Guest Blog Contributor: Julia Merrill
Nothing puts a damper on your family’s day like sleep deprivation. The effects of a poor night’s sleep go beyond grogginess and yawning. It can affect your family’s abilities to concentrate at work and school. Sleep deprivation is also connected to memory problems, mood swings and increased accidents. Without enough sleep, your family members may experience increased blood pressure, weakened immune systems, and weight gain. Children who are sleep deprived experience negative cognitive performance and hormonal disruptions, as well.
Preparing the Home for Better Sleep
If you want your family to sleep better, it’s important to make your home conducive to rest. If children or parents have asthma or allergies, take care to remove indoor pollution with an air purifier that removes allergens from the room and reduces symptoms of hay fever and asthma. There are even air purifiers that specifically target mold. If you live in an urban area fraught with noise pollution, a restless sleeper often find that white noise machines can make a positive difference. Block outside light with blackout curtains that create a dark and restful atmosphere. At night, lower the thermostat to make the home’s temperature somewhere around 60 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit -- the optimal room temperature for sleep. And for those who toss at turn at night or suffer from periodic limb movements while asleep, weighted blankets may be helpful for reducing anxiety and movement for better rest.
The Importance of a Sleep Routine
A regular sleep routine is the best way to ensure your entire family sleeps well night after night so they can perform at their highest day after day. Go to bed and wake up around the same times everyday -- even on weekends. Bedtimes and wake-up times can fluctuate maybe 20 minutes in either direction, but it’s important to stay consistent so the body knows to wind itself down and wake up at regular times. Instead of letting kids play with light-emitting electronics at night, encourage them to spend the rest of their evenings with activities that improve cognitive function while tiring them out such as reading books, coloring, and listening to music.
Restless children also can be soothed with a warm bath scents with lavender and chamomile. These flowers have anti-anxiety tendencies and the heat of the water elevates body temperature slightly. When children get out and step into the cool household, the dip in body temperature creates a drowsy feeling that makes it easy for them to drift off into dreamland. While all these tips definitely work for children, they are also good for adults who tend to toss and turn or struggle with insomnia.
Sleeping on Vacation
When traveling or on vacation with children, you may notice some sleep troubles that you don’t experience at home. Sleeping in a hotel or any new environment can be stressful for children. Not to mention the effects jet lag can have on sleep quality. To get around these problems, always think ahead about sleeping conditions. If you are staying in a hotel, ask them about what sleep-improving room features that are available (for example, blackout curtains). If you have a little one who is still in a crib, consider getting a room with more space so you can easily set up a travel crib. Try and recreate bedtime routines as close as possible and don’t be afraid to use tools including white noise apps on your phone or tablet that can help your kids lull themselves into slumber in no time.
Improve your family’s sleep by creating a home environment that is conducive to rest. Blackout curtains, white noise machines, air purifiers and weighted blankets are just some of the tools at your disposal. Establishing a steady sleep routine for everyone in the family gets the body in autopilot mode so falling asleep and waking up are both effortless. And while traveling can throw a wrench in that routine, you can overcome it with foresight and travel tools that help kids fall asleep.