We all know sleep is important. As parents we are desperately trying to get kids to sleep so we can too! Sleep is your bodies way to recover and regenerate. Inadequate sleep can deregulate your hunger hormones and encourage cravings for sugar and carbs. “Sleep helps maintain a healthy balance of the hormones that make you feel hungry (ghrelin) or full (leptin). When you don’t get enough sleep, your level of ghrelin goes up and your level of leptin goes down. This makes you feel hungrier than when you get less sleep.” 1 Your bodies attempt to get more energy is to eat sugar, hence the cravings. I have certainly noticed this, with less sleep, I’m craving sugar and all kinds of things, I wouldn’t normally.
Studies also show that sleep deficiency alters activity in some parts of the brain. If you’re sleep deficient, you may have trouble making decisions, solving problems, controlling your emotions and behavior, and coping with change. 2 As a sleep deprived mom I have certainly noticed waves of emotion and difficulty coping with the normal challenges of the day. I just make sure on those rough nights I get in a nap when the kids do, for me this has been a necessity.
While the exact number of hours a person needs can differ, its unanimous sleep is very important on a multitude of levels. There are several easy things you can do to encourage your best nights sleep for yourself and little ones.
1. BED TIME:
Getting the right amount of sleep for you. There is the recommendation of 7-8 hours of sleep per day for those 18 and over 3 however, a determining factor, is if you still feel tired when you wake up, you might need a little more sleep (If you feel you are getting adequate sleep and are still tired, this could be a sign of a health issue in need of investigation). After deciding the amount of hours you need to sleep the next step is to decide what your go to sleep time is and your wake up time is. If you know you like to read or relax in bed before going to sleep, build that into your plan. That way if you have a set time to go to bed which can help ensure you are getting all the sleep you need.
2. ELECTRONICS OFF:
Getting the phone, iPad, reader, all turned off when you are trying to fall asleep. “LEDs (Light-emitting diodes) have now become the dominant technology for backlighted tablet displays, such as iPads and e-readers, and large LCD television sets. This now means that blue light prevails in red, green, and blue (RGB) and SSL illumination systems that did not exist a decade ago.” 4
The blue light and the distraction of all the devices can keep you from relaxing your mind to get to sleep. “Additional studies have also shown that exposure to blue light can increase alertness and stimulate cognitive functions. A recent study reported that exposure to light-emitting e-readers at bedtime may negatively affect sleep and the circadian system.” 5 “Blue light also elicits direct effects on human melatonin secretion, alertness and cognitive performance.”6 Many technologies now have a night mode such as Apple’s “NightShift”, or “Night Mode” on Android, to reduce the blue light, or there are resources to have the light mimic the sun. 7
Many people use their cell phone as an alarm clock, the problem with that is, aside from the light, receiving text messages or check social media can be another obsticale in the way of a distraction free sleep. You can turn your phone to airplane mode to not receive messages and alerts, and your alarm clock will still work. Airplane mode addresses the distraction factor but doesn’t fix the light from the phone when you check it (yes even in a night mode the blue light is only reduced). Your best bet is to go back the old school alarm clock, and keep the distractions and light to a minimum.
You want to keep it cool, when you sleep. “In general, the suggested bedroom temperature should be between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit for optimal sleep. When lying in bed trying to snooze, your body temperature decreases 8 to initiate sleep―and the proposed temperatures above can actually help facilitate this. If your room is cool, rather than warm, it will be much easier to shut your eyes for the night.” 9
Basically the darker the better, this encourages your bodies ability to create melatonin leading to dreamland. “Melatonin is a hormone secreted by the enigmatic pineal gland in response to darkness, hence the name hormone of darkness. It has generated a great deal of interest as a therapeutic modality for various diseases particularly sleep disorders. It is important to note that “darkness” stimulates the pineal gland to secrete melatonin whereas exposure to light inhibits this mechanism.” 10
The biggest light sources are typically the windows. Getting some black out curtains can make a world of difference in how dark you can get your room. We put up blackout curtains in our bedroom as well as the kids rooms to get the space as dark as possible. There can also be smaller sources of light around the room. You can check for little distractions like a small light from a charger or home security. In this case you could use some black wire tape to cover any distracting little lights.
5. AMBIENT NOISE:
Ambient sound could be rain, ocean waves, or whatever sounds are nice and relaxing. “Creating a constant ambient sound could help mask activity from inside and outside the house.” 11 As well as lack of sound, for me if its too quiet I can’t sleep either.
There are several apps that have ambient sound combinations you can create. You can plug in your device across the room (in airplane mode), use a speaker or get a stand alone device that creates the type of sounds that are soothing to you.
Set yourself and your kids up for a good nights sleep. Start with a bedtime for kids and parents. I know once the kids are in bed its tempting to stay up late but sleep is important too. Then move those devices away from your nightstand. I do like going on my iPad in the evening, but i give it a cut off time before actually going to sleep. I put it in airplane mode and away from my nightstand. There is something about a nice cool room that I always get a good nights sleep. Having as dark of an environment really helps make you tired. I love the ocean and rain combination sound, we have this playing every night, its the same in the kids rooms too. Hope these tips help create a sleep promoting environment for you and the little ones.