Let’s discuss how your whole family can achieve healthy sleep patterns.
Sleep is so important for the overall health and well-being of your family. When we don’t get enough sleep, we feel tired, emotional, and more easily overwhelmed. But poor sleep also has an impact on our physical health. For example, more studies show that a lack of sleep increases the risk of stroke, diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers.
Less sleep also affects our mood, our appearance, how much energy we have, and our relationships with our partners and friends. We put a lot of emphasis on healthy eating and exercise, but what about healthy sleep habits?
Dr. Marc Weissbluth, the author of the famous sleep book Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, says, “Sleep is the power source that keeps your mind alert and calm. Every night and at every nap, sleep recharges the brain’s battery. Sleeping well increases brainpower just as lifting weights builds stronger muscles because sleeping well increases your attention span and allows you to be physically relaxed and mentally alert. Then you are at your personal best.”
Here are 5 reasons why healthy sleep habits are important for your whole family:
1. Cognitive Ability
When we don’t get enough shut-eye, our brain is unable to function properly. As a result, we experience a decrease in decision-making and memory functions and can have difficulty paying attention. It can also affect problem-solving skills, social skills, language skills, and school performance.
Too little sleep can lead to several health problems. Without enough sleep, our immune system has difficulty fighting off illnesses. As a result, children become more susceptible to infections, which means more time away from learning and playing. For adults, too, poor quality or too little sleep can lead us as caregivers to be more prone to common illnesses like a cold, which means less quality time with our children.
Sleep deprivation affects fine motor skills. Simple tasks like climbing stairs, running, or even walking can become more difficult and dangerous, especially for wobbly toddlers and parents carrying children.
We all know that when we are sleep-deprived, we are more irritable, moody, and easily frustrated. Our children can become hyperactive, demanding, and cranky! Behavioral problems (like inattention, tantrums, and poor academic and social performance) have also been linked to insufficient sleep.
5. Weight Management
Studies have shown that a lack of sleep in childhood and adulthood can contribute to obesity. Hormones that regulate appetite are thrown out of balance when the body doesn’t get enough hours of sleep and leads to hunger. This can lead to larger portions at mealtimes and frequent snacking. In addition, children and adults who are tired are less likely to be physically active, contributing to being overweight.
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Tips for getting a good night’s sleep
Proper sleep habits are super important for getting enough sleeping hours. Here are some tips and tricks for younger children, teens, and grown-ups alike:
Put away electronic devices a few hours before bed.
Phones, laptops, and computer screens are all blue light sources. This kind of light can suppress melatonin and make it very hard for a person to sleep once bedtime rolls around. Every hour of rest is important, especially for teens and young children, so make sure that your kids have put away their devices a few hours before bedtime.
Create a relaxing environment
A quiet, dark room is an essential aspect of healthy sleep for those who have difficulty falling asleep. Control your environment by making sure there are no loud noises in the background, including television. If your kids sleep in the same room, encourage them not to talk too much before bed, as this can stimulate the brain and affect how many hours of sleep they can attain. Set a regular quiet time every night.
Stick to a regular bedtime routine
A solid bedtime routine is essential for your sleep hygiene. Try to stick to a regular sleep schedule by going to bed around the same time every night and waking up around the same time every morning. This can be difficult, especially for those with unique sleep challenges like insomnia or sleep apnea. However, once a good sleep schedule has been established, it will lead to more hours of restful sleep.
Don’t have caffeine before bed.
Caffeinated beverages severely suppress melatonin, making sleep very hard to come by at night. Even some caffeine in the afternoon will keep you awake for hours and can make it difficult to fall asleep. To get a good night’s sleep, only drink caffeine in the morning, never before bed.
Get plenty of exercise.
Physical activity is significant to the health of all people, but especially kids and teens. When school is out during the summer months, your child probably spends a lot of time outside. However, it is a good idea to encourage at least an hour of outside time every day, even during the school year. No matter your age, the fresh air, and natural sunlight are good for you, and physical activity may help you feel sleepy at night.
Take sleep medicine at bedtime to fall asleep.
This is not recommended for young kids, but older children and adults of different ages (especially those with sleep problems such as insomnia) may fall asleep easier and get more sleep with the help of certain medicines that include melatonin. However, be careful because taking melatonin every night can be detrimental to your sleep patterns and cause more sleep problems.
Frequently Asked Questions
How many hours is ideal?
How much sleep someone needs depends on their age and activity level, but in general, between 6 and 8 hours is the sweet spot. The amount of sleep children need varies based on the child.
What is sleep debt?
Sleep debt refers to how much sleep has been lost compared to the average amount a person of that age needs. For example, let’s say a healthy sleep schedule for your child calls for 7 hours of sleep per night. Every hour less than 7 is an hour more sleep that your child will need to make up some other night. This debt does not ever go away, so make sure you and your child are getting to bed on time every night.
What is a good bedtime for my children?
There is no right or wrong answer to this question; it really depends on your family’s schedule. It is important to ensure that your child is getting enough shut-eye before they need to be up for school or other activities.