hall light on.
  • Engage in more fun conversation and story telling— Stories about nature and specifically animals send a child to peaceful fun thoughts. (All with a happy ending of course)
  • Use Prayer—centering on love and beauty.
  • Try breathing exercises and meditation.
  • List things you are grateful for

“What a day you have had!

How much good you have done!

How much better the world because you have come!”

About the author

Kate Martin

Kate Martin has been a high school teacher for 27 years and retired from the Racine Unified School District in 2015. 

She taught students with special needs as well as those in general education. While working with hundreds of parents over the years, she discovered that there was a significant lack of resources and educational opportunities to help them navigate the many demands of parenting today. 

For this reason, in 2013 she founded The Purposeful Parent, offering workshops and resources for parents, teachers, and caregivers.  

Buy the Book by Kate Martin: The Best Thoughts To Think Five minutes Before Bed 

Visit my website:

Other articles by Kate Martin:

Kindness is a two-way street

Child Expectations