Tips for a Healthy Family Sleep Routine
You would be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t enjoy the calming feeling of watching a baby sleep: the peaceful expression on their faces, the funny positions they work themselves into, and the joy of a little moment of quiet so you can get some things done (or maybe even get some shut-eye yourself). While your infant or child may not seem like they are doing much while they sleep, their brains are working through difficult developmental activities such as consolidating their memories, making sense of and processing their experiences and learning what are important and unimportant memories to maintain.
According to Dr. Sumit Bhargava, director of Stanford Children’s Health Sleep Center, “[Sleep] is crucial for everyone but especially for kids, who are developing both mentally and physically.” In fact, Dr. Bhargava states, “In kids, the most intense period of growth hormone release is shortly after beginning deep sleep.” Studies show that children who regularly get a good night’s rest are more likely to have improved attention, behavior, learning and memory along with better overall mental and physical well-being. Here are some tips to help your family get started on prioritizing and developing a healthy sleep routine.
Tips for a healthy family sleep routine:
“Wind down” the household
If you develop a family habit of using the evening as a time for unwinding, relaxing, and recovering from your day, you can establish a calm environment to prepare for sleep. This can be something as simple as dimming the lights and making sure there aren’t distractions such as exciting television or loud music playing. Here are a few Moshi tracks to help kids wind down:
Stop the use of electronics/screens 30 minutes to an hour before bed. That pesky blue light tricks the brain into thinking it’s still daytime and can affect one’s circadian rhythm. Also, think about keeping electronic devices out of the bedrooms—even committing to ‘“old school” alarm clocks instead of relying on cell phones. You could arrange a family charging station in the living room or on the kitchen table to ensure that you all are committing together to being well-rested.
Enjoy bath time
A warm bath or shower before bed allows for an opportunity to wind down physically and to lower the body’s core temperature to a comfortable level for sleep. For young children, this can also be a time to bond and check in with their emotional state before bed, ensuring that any worries or stresses won’t keep them awake.
Ensure your child has what they need to feel safe and comfortable. If their bed is piled high with stuffed toys, have them choose the one they’ll sleep with and tell the others to spend the night elsewhere so your child can sleep soundly and enjoy the space of their bed. Pajamas or other sleeping clothes that are cool but comfy can also be a great help. For teens, check that they have the pillows and blankets they need and have a clean sleep environment. For additional comfort in the room, consider something like black-out curtains or blinds. This is especially helpful in the spring and summer months when it’s lighter in the morning, and will also help keep out any neighborhood lights.
Create the culture
In your home, you have the power to set examples and to create an environment that supports rest and recovery with the biological need for sleep. Don’t be afraid of creating consistency in routines and expectations in the evenings and sticking to them. In the morning, check-in with your children and ask how their night of sleep was. At dinner, discuss how they felt throughout the day. Talk as a family about what is working and not working. How do you need to adjust and support each other in prioritizing sleep?
Sleep is one of the best tools for maintaining our mental and physical health. Whether it’s an early night because we feel a cold coming on or a chance to recover from a stressful day, getting enough sleep is an act of self-care that helps us be the best version of ourselves, for us and for our loved ones. Childhood is the foundation of who we become as adults. If we teach our young ones to invest in themselves by prioritizing sleep, we are giving them tools to meet their goals. Not just in school but in the world beyond.