How to Get More Sleep

How to Get More Sleep  

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Your kids need anywhere from 9 - 12 hours of sleep each night, depending on how old they are; you need 8 -9. If sleep is one of the most important health strategies in life, how can we get enough for our kids? And how about for ourselves?! (Spoiler alert: these tips apply to kids and parents alike.)

* SCREEN OFF. Everyone swears by this, but few follow through. Set a screen off time for your kids and make it consistent, if you can. Both the blue light emitted from the screen and the content we are watching wake us up, so the brain needs an hour or two to wind down before being able to go to sleep. That means if bedtime is 9, screen off time is not 8:45.

* SCREEN OUT. Off isn’t enough. Turns out, for the quickest sleep onset and the deepest overnight rest, screens should be out of the bedroom. If you can’t make that happen, devices should be powered off. Still too tough to manage? Turn off notifications and turn on Do Not Disturb so that emergency calls can get through, but social texts and alerts don’t.

* BUY A BATTERY-OPERATED ALARM CLOCK. There are cheap and reliable alternatives to your phone alarm, which is the #1 excuse I hear for why the phone has to be in the bedroom!

* HAVE A REGULAR BEDTIME ROUTINE. We did it for our kids when they were babies... we should all keep it up. Routines cue the body that it’s time to wind down. These can include just about anything from a bath to a warm drink to reading. But make sure to include some basic hygiene like face washing, tooth brushing, and flossing, too.

* GET COMFY! Studies show that cozy bedding and a good pillow are key to falling asleep. By the way, there’s no perfect pillow — it’s just one that works for you. In some cases that’s no pillow at all. Room temperature is also important. Some like it hot, some like it cold, but we all think we like it just right.

* AIM FOR CONSISTENCY. This is harder for adults than kids. As a parent, set a bedtime. That will go out the window by the time your kids reach high school, but at least for the first several years of life a regular bedtime most nights means a happier kid in the morning. While you’re at it, try this for yourself! Feels impossible for many adults, but the routine helps our bodies trust that we are going to rest deeply and regularly, and the benefits the next day are undeniable.

* LET GO OF STRESS. There are lots of kids who want to get more sleep, do everything on this list, and then just lay awake in bed. After a little while, they describe being stressed about the sleep they are not getting, which makes it even harder to fall asleep, and a vicious cycle begins. I always remind kids that sleep is something we are good at. We have all been doing it since the day we were born. It’s falling asleep that can feel tricky. Let go of the frustration. Try new strategies if these aren’t working for you. Some people love white noise, others meditate, and others journal. Do what you can to toss away the feeling of worry when you cannot shut down at night. Everyone is different, but everyone needs sleep.