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5 Ways to Help Your Family Sleep Better

Many kids don't come close to getting the necessary amount of sleep for proper development. Mighty Mommy has on 5 ways that you and your kids can catch more Z's.

By
Cheryl Butler,
Episode #300

I'm a night owl by nature, so I'm usually up way past the rest of my family, either writing, reading a good book, or even just sitting quietly with my own thoughts. 

Lately, however, I noticed that I'm not the only one staying up into the wee hours - several of my kids have been burning the midnight oil as well.

My teenage kids are up late doing homework and chatting with friends on social media way after they should be sound asleep.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, newborns should sleep 12 to 18 hours out of every 24 (as every new parent hopes). This amount is gradually reduced as kids get older. Toddlers under age 3 need to 12-14 hours of sleep, preschoolers between ages 3 and 5 need 11-13 hours, and schoolchildren ages 5 to 10 need 10 to 11 hours per night. Teens need about 9 ¼ hours of sleep each night to function best, but most teens do not get nearly that much. One study found that only 15% of teenagers reported sleeping 8 ½  hours on school nights.

Most families, including mine, admit that their kids don't come anywhere close to getting the recommended amount of sleep each night. So today Mighty Mommy focuses on 5 ways you and your kids can catch more Z's..

Tip #1:  Rethink Your Family's Relationship With Sleep

The benefits of sleep are manifold.  Think about how great you feel after you've had a full night's sleep - you're more energized, less cranky, and you feel ready to take on the day.  Getting adequate sleep helps your body ward off illness and bad moods.  It's also something many of us feel we can shortchange. Think about your endless to-do list - how can we get it all done with only 24 hours in the day? 

One way to stay on task is to rationalize that we don't need as much sleep.  I'm guilty of this more often than I'd care to admit.  If I stay up a few hours later, I can finish up important paperwork like paying bills or insurance forms.  And if I get up a few hours early, I can sneak in a few extra loads of laundry or get in a workout session

See also: Can You Exercise to Sleep Better?

 

Our kids are staying up later for similar reasons - to complete their homework, get their required reading in, or just because they're too strung out after a hectic day and they can't wind down and get to sleep at a decent hour.  Then, if they can manage to wake up early, it's only to finish what they couldn't complete the night before.  

The solution is to put sleep and its extreme importance back on your family's radar. We invest our time and energy into providing our kids with top-notch educational and social experiences, we make sure they eat well and have their teeth cleaned every 6 months, so why shouldn't we start making sure they get enough sleep every night to help their brains develop properly?

See also: 4 Ways to Keep Your Family Strong

 

If you have babies and younger children, reevaluate your nap and bedtime routines.  If you have school-aged children or teens, take an honest look at the sleep habits of the whole family and make sleep equally as important as eating well and going for your annual well-visits.  

Tip #2: Create a Proper Sleep Environment

Once you've evaluated your family's sleep habits, or lack thereof, you can commit to taking charge of building better sleep routines.

The first step is to create an inviting sleep environment.  I used to think it was great to fall asleep watching TV, but after working with my colleague, Ben Greenfield (the Get-Fit Guy), I learned lots of tips on healthy sleep habits. One of them was to darken my bedroom so my body would be primed to reap the many benefits of a solid night's sleep.  I noticed within just a few nights that not having the TV on definitely helped me sleep better. Now I read to fall asleep instead of staring at the screen. 

Take an inventory of your bedrooms.  What types of distractions are present? Electronics, laptops, cell phones, video games?  I recently made a clean sweep of these items. Now my teens have to hand over their phones by 10pm so those late-night texts are a thing of the past.

See also: Technology to Help You Sleep

 

The temperature of your bedroom is also an important factor for a good night's sleep.  A cooler room, at about 650, is optimal.

Lastly, is the room dark enough?  You can install room darkening shades or insulated curtains to help get the room sleep-ready.  

Tip #3: Create a Family Bedtime

You may think this suggestion is not only ridiculous, but nearly impossible - especially if your kids' age range runs a wide gamut (mine are 8 through 19). But if you want to improve the sleep dynamics in your household, establishing a family bedtime is one way to make it happen.

Here's how.....

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