Having just passed the summer solstice, there is more light in the sky than at any other time in the year. Darkness doesn’t come until well past a traditional bedtime for children. Protecting sleep schedules can be a challenge.
And while people usually know that quality sleep is important for physical health, it is also good to know how important sleep is to our mental health and wellbeing. You may have heard people talk about losing sleep over a stressor in life, but lost sleep can also cause life to feel more stressful. While cause and effect can’t be determined directly, about three-fourths of people with depression also report sleep disturbances. We know that better sleep can protect people, including children, from mental stress and reduce irritability and negative emotions.
Creating a solid sleep routine can help boost mental health and resilience. Consider these ideas:
Have a solid bedtime routine. Tooth brushing, pajamas, reading a book, turning on a sound machine, or whatever works… just find a routine that works for you and your family and stick to it.
Consistency is key. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day.
Create a relaxing environment. Particularly for summer nights, darker curtains or blinds can help. Consider the pillow and blankets to create comfort as well as a white noise machine or a fan for noise. Everyone differs in what environment works best. Listen to your body.
Limit napping to 30 minutes or less per day.
Relax your mind before bed. Find a way to set busy thoughts aside, like keeping a notepad by the bed to jot down your thoughts.
Exercise, but try to avoid it within a couple hours of bedtime.
When adults and children feel rested, it reduces the experience of negative thoughts or bad moods. Just think of the number of times you have heard about a person waking up on the wrong side of the bed — meaning they haven’t slept well as the cause for a really bad mood. For kids, and adults, a well-rested body and brain will increase alertness and that can make us less accident prone. No one can complain about having fewer of those mishaps around the house to ruin your day.
How can you tell if you are sleep deprived? A quick self-check strategy is to set a timer for 3-5 minutes. Then find a comfortable place to sit, relax, close your eyes, and start the timer. If the timer startles you awake, it’s likely you are sleep deprived. But even if you end up just feeling groggy from this five minute relaxation break, you are probably still losing needed sleep. By contrast, if this 5-minute rest break leaves you feeling revitalized, you have your sleep needs satisfied.
So if the excessive daylight has started to disrupt your family sleep schedules, getting back on track can be as easy as following the sleep routines above. Keep in mind, that while these sleep hygiene suggestions are based on research, some sleep issues still require professional help. If sleep is a constant struggle, talk to a medical provider and ensure you and your family have the wellness you deserve. More information can be found at www.cdc.gov/sleep/about_sleep/sleep_hygiene.
Maren Wright Voss, ScD, is a professional practice extension assistant professor of health and wellness at the USU Extension – Tooele County Office, which is located inside the Tooele County Health Department Building, 151 N. Main, Tooele. She can be reached at 435-277-2409 and at email@example.com.