7 habits for better sleep
My rule has always been simple: When my eyes start closing and I start yawning, it’s time for bed. The problem with this approach is that it’s unreliable. Sometimes I feel sleepy early in the night, and sometimes I’m awake for hours waiting for my body to ready itself for sleep.
After speaking with Egambaram Senthilvel, M.D., pediatric sleep specialist with UofL Physicians – Pediatric Sleep Medicine, I learned that having certain habits can improve sleep quality and quantity. Dr. Senthilvel calls this “sleep hygiene.”
Just as you remind your children to wash their hands after using the bathroom, brush and floss their teeth daily, and shower regularly, you should teach healthy sleep practices. Good sleep hygiene is important and can have a positive impact on their daily lives. Sleep affects your children’s behavior, attitude, health, grades and social life.
Try these top seven rules of healthy sleep habits to help your family get the most out of those nightly Z’s:
- Establish a regular bedtime and wake time. Try not to vary from the schedule more than one to two hours, even on weekends.
- Create a relaxing bedtime ritual, such as a warm bath or reading.
- Do not give your children food or drinks containing caffeine or sugar within four to six hours of their bedtime. Caffeine is a stimulant, meaning it sends signals to the brain that it is not ready for rest.
- Avoid large meals or snacks before bedtime.
- Avoid exercising before bedtime. Similar to the effects of caffeine, exercise stimulates the brain and tells it that it’s not ready for sleep.
- No screens allowed in the bedroom — no TV, movies, cellphones, laptops, video games or tablets. There are two theories behind this: 1. The light from electronic screens delays the release of melatonin, the hormone your body naturally produces to control your sleep and wake cycles, making it harder to fall asleep; and 2. Keeping your brain engaged with the content from the devices prevents it from feeling ready for rest.
- Make sure the bedroom is dark and comfortable, and noise levels are at a minimum throughout the house. If the environment isn’t helpful for sleeping, then falling asleep is delayed, resulting in less overall sleep!