A go-to routine for a good night’s sleep (you AND your kids!)
I cannot tell you how many times friends and patients have asked me, “How can I get my kid to sleep!? I am exhausted and don’t know what to do!”
The truth of the matter is that good sleeping habits are a learned behavior and not something that you are simply born with. Patterns of sleep are developed at a very young age. But, no matter how old you are, there are always things that you and your loved ones can do to get better sleep. And, it’s important! Studies consistently show a bidirectional relationship between sleep and mental health.
First things first: everyone needs different amounts of sleep. The optimal amount of sleep not only ensures we have energy the next day, but it also allows the body to repair itself and the brain to store long-term memories. Yep! You read that right — sleeping helps us remember things!
Based on CDC guidelines, here are the optimal sleep amounts of sleep by age:
- Preschool (ages 3-5), 10-13 hours per day (including naps!)
- School age (ages 6-12), 9-12 hours per day
- Teens (ages 13-17), 8-10 hours per night
- Adults (ages 18+), 7 or more hours per night
As I said, a good night’s sleep is something we learn how to do. And, there are a number of things we can do during the day and around bedtime to help. Here are just a few:
- Create a routine. Humans are creatures of habit. Doing the same things every night starting about 20 minutes prior to bed is a clue for your body to get sleepy. These activities include putting on PJs, brushing teeth, reading and taking a warm bath (not too hot!).
- Set a bedtime on both weekdays and weekends, and stick to it! I know people like to sleep in on the weekends (especially teens!), but late nights and sleeping until late in the morning can disrupt your or your child’s body clock and make things much harder come Monday.
- Set a screen curfew. The blue light from screens (tablets, phones, TVs, etc.) decrease the amount of melatonin released, which is the hormone that promotes sleep. Kids and teens are particularly vulnerable to this because screen light makes it harder to wind down. Also, turn off those notifications! Those dings, buzzes and screens lighting up simply jog our minds while trying to fall asleep, essentially starting the evening wind-down over and over again.
- Adults (ages 18+) 7 or more hours per night
Not only is it important to do things that help you get sleepy, but setting the stage and making a “sleepy bedroom” can also make a huge difference:
- Room temperature. The body and brain cool down in preparation for sleep and if it is too warm, it can be difficult to sleep. Keep the thermostat around 65 degrees.
- Light levels. Start dimming indoor lights as bedtime approaches, and make your and your child’s bedroom as dark as possible. This promotes the release of a healthy level of melatonin and helps regulate our natural biological clock. Consider blackout shades if needed.
- Soothing smells. Calming scents like lavender can make the mind and body sleepy. Try using essential oils, a room diffuser or dried potpourri to help fall asleep.
These and many other techniques can be helpful for getting a good night’s sleep. Studies show that improving sleep can have a beneficial impact on mental health. If you need help personalizing these tips for you and your family, or learn other techniques to help, we are here to help you!
1. “Research without Barriers” Accessed November 2021 https://www.northwichguardian.co.uk/news/national/15895043.mums-dads-childrens-superheroes-poll-finds/
2. Burstein, M., & Ginsburg, G. S. (2010). The effect of parental modeling of anxious behaviors and cognitions in school-aged children: An experimental pilot study. Behaviour research and therapy, 48(6), 506-515.Drake, K. L., & Ginsburg, G. S. (2012).
3.Family factors in the development, treatment, and prevention of childhood anxiety disorders. Clinical child and family psychology review, 15(2), 144-162.
4. Wei, C., & Kendall, P. C. (2014). Parental involvement: Contribution to childhood anxiety and its treatment. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, 17(4), 319-339.