Sleep: How to Help Your Family Be Well-Rested
For most people, sleep is what we do when everything else in the day is done or when we just can’t stay up any longer. However, sleep needs to be a priority that is scheduled into one’s life at an appropriate time in order to get an adequate amount. But rather than thinking of sleep as a passive phase that interrupts daily activity, think of sleep as an essential part of determining how successful your daily life will be. A night of uninterrupted sleep is needed to leave your body and mind rested and ready for the next day.
What happens when we sleep? When you go into a deep sleep, your blood pressure drops, breathing becomes slower and muscles become relaxed. The blood supply to muscles increase and tissue growth and repair occurs. Energy is restored and your body releases growth hormone. In REM sleep (or dream sleep), the brain is active and cognitive processes are working to consolidate memory and restore balance in the chemicals of the brain. Sleep also contributes to a healthy immune system and balance of hormones involved in weight control.
Both adults and children are impaired when they are sleep deprived. Lack of sleep negatively affects attention, concentration, problem solving ability and memory- all vital cognitive processes at work and in school. Sleep deprivation can contribute to depression and over time, there are also serious medical complications to which chronic sleep debt contributes: heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke and diabetes being among them.
It seems that there is so much to do during the day to the point where sleep deprivation is inevitable. Homework, after school activities and sports, and social interactions all compete with sleep every night. Electronics are common culprits for keeping adults and children up later at night. Pediatricians used to counsel parents to keep televisions out of children’s room, but with the advent of portable electronics, there are now so many more devices to distract you at night.
Electronics disrupt sleep in at least two major ways. For one thing, they are stimulating and keep our brains active and engaged, making it more difficult to fall asleep. In addition, the light emitted from the electronics themselves is enough to disrupt our brain’s ability to regulate the sleep-wake cycle. When it is dark, our brains produce a hormone called melatonin which, among other factors, makes us feel sleepy. Light, on the other hand, signals our brains to be awake and alert. So having electronics in the bedroom at night creates a bedtime environment of stimulation and engagement, making it more likely that sleep onset will be delayed.
The following recommendations can help ensure that you and your family are well rested. Life can be hectic for all of us and even making one or two changes can still be helpful.
- Keep your bedroom cool, dark and quiet at night
- Maintain a regular sleep schedule for 7 days per week. Ideally, sleep would not be shifted more than an hour later on weekends
- Exercising daily can improve sleep
- Turn off electronics before bedtime and keep electronics out of the bedroom at night
- Avoid caffeine and other stimulants
Information in this article was obtained by The National Sleep Foundation. Please see sleepfoundation.org for more information and be sure to talk with your physician if you have any concerns about your child’s sleep. The new published new guidelines for the recommended duration of sleep are as follows:
- Newborns (0-3 months): Sleep range narrowed to 14-17 hours each day (previously 12-18)
- Toddlers (1-2 years): Sleep range widened by one hour to 11-14 hours (previously 12-14)
- Preschoolers (3-5): Sleep range widened by one hour to 10-13 hours (previously 11-13)
- School age children (6-13): Sleep range widened by one hour to 9-11 hours (previously 10-11)
- Teenagers (14-17): Sleep range widened by one hour to 8-10 hours (previously 8.5-9.5)
- Younger adults (18-25): Sleep range is 7-9 hours (new age category)
- Adults (26-64): Sleep range did not change and remains 7-9 hours
- Older adults (65+): Sleep range is 7-8 hours (new age category)