Fall is officially here, school is in session, and darkness is beginning to descend earlier and earlier each day. With most families sticking to a stricter schedule this time of year, it’s important to establish and adhere to a nightly bedtime routine to ensure everyone in the family — adults and children, alike — benefit from the mental and physical restoration that quality sleep provides.
Sleep Routines and Children
Adequate sleep is inextricably linked to proper brain development, emotion regulation, and the ability to focus. When children don’t get sufficient sleep, they’re likely to experience learning challenges and behavior problems, leading to an array of difficulties in school and the classroom.
In a study conducted among adolescents between 1991 and 2012, researchers found that the amount of sleep children receive has declined over the past twenty years. Other polls and studies have also demonstrated that teens especially are receiving much less than the recommended 8 to 10 hours of sleep each night, in large part due to their electronics habits and inability to log off at night.
The key to improving problematic sleep behaviors in children can be as easy as setting a nightly routine. A 2015 multinational sleep study published by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine found that a regular bedtime routine is associated with better sleep in young children up to six years old. The children that adhered to a consistent night routine were found to have earlier bedtimes, an easier time falling asleep, fewer wakings in the night, and a longer sleep duration.
Sleep Routines and Adults
Chances are if you are a parent then you probably have a set bedtime routine for your child(ren) — but what about yourself? If you are relying on weekends to catch up on a lack of sleep (a phenomenon called social jetlag), you are doing your body more harm than good.
According to a 2017 study conducted by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, experts found that social jetlag leads to poorer health, worse mood, and an increase in sleepiness and fatigue. Perhaps more startlingly, the study found that each hour of social jetlag is associated with an 11% increased risk for heart disease.
And yes, while there are often many factors contributing to late bedtimes and short nights, bedtime routines can benefit adults, too, by helping calm the mind and body in preparation for a better night’s sleep.
A key component to establishing a successful sleep routine is to be consistent with sleep and wake times that allow the circadian rhythm to operate at its best. A 24-hour cycle that serves as the body’s internal clock. the circadian rhythm regulates sleep-wake cycles, eating habits, and other important bodily functions such as brain activity.
Establishing a Routine
Regardless of age, everyone can benefit from setting a nighttime routine. Follow these tips to get your sleep schedule on track:
Start with a comfortable environment. Make sure that your sleeping environment is absent of light that could cause potential disturbances. Not only should it be sufficiently dark, but the temperature should be between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit and the environment should be quiet.
Avoid highly stimulating activities right before bed. Leave work projects, emails, social media and TV watching behind, and focus on a more relaxing activity such as reading or listening to music. Anything with a screen should be avoided, as the light in your device can cause sleeping difficulties by convincing your brain that it’s daytime.
Eliminate caffeine after midday. Too much caffeine can keep you up all night, so try to keep caffeine consumption to the morning.
Don’t drink alcohol too close to bedtime. Although consuming alcohol can make it easier to fall asleep, it ensures that the second half of your sleep is not refreshing as it should be.
Exercise regularly. Physical activity can reduce stress and anxiety, and can help relieve the symptoms of sleep disorders. Exercising too close to sleep can hinder your ability to fall asleep, so try to give yourself enough time to relax between your workout and bedtime.
Avoid naps if you have trouble sleeping. Naps in the afternoon may make it more difficult to sleep at night. Eliminating them may help.
Be consistent with your sleep schedule. Try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day to help regulate your body’s internal clock. If you have trouble with this, keep track of your bedtime and the number of times you wake during the night.
Write down your thoughts. If you have trouble sleeping because your mind is too cluttered with things you need to accomplish, write down a to-do list for the next day or journal your feelings. This can help relieve your mind of unwanted thoughts.
If you have tried everything and you still find that you have problems sleeping, you may be suffering from a sleep disorder like sleep apnea. Our practice specializes in treating sleep apnea and snoring with the use of oral appliances. Contact us today to schedule a consultation!