As summer comes to a close, many of us are preparing our selves and our families to launch back into early mornings, lunch making, homework, and extra curricular activities. Over the next couple of weeks, I will share my thoughts on how you can support this transition before the chaos sets in and everyone defaults to autopilot.
This will be an exercise to create a family calendar that includes the things that are a priority for you and your family. I want to help you make the time to do more of what fills your life and the life of your family, with joy. It is an invitation for you to examine, and if needed, give yourself permission, to re-align or adjust the things that fill your day so that they are in keeping with what’s truly important to you as a family; what brings you joy. Permission to release the external pressures to do things a certain way, to have our kids in multiple activities 5 days/week, or to “keep up with Jones’s”. Permission to simplify.
You may question why I’m talking about scheduling more into perhaps an already filled calendar, but the reality is, we often have the best of intentions to fit something into our life, but…life happens. Remember that friend that you bump into and you always say, “hey, it’s been so long, we have to get together”, but you don’t actually put it in your calendar, so it never happens; it just slips away and you are only reminded when you bump into them again months later? Well the same thing goes for all the other things in our life. If we say we prioritize things but don’t schedule them, like sleep, play, activity, meal prep, and social connections, well then they can slip away in spite of the best of intentions…life happens, but the question becomes, what life do You want to happen?
Why am I asking you to schedule in sleep? Because most of us, kids included, are not getting enough of it, and for some, what we do get isn’t great quality. I’m inviting you to consider scheduling the routine of bedtime; to support the ritual of coming together, unwinding and decompressing from the day. To encourage a healthy transition into the rest, repair, integration, and growth that occurs during sleep. To set that as the priority. This is about tooling you and your family with what we know to be important for helping establish and maintain healthy sleep habits. Trust me, this isn’t about perfection; nothing is perfect; well except perhaps, the smell of sunshine on your child after a day at the beach, to me that’s pretty perfect. But I digress.My 7 year old daughter has, like so many people, settled herself into a later bedtime over the summer months. We know the rest that she will need to be recharged, re-energized and focused for her school days is a bit different than when she is at a summer camp. For us, a priority is a good night sleep so she is well rested and ready for school. We are now less than two weeks away from the start of school, so while she is currently still on her later bedtime, now is the time to tackle it. Ideally, we would like her bedtime to be 1 hour earlier so she will get around 10 hours of sleep a night. Instead of coming down hard and cutting it back in one swoop the night before the first day of school, we have begun adjusting her bedtime 5 minutes or so earlier each night. Accounting for the weekends, this should shift her bedtime by 50 minutes by the first day of school. As she settles into her new routine of back-to-school, with an extra 50-60 minutes of sleep, she should be well rested to tackle her day. But let’s be honest, if we don’t make it to a full hour, it will come, and any amount of added sleep at her age is a good thing.
In addition to adjusting bedtimes, there are some other key things that support a good bedtime routine, a good night sleep, and an attentive day; we call this sleep hygiene. Here are some quick tips to help improve sleep hygiene (these are pretty good for us adults too):
Keep the same bedtime as close to the same time every night; even on weekends. While we are tempted to have our kids stay up later because they can sleep in in the morning, we know that, especially with younger kids, this does not happen. It seems the later my daughter goes to bed, the earlier she gets up (especially on a weekends, am I right). So of course there will be times that you will have something on the go on a Friday night that keeps your little up way past bedtime, but perhaps if that happens regularly, you want to ensure that there isn’t a commitment early Saturday morning. So even if they don’t sleep in later, there is a more restful transition into the start of the day. Even as adults, keeping a similar bedtime during the week and weekend will help promote healthy sleep patterns.
- Set a routine. Perhaps it’s a bath, a story, and a cuddle in bed; whatever it is, make it consistent. Kids thrive with consistency.
- Turn off devices at least 90 minutes before bed. The blue light suppresses melatonin production (the hormone that regulates sleep and wakefulness). This means, for example, if bedtime is 8:30 pm, all devices would be turned off by 7 pm;
- Keep the room quiet, dark, and cool;
- Ensure ample exposure to natural day light;
- Move your body during the day;
- Support balanced blood sugars throughout the day by eating protein, healthy fats, and good fiber at every meal;
- Avoid stimulating foods (sugar, caffeine, etc) before bed;
- Stay hydrated as dehydration impacts quality of sleep and can make you feel sluggish during the day;
- If you and/or your child has difficulty settling, practice deep breathing and other relaxation methods (meditation, etc) as a part of your bedtime routine.
If you are curious if you and/or your family is getting enough sleep, in 2015, the National Sleep Foundation released it’s revised recommendations for appropriate sleep duration based on age. While this is their recommendation, it is just that; speak to your family’s primary health care provider if you have questions or concerns about yours or your family’s sleep.
How will you update and schedule sleep routines for you and your family?