Sleep is vital. It allows our bodies to rest, recharge, and refresh, and our minds to process the events of the day. Good sleep can make us healthier, happier, and more productive. Poor sleep can make us irritated and exhausted in the short-term and mentally and physically ill in the long-term. Despite this, many of us continue to accept that sleeping poorly is inevitable in our modern lives.
However, getting a good, restful night’s sleep is not only possible, but it is necessary for our well-being. To improve sleeping habits, you need to analyze your current sleeping routine and figure out what needs to change. It’s also important that you do this for your family and especially your kids because they may not even realize that they are not sleeping well enough. Here are the areas you should be looking at.
First of all, you need to figure out whether your problem is poor sleep or simply not enough of it. The National Sleep Foundation advises adults get seven to nine hours of sleep a night, with children needing more. Check out their recommendations by age to find out how much sleep your kids should be getting.
For Adults: Make a note of when you go to sleep for a week, and see whether you are within the recommended range. If you aren’t, you need to set a bedtime and stick to it. If you simply aren’t sleepy at that time of the evening, you need to consider stimulants that may be keeping you up (see below).
For Kids: While it is relatively easy to monitor a young child’s sleep schedule, it becomes harder when they’re older. According to CNN, teens are getting on average seven hours of sleep, which is two less than the recommended amount.
If your children are going to bed late, ask them why. If they are doing homework until very late, it may be because they have too many things in their schedule. If it’s the latter, ask them what you can do to help and reevaluate their extracurriculars.
Next, you need to make sure your sleep environment - including your mattress and room temperature - is optimally designed for you to get a good night’s rest.
For Adults: Consider the quality of the environment in your bedroom, including your mattress and bedding. Ideally, you want to sleep in a cool bedroom with as little light as possible. For your bed linens, you want sheets and a comforter that provide enough warmth or that help you stay cool. When it comes to your mattress, if it’s older than 10 years, it’s most likely past its prime, which means it’s time to start shopping around for a new one. If budget is a concern, there are plenty of affordable mattresses on the market that will also suit your sleep type. If you’re shopping as a couple, look for mattresses with solid edge support and that have motion transfer control.
For Kids: A young child will not be able to identify differences in air quality, so focus on the humidity in your children’s bedrooms. A humidifier can help maintain the right levels of moisture in the air, help prevent your child’s skin from drying out, and can help when your child has respiratory issues.
Lastly, you should consider whether you are making things harder for yourself by stimulating your body before sleep. The main things to watch out for are caffeine and blue screen light from technology. Both can make it difficult to fall asleep, and both should be avoided in the hours leading up to bedtime.
For Adults: It’s a piece of advice you have probably heard before, and that’s because it works. Leave phones, laptops, and tablets outside of the bedroom so you aren’t tempted to use them before bed. If you use your phone as an alarm, simply buy an old-fashioned alarm. This may take some time to get used to, but it will do wonders for your sleep.
For Kids: Consider making a ban on night-time technology a family thing. Your kids are more likely to comply if they know you are doing it, too, and it’s good for everyone. You should also watch out for how much caffeinated soda your kids are drinking, and especially watch out for your teens consuming energy drinks.
If you or someone in your family have tried all of the above and still can’t go to sleep, it may be a case of insomnia or another sleep disorder. Visit your family doctor, who will discuss your options. A lack of sleep is a health problem like any other, and there are plenty of treatments available that can help you get some well-deserved rest.
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