A Great Night’s Sleep for the Entire Family

Many times after working with a family to solve their child’s sleep challenges, parents ask me for sleep tips for themselves. My training does not include adult sleep issues, but below are some excellent suggestions from Kim West that often solve the problem. 

In addition to the following tips, I also highly recommend www.lowbluelights.com, who make night glasses and other products that block out blue light, thereby tricking the brain into secreting melatonin while lights are still on. In my household, we use the glasses, night-lights, iphone covers, and lightbulbs.

Here is to a great night's sleep for your entire family!

Tips for Sleeping Well Every Night by Kim West

Did you know that getting 7-8 hours of sleep at night can help you live longer, be thinner, think clearer and look younger? Despite these incredible benefits more then half of U.S. adults get less then 7-8 hours of sleep at night!

If you are one of the 75% of adults who report having a sleep problem, consider some of these helpful sleep tips to start to get the sleep you need and your body craves.

* Go to bed and wake up at around the same time every night (and while you have young children you might want to set your bedtime earlier than usual). Even on weekends, try not to modify it by more than an hour. Routines "condition" us for sleep, psychologically and physiologically, and the conditioned response then makes it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep. This tip is essential for children's night sleep and naps too!

* Give yourself one hour before lights out to wind down, letting your body and mind become more relaxed and ready for sleep. Listen to quiet music, take a bath, or read a book. Some people find that light stretches, meditation, creative visualization, or progressive relaxation helps. The average person (adult or child) takes 15-20 minutes to put her/himself to sleep.

* If you need to catch up, rather than tinker too much with your nightly sleep schedule, take naps. But either take a short twenty- to thirty-minute nap or take a longer ninety- to hundred-minute nap so you don't wake up during a non-REM sleep cycle and feel groggy. Before I learned that, I used to set the alarm for one hour and wake up feeling lethargic and lousy, like I needed a major infusion of caffeine.

* Make sure your bed and your bedroom are sleep friendly. Your room should be quiet, dark, and secure, and your mattress, pillows, and sheets should be comfortable. Sort out any temperature-control issues with your partner or spouse!

*Avoid any "screen" time for one hour before bed. That means turn off the TV, computer and cell phone and don't bring them in to the bedroom. The light from the screen tells the body not to secrete melatonin, the drowsy making hormone, making it more difficult to go to sleep.

* Exercise at least twenty to thirty minutes three times a week, but try to do it in the morning or during the day, not in the evening. If possible, leave at least three to four hours between strenuous exercise and sleep, and you certainly don't want to work out right before you go to bed. The same goes for rough housing with your child before bed, try to keep things quiet and mellow at least an hour before bed.

* Try to get some natural light in the afternoon. Go for a walk or sit in a sunny room, and try to get out of the house or at least briefly escape your artificially lit office cubicle. This tip will help your child too!

* Eat dinner at least three hours before going to bed. This of course does not apply to babies.

* Reduce your caffeine consumption (two cups maximum), and don't have any caffeine for at least six to eight hours before bedtime because it stays in your bloodstream. Caffeine doesn't just mean coffee--it means tea, many sodas, chocolate, and some over-the-counter cold and headache remedies. We become more sensitive to caffeine as we approach our forties.

* Nicotine is a stimulant, so if you haven't stopped smoking, poor sleep is yet another incentive.

* Watch your alcohol consumption. Alcohol may help you fall asleep, but more than three to five glasses, even less for some individuals, fragment our sleep. We wake up more often at night and earlier in the morning.

*See your doctor if you or your child has asthma, allergies, reflux, anxiety, depression and significant stress to make sure it is not interfering with your sleep.

Sleep is as important as a good diet! Sleep deprivation can cause depression, heart disease and weight gain...not to mention it makes you age faster. There really is such a thing as "beauty sleep.”

Make it a priority to get 7-8 hours as an adult, and remember that children need between 10-11 hours of sleep at night for the first 10 years of their lives!