The school year is upon us, and even though we’re not exactly sure what that’ll look like, it does mean there’ll be more demands on our kids and our schedules. As the demands increase, so does our need for sleep and a solid bedtime routine.
The Need for Sleep
Sleep is a foundational need. This means that all other skills rely heavily on how we manage this area. I’m sure you can remember a time when you were sleep deprived and how that impacted your memory, attention, decision-making skills, emotional control, and more.
Without adequate sleep, all areas of cognitive and executive functioning fall apart. We see this first-hand with our children. No matter the age, we know exactly when they’re sleep-deprived. They’re more emotional, harder to reason with, and can’t follow simple directions. These deficits are not exclusive to our kids; we, too, are significantly impacted by lack of sleep.
So how do we fix this?
Creating a sleep bedtime routine is as simple as choosing 3-5 things to do each night that let our bodies and minds know it’s time to wind down. Just as a nightly bedtime routine signals to our little ones that it’s time for sleep, our adult routines can also send the message that sleep is coming. Even as adults, this can look very similar. Taking a shower, changing into comfortable pajamas, and reading could be three simple things you do every night to alert your brain that it’s time for bed.
What Do the Experts Say?
Studies have shown there are several strategies to include in a bedtime routine that can help us wind down. These include keeping a cool room, avoiding caffeine four hours before bed, changing our cellphone into “nighttime” mode (to reduce blue light), and avoiding screen time an hour before sleep. This last one is the most difficult for many. Our phones contain our alarms, schedules, information, and contacts. At just an arms reach, they easily become a distraction from our bedroom goal: sleep!
Try setting an alarm as a reminder to put the phone down. Otherwise, you’re laying in bed but signaling to your brain that it’s not time to slow down yet. Keeping your bed as a space exclusively for sleeping (and maybe one other fun activity…wink wink), is another way to maintain a healthy sleep routine.
Sometimes we think the weekend is a great time to catch up on sleep, but experts say that’s not true. For most adults, 7-9 hours of nightly sleep is recommended. It’s important to keep our bedtime and wake time consistent as well. Changing your bedtime routine, even a half hour, can set you back as much as jet leg. No wonder so many of us feel lethargic on Monday mornings!
Keep a Bedtime Routine Simple
There can be many reasons we have trouble falling asleep that don’t include tiny humans coming into our room five times to tell us they need a drink of water. When we have racing thoughts, it’s hard to slow our brains down. Having a paper and pen by our beds, or using the notes app in our phone, can be a great place to dump racing thoughts and clear our minds of internal distractions.
We all know “mom brain” is real. We use this expression to explain the times we’ve felt foggy and forgetful. If you feel like your speed of processing information is slower and you’re having trouble concentrating, a better sleep routine could be the cure! Sleeping helps our brain flush the toxins that build up during waking hours. Then we can feel less foggy and more focused the next day. Simply put, better sleep = better functioning.