Families share everything. From their genes down to their sense of humor, children take their cues from their parents. But there’s one personal trait that we may not realize is affecting our families. You guessed it—our sleep habits.
In order for your household to function at its best, sleep has to become a family priority. Let’s talk about the importance of sleep for your family and discuss how you can improve it for everyone.
How much sleep should everyone be getting?
For adults, the recommended amount of nightly sleep is seven to nine hours. For children, it depends on their stage of development. Here’s a breakdown of the number of hours of sleep required per day, including naps:
- Infants 4 months to 12 months should sleep 12 to 16 hours
- Children 1 to 2 years of age should sleep 11 to 14 hours
- Children 3 to 5 years of age should sleep 10 to 13 hours
- Children 6 to 12 years of age should sleep 9 to 12 hours
- Teenagers 13 to 18 years of age should sleep 8 to 10 hours
What happens when your family misses its sleep quota?
You know that not getting enough sleep will make you irritable, but one study suggests that sleep-deprivation causes adults to dole out harsher punishments.
As for your kids? On top of the damage it does to their cognitive abilities and physical health, sleep-deprived children are cranky, more likely to behave badly, and often exhibit signs of hyperactivity and lack of focus (sleep deprivation is sometimes confused with ADHD in kids). Combine that with a tired parent’s short fuse and you have a recipe for more family feuds. By making a good night’s sleep a family initiative, you may be able to improve the emotional environment of your home.
FOUR TIPS FOR A HEALTHY SLEEP ROUTINE
1. Put the electronics to bed.
The cues start with you. A survey by the National Sleep Foundation found that if a child’s parents slept with one or more electronic devices (e.g., smartphone, tablet) the child is more likely to do the same. The same survey found that both parents and kids sleeping with their devices exhibit poorer sleep quality than those who keep their devices off or out of the room.
Pro tip: Set up a communal charging area in your home where you and your kids can plug in devices for the night. You’ll know they’re sleeping without their devices and getting better rest because of it.
2. Eat dinner earlier.
Young children take more time to digest their food. They need to eat at least two hours before bedtime to sleep well.
3. Enforce your bedtime rules.
Setting rules and sticking to them will make a big difference for everyone. Set a caffeine cutoff for 2 p.m., and set definite cut-off times for television, computers, and video games.
4. Develop a consistent routine.
Getting everyone to sleep at the appropriate time every night is a good start, but following a consistent bedtime routine signals to our brains that we’re going to sleep soon, allowing them to shut down even faster.
Lay out clothes for the next day, brush teeth, and end the night with a wind-down activity such as reading together—which we recommend as both a great activity that’s been tied to academic performance and also as a relaxing activity to prepare the body for bed.
As with everything else in your life as a parent, setting a good example of healthy sleep habits starts with you. It might be a challenge to reverse some bad habits (we recommend trying one new thing at a time) but the payoff is worth it. After all, healthier and happier families is something we can all get behind.