Healthy Sleep for Everyone
Posted on May 14, 2018 by CHS
May is Better Sleep Month, so it is a good time to take a look at how well you and your family are sleeping. In December of 2014 the National Sleep Foundation reported that even though American adults were getting the right amount of sleep, they were not getting quality sleep. In fact, 45% stated that poor or insufficient sleep was affecting their daily activities. So how much sleep does everyone need, and how can you make sure that it is the quality of sleep your body needs to truly rest?
Here is a summary of the amount of sleep needed at each stage of life:
Recommended hours are a total of both nap and nighttime sleep
The benefits of quality sleep for adults are: better health, increased ability to focus and learn, feeling happier, working more productively, and experiencing less hunger. For children, quality sleep is necessary for proper brain development and growth. When children do not get enough sleep, they demonstrate less coordination and reaction time, so they are more likely to be injured when playing. Children may also experience difficulty paying attention and remembering information. Both adults and children may find that they have less patience and are more easily frustrated when they lack quality sleep.
Tips for Quality Sleep
- Establish a consistent routine for yourself and your family. For example, after dinner, everyone helps clean up, children take baths, everyone brushes their teeth, reads books together in bed, and then lights are off for children. Once the children are in bed, go through your own bedtime ritual such as taking a bath, relaxing with a book or music, going to bed. Start bedtime routines when your child is an infant to avoid bedtime struggles when they are older.
- Stop eating 2 to 3 hours before bed. This will allow food to digest and minimize the chance of heartburn or acid reflux. If you find that you have to eat something before bed, then choose a snack that combines a protein and a carbohydrate, such as string cheese with crackers.
- Avoid caffeine and cigarettes in the evening. These items are both stimulants and can make restful sleep difficult.
- If you, or your child, have trouble sleeping, avoid afternoon naps.
- Evaluate bedrooms. Avoid having televisions, smart phones, tablets, laptops, or computers in your bedroom. These devices emit a blue light in the background that can interfere with sleep patterns.
- Spend some time exercising during the day. Children over the age of 6 should get at least 1 hour of exercise every day. Try taking a walk after dinner, or dancing to music.
- Take care of stress with breathing exercises, muscle relaxation techniques, or meditation. Click here for more information.
- If you, or your child, are light sleepers that are easily disturbed by outside sounds, consider using relaxing nature sounds, white noise, or music at a low volume to help block distracting sounds. Try these ocean sounds, or this piano music.
Safe Sleep for Babies
By creating a safe sleep space for your baby, you can reduce the likelihood of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Children less than a year old should sleep in a crib on their backs without loose sheets, pillows, soft stuffed animals, knit hats, or sleepwear that have strings. If possible, the crib should be in the parent’s bedroom for the first year. For more information about what a safe sleep environment looks like, click here.
Children and Sleep Struggles
Some children have trouble sleeping at night due to nightmares, bedwetting, or other health issues. There are also children who simply struggle to cooperate with a routine and go to bed. Here are some tips directly related to children.
- Be patient! Sometimes routines take time to get established. If you cannot do everything at the exact time each night, then try to do things in the same order. For example: we eat dinner, we clean up, we brush our teeth, we take a bath, we put on our pajamas, we read books, and then we go to bed. Doing the same series of events helps children understand what behavior is expected.
- When you encounter a problem such as a tantrum, give your child a few minutes to calm herself down. Once she is calm, get down on her level to talk to her about the reason behind your expectations. For example, “I can see that you are upset and do not want to go to bed, but our bodies need sleep to grow strong. We brush our teeth, take a bath, put on our pajamas, and read together because that helps our bodies relax.” Give the same explanation each night and eventually your child will learn that sleeping is not up for negotiation.
- If your child is having trouble falling asleep, then add more exercise to his day, and avoid sweet treats in the evening.
- If your child has trouble with bedwetting then limit fluids the hour before bed and make sure your child uses the toilet.
- If you feel you have tried everything and you are still struggling with bedtime, seek a doctor’s advice. There could be a biological reason why your child is not able to sleep.
Creating a relaxing sleep environment that is free from distraction and keeping consistent bedtime routines can lead to better quality sleep for yourself and your family. For further information, please see the online resources below.
References and Resources:
- Sleep: Understanding the role parents and caregivers play in building healthy sleep habits for children (includes video and additional resources) by Zero to Three https://www.zerotothree.org/early-development/sleep
- Sleep: Helping Your Children Get the Rest They Need, brochure by CHS https://www.chs-ca.org/_docs/FEP_Sleep_Eng_print.pdf
- El Sueño: cómo ayudar a los niños para que puedan tener el descanso necesario, folleto por CHS https://www.chs-ca.org/_docs/FEP_Sleep_Span_print.pdf
- 5 Ideas for Better Sleep http://kidshealth.org/en/teens/tips-sleep.html
- 5 Ideas para dormir mejor http://kidshealth.org/es/teens/tips-sleep-esp.html?WT.ac=pairedLink
- Tips from the National Sleep Foundation https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-tools-tips/healthy-sleep-tips
- Tips from https://sleep.org/
- What Does a Safe Sleep Environment Look Like for Infants? http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/sids.html
- ¿Cuál es la apariencia de un ambiente seguro para dormir por infantes? https://www.nichd.nih.gov/publications/pubs/Documents/SafeSleepEnvironment-Espanol.pdf
- Reducing the Risk of SIDS and Other Sleep Related Causes of Infant Deaths https://www.nichd.nih.gov/publications/pubs/Documents/Safe_Sleep_Baby_English.pdf
- Reduzca el riesgo del síndrome de muerte súbita del bebé y de otras causas de muerte relacionadas con el sueño https://www.nichd.nih.gov/publications/pubs/Documents/SafeSleepforYourBaby_espanol.pdf