Sleep hygiene is critical to your family’s health and just as important as a healthy diet, exercise regimen and intellectual stimulation. However, since everyone in the family has different circadian rhythms, habits, sleep needs and obstacles for attaining quality sleep, there’s no one size fits all strategy. If you’re a parent, you need your own high quality sleep but you also need to ensure your children create good sleep hygiene habits.
Luckily, there are some basic rules for optimizing your best sleep. First, keep an eye out for any family member exhibiting symptoms of sleep apnea or other risky issues. They might require medical intervention such as a CPAP machine, the care of a doctor or special devices. Otherwise, cases of insomnia and occasional sleeplessness are common but may be addressed with improved sleep hygiene.
1. Make a screen time curfew
The more time between looking at a screen and going to bed the better, but aim for at least two hours. If the kids go to bed at 9pm, that means no televisions, laptops, smartphones or other screened devices starting at 7pm. However, this rule isn’t just for kids; it can help adults sleep better, too.
2. Nix as much light as possible
Is there a streetlight that shines through your gauzy bedroom windows? Plugged-in devices that are annoyingly bright? Your body’s circadian rhythm requires darkness in order to create the most melatonin. Invest in blackout curtains and get rid of any artificial lights in “sleep zones.”
3. Address noise concerns
There are some noises which can’t be avoided, such as an early morning garbage truck. Do what you can to remove noises, such as not running the dishwasher before bed, and consider a pink noise machine and/or ear plugs to tune out the noise. Some people are more sensitive than others to noises, and since you (or a family member) is “used to it”, they may not realize it’s the cause of poor sleep.
4. Don’t exercise, eat a large meal or drink before bed
You can add this into your two hour pre-bed window. Exercise energizes you, certain foods can keep you up, and drinking too many liquids will have your bladder keeping you alert at night. If you or a family member is craving something before bed, stick to sleep-friendly snacks such as bananas. Keep liquids to a minimum, and instead of dinner as the biggest meal of the day, try mini meals or having the big fare at lunch.