Enforcing Bedtimes: How To Get A Better Night's Sleep For Everyone


Sleep is one of those funny things about being human -- you just have to do it. It's the way our bodies rejuvenate. Although sleep deprivation is not fatal, it will cause alterations in mood, physical well being, and basically the way we think.

Let's face it, lack of sleep can make us slow, sleepy and cranky...

"If you don't start the day after having a good night's sleep, your behavior, your ability to learn, and your ability to interact with those around you probably is limited."

Dr. Maida Chen - Associate Director of the Sleep Disorder Center at Seattle Children's hospital says for children in particular, not having adequate sleep or a firm sleep routine can lead to chaos in the house.

"I think when children have a disrupted bedtime, and hence a disrupted bedtime routine, the domino effect, is such that they don't sleep as well that night." says Dr. Chen.

She says many kids she sees are dealing with sleep disorders created by habits parents create. For example, not being able to fall asleep without a bottle, or falling asleep with the television on, or needing to have a parent in the bed.

"I think probably the most important things are , an established bedtime routine, a regular bedtime that doesn't vary that much from night to night and getting adequate hours of sleep."

If you have an older child and you're concerned about starting a sleep routine at this point...not to worry, Dr. Chen says it's never too late to start.

"At any point, if you can establish a bedtime routine that child will likely benefit."

She says the key is "quiet time". Start the process an hour before bed for both kids and adults. It's a time to wind down.

Dr. Chen recommends several things.

"No tv, no physical activity, quiet reading is a great activity at that time, quiet conversation with your family is a great way to catch up on everybodies day."

Why no TV? Dr. Chen says the TV creates an internal conversation with both kids and grownups. A note to the many adults who 'also' fall asleep with the tv on.

"Having it on, just it becomes disruptive, to your chances of getting into a good deep sleep which is supposed to occur fairly early in the night."

Also, many parents think 'wearing kids out' works to help them sleep. Dr. Chen says instead, it actually energizes.

Dr. Chen says consider your sleep environment. Your own bed, the room should be quiet, dark, without clutter and technology like computers, tvs, and phones. She also says sleep deprivation is on the rise in teens and younger children because of too many after school activities..but now also add in social media , texting and facebook.

So, How much sleep do you need?

Newborns • Birth - 2 months old need 10.5 - 18 hoursInfants•3 - 11 months old need 9 - 12 hours (and additional naps)Toddlers/Children • 1 - 3 years old need 12 - 14 hours• 3 - 5 years old need 11 - 13 hours• 5 - 12 years old need 10 - 11 hoursAdolescents need at least 8.5 - 9.25 hoursAdults typically need 7 - 9 hours

Source: National Sleep Foundation

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