” In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat— for he grants sleep to those he loves. “
-Psalm 127:2 NIV
A good night’s sleep might be hard to come by, especially with the recent time change or if you have small children in your home. If you have children under 1 you are basically living on caffeine for a year and longing for that nap in the afternoon. Sleep is vital for our children and ourselves. It lets our body heal, grow, and recharge for the next day ahead. For many of us and our families, we tend to push ourselves to the limit by staying up late and waking up early with no sign of stopping in between.
Eventually, your body will tell you that it has had enough and this may come in the form of getting sick, easily agitated with co-workers or family members, and your productivity may slow down at work. Your children may exhibit the same kind of issues at school. Their study habits will decline, friendships may be impacted, and their lack of attention may widen their achievement gap.
What the Research Says
The National Sleep Foundation recommends different amounts of sleep per day according to a person’s age:
Newborns (0-3 months): Sleep range narrowed to 14-17 hours each day (previously it was 12-18)
Infants (4-11 months): Sleep range widened two hours to 12-15 hours (previously it was 14-15)
Toddlers (1-2 years): Sleep range widened by one hour to 11-14 hours (previously it was 12-14)
Preschoolers (3-5): Sleep range widened by one hour to 10-13 hours (previously it was 11-13)
School age children (6-13): Sleep range widened by one hour to 9-11 hours (previously it was 10-11)
Teenagers (14-17): Sleep range widened by one hour to 8-10 hours (previously it was 8.5-9.5)
Younger adults (18-25): Sleep range is 7-9 hours (new age category)
Adults (26-64): Sleep range did not change and remains 7-9 hours
Older adults (65+): Sleep range is 7-8 hours (new age category)
The chart above helps us to recognize that students that are school age and teenagers need more sleep per night than adults do. I know a lot of parents that say they have students who wake up frequently in the middle of the night and are not able to fall back asleep, or if they do, it is just before they need to wake up for school. So how do we set our children and ourselves up for success by getting a restful night’s sleep? Here is what some of the experts say to try first:
Ways to Help You and Your Child Get a Good Night’s Sleep
- Keep a consistent sleep schedule, even during the weekend– Everyone looks forward to the weekend, but when we push ourselves too hard Friday or Saturday night, then our energy tank will be on low for starting the workweek.
- Give Plenty of Time For Your Bedtime Routine- My kids like to do a lot of things before bed. They like to run around the house and play for a bit after dinner, take a bath, brush their teeth, put on PJ’s and after all that then they want to read a few books. Although it is hard sometimes with family events, school programs, etc. try to consistently block off a good chunk of time after dinner dedicated to your family’s bedtime routine.
- Bedtime Should be Relaxing– Reading books, a relaxing bath or shower, and some calming music are a great way to end the day. We end each night with prayers and say what we are thankful for and that just seems to put a nice bookend to the day.
- Exercise– According to Sleep.org, exercising in the morning or afternoon can help reset your sleep wake cycle, which raises your body’s temperature and then lowers it to help you sleep a few hours later. Exercise also reduces stress so you are not thinking about so many problems as you lay your head to sleep. Exercising outdoors can also help your body absorb some natural light.
- Check Your Environment– Is the bedroom too hot or too cold? Are the lights too bright in their room just before bedtime. Adding a softer light such as a small lamp or a thicker window curtain is a great way help prepare the body for sleep. Do you or your children need a new pillow or possibly a weighted blanket? Maybe a fan or noise machine with a background noise could help them fall asleep easier.
- Avoid stimulants– Try to eliminate caffeine or other stimulants. According to sleepeducation.org, ” One study found that consuming caffeine 6 hours before bedtime reduced total sleep time by 1 hour.” This means you may need to cut off caffeine well before bedtime.
- Check Your Calendar- Are you working or scheduling activities for you and your family well into the evening hours? It may take a while to wind down from your day, so keep that in mind when scheduling activities for you and your children.
- Unplug– The blue light emitted from electronics slow down the production of melatonin in your body. This hormone helps you to balance out your sleep cycles. It is Ok to use technology in the evening, just try to shut it down 30-45 mins before you want to go to sleep. This will give your body time to get into it’s bedtime routine. Avoid letting your kids keep electronics in their bedrooms. I have heard too many stories of kids staying up until all hours of the night talking with friends or playing video games.
When to Seek Professional Help
If you have tried the above tips for getting a better nights sleep and a few weeks go by and you are not noticing positive changes for you or your children, it may be wise to consult your primary care physician or find a sleep professional to determine the underlying cause. Have a great week and get lots of rest!