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A to Zzzz's: Creating Healthy Sleep Patterns

By September 1, 2014Blogs

The beginning of the school year impacts each family member’s sleep, and it can be more difficult to get sound sleep with the stressors of school on our mind. Late nights devoted to schoolwork combined with an early morning wake-up call can take their toll. We live in a society that values busyness and cramming in as much as we can during our daily routines, often to the detriment of our sleep. Here are some tips for maintaining healthy sleep patterns, even during times of increased stress.

Family Interventions to Support Good Sleep:
1.  For kids with lots of after-school activities and intense homework schedules, consider trading chores for homework time. If a child has chores during the week, as long as he or she is working on another worthwhile task, they can “get out” of chores for the day.
2.  Stick to a schedule! It is important that everyone in the family is aware of one another’s plans for that day. Be sure that the child knows in advance what they will be doing during after-school hours. Dinner and other staples in the routine need to take place at approximately the same time each day.
3.  Consider adopting the following family policies: Everyone washes up for the evening at approximately the same time; practice “quiet time” after a certain hour; turn lights off at a general time each night (if work needs to be completed after “lights out” it can be done in a specific area); make lunches and set aside outfits for the next day before bedtime.
4.  No screen time within 30 minutes of bedtime.
5.  Create realistic expectations for homework. Set aside a certain time for homework – including breaks! – and when homework time is finished for the evening, support the child’s efforts rather than whether or not they completed the assignment or finished their work “perfectly.”
Good Sleep Habits for Nighttime:
1.  Make sure the room is dark. Cover any lights from screens or electronics.
2.  Do not eat right before bed – our body begins to metabolize the food, which signals to our body that it is time to wake up.
3.  Stay cool in the bedroom. Consider taking a lukewarm shower rather than a warm or hot shower to lower body temperature, which prepares us for sleep.
4.  Use the bed for sleeping only. Do not play, read, do homework, eat, etc. on or near the bed.
Good Sleep Habits for the Morning:
1.  Set the alarm 5-15 minutes earlier when you have an early morning. This will allow you more time to get your body to wake up, and factors in any slowness in the morning due to the early start.
2.  Allow yourself 15-20 minutes to stay in bed and slowly wake. During this time, slowly open the blinds every 5 minutes and then get back in to bed. Also, slowly sit up a little further each time you get back in to bed.
3.  As soon as you wake-up, stretch! Getting oxygen to the muscles by stretching signals to our brain that it is time to start the day.
4.  As soon as you wake-up, sip water! This also gets oxygen to the muscles. In addition, any food or water in our system helps us to start metabolizing, which wakes up our body.
5.  Choose an alarm that has a pleasant ring tone. Place it across the room so that you will have to get out of bed to turn it off. Use the snooze feature if you plan to practice the above techniques of waking slowly.
6.  Visualize your day in detail using each of your five senses prior to beginning your morning routine.