Sleep Hygiene Tips for Better Bedtime Routines

Google+ Pinterest LinkedIn Tumblr +

Ya’ll! It’s that time of year again. We’re making the transition from summer to fall (or at least to post-Labor Day), when our kids are heading back to school after the days of vacations or late-starting summer camps or spending time with their grandparents or dads or cousins or neighbors. And back to school means back-to-school routines. One of our most useful and healthiest routines — bedtime — has, most likely, gotten way out of whack this summer, and it’s time to over-correct. Ugh…

A laughs at my one-and-a-half hour bedtime routine (hers is a little different than mine ;-), and I tease her about waking up at 4:00 am with anxiety. As TME’s resident nerd, it’s only natural that I love biology. And, while it sounds boring, sleep hygiene is quite fascinating — and useful too. Ever since I saw an episode of 60 Minutes, in which Lesley Stahl points out that sleep makes animals very vulnerable — lying unconscious for long periods of time would have been extremely dangerous for pre-modern humans — thus there must be a good reason why we’ve evolved this way and that we must really need sleep. Well, we do. That was back in 2008, and by the time I saw an awesome documentary about sleep on an airplane in 2011, I was enraptured with good sleep hygiene. But that was when it was just about me…now there are two of us, and I admit my daughter is much further along in flourishing with her sleep hygiene and bedtime routine than I am.

When my kid doesn’t get at least 10 hours of sleep, she is a trial — not quite the terror that she is when she has high fructose corn syrup in a bottle of red dye, but close. Needless to say, she loves her bedtime routine. She keeps me on task by reminding to set the timer(s) — 5 minutes for flossing and brushing, 7 minutes to turn down her bed, go to the loo and put on her jammies. She now reads to herself while waiting on me as the timer ceaselessly beeps while I do “one more thing” before going in to read to her, and then I actually do. Afterwards, I set a meditation for her on Insight Timer, turn on her starry lights, and close the door. She is much better at sticking to this routine than I am to mine — I have raised her that way. It hasn’t been all unicorns and rainbows at all — especially when she was a baby. But, after realizing how crucial the evening bath we started during her infant eczema days was to her nightly wind-down, I tried to keep things consistent. It’s a little bit sacred in our home, like the candle we light each night on the dinner table.

I’m certainly not here to lecture you or to force our routine on you. Your evening routine will be what you make it. But, I’ve been chasing sleep like a fiend ever since I was a child, and I live with the consequences of lifelong deprivation EVERY.DARN.DAY. But I keep pushing for this dream, and every mini-accomplishment on the road to getting a good night’s rest — getting home from work and aftercare at a decent time, eating dinner “on time”, finishing the dishes or my to-do list early (nope, can’t leave the dishes dirty overnight — this is Philly; it’s city living, and in one of the oldest cities in America — so I don’t leave any opportunity for critters to invite themselves over…), or getting the Goose to bed on time — is a minor success worth celebrating.

Our circadian rhythms, which we’ll touch on a little more in a subsequent post, are vital to our health, and sleep is one of the most important activities that regulates our circadian rhythms. Did you know that we don’t have just one internal clock, we have a bunch? Yup, and it’s crucial for those internal clocks to stay in harmony, which is one of many reasons sleep hygiene and chronobiology are trending in the way rocket science does in physics….lol, I kill me…j/k, but not getting enough sleep might.

Even before I became a parent I struggled with sleep. I was a late-sleeping baby, an overthinking child and a frightened-at-night child. I was an easily distracted teen, nonchalantly rearranging furniture during the witching hour, happy doing homework late into the night or in the wee hours of dawn. I was a teacher, either creating lesson plans until midnight, or working an extra job or two, especially in the summer. Then in August, I’d have to get a prescription for Ambien (what I called 1, 2, 3 goodnight — and no it did not make me racist) so that in two weeks I could alter my entire day and nighttime habits in order get it together for the school year. It takes about two weeks to firmly establish a new bedtime that’s wildly different from what you’ve been practicing. Working overseas as a teacher resulted in the same (although more hellish) changes in the form of jet lag. So I have a few of those tricks up my sleeve as well.

We’ll get back to my poor sleep habits later, but right now, this is about you, and getting you and your kids to bed on time.

*Please keep in mind that I am not a doctor. You should consult your physician before taking any supplements or exposing yourself to an unhealthy situation — such as taking an overly hot bath while pregnant.*

We're in the mood for better bedtime routines, so we're highlighting how to keep home cool, calm and collected with these sleep hygiene tips.

How to Develop a Foolproof Sleep Hygiene & Bedtime Routine

One of the main keys to successful sleep hygiene is keeping your evenings cool, calm and collected. These are ideal conditions for falling asleep successfully, which means at the time that’s right for you to get the amount of sleep that you need. There are a number of things you can do during the day to improve your sleep at night, but we’re covering those in a subsequent post. Combined, all of these tips represent one extreme to strive toward, but it’s unlikely that you will be able to follow your sleep hygiene routine to a T 365 days per year….if you do, well, kudos to you. What you do want is for it to be routine, and to adhere it to it most of the time. I think of it this way — if you can stick to a regular bedtime 5 nights out of 7, you’re doing pretty darn well. Unfortunately, I meet mine probably in the reverse, so….(and due to the logic of time, we’re taking our cool, calm and collected theme in reverse as well).

Get Collected

We're in the mood for better bedtime routines, so we're highlighting how to keep home cool, calm and collected with these sleep hygiene tips.

Goose began yoga with Helen Garabedian’s Itsy Bitsy Yoga as an infant, and the practice continues to be a comforting routine for her.

Have a Routine

Nothing makes for a more stressful evening than having to make multiple decisions for multiple people — and as moms, and for many of us as household managers, we face decision-making overload ALL. DARN. DAY. If you’re easily distracted, like me, it doesn’t help the goal of getting to bed on time, and it only gets worse when we’re tired. So a routine is oh-so-helpful in that it allows your steps to be more automatic (although not robotic) and prevents a lot of in-the-moment decision making. It also sends signals to your body that we’re winding down, we’re getting ready to sleep. A HUGE bonus is that routines are very helpful to children. They are comforting, especially in times of chaos or stress, or when Mum’s upset or Dad’s upset or both parents are upset. Routines signal that things are normal, and for children, there’s great comfort in normal. If you need to, you can add a timer, or you and your family can divvy up evening tasks. I use a timer only when my daughter is getting ready for bed, mostly so that she’ll become more self-sufficient, and also so that I can get what I need to get done to get to bed myself. Right now she has the 2 short sessions, but we’re going to transition into her having a full 20 minutes of getting-ready-for-bed time, so that I can have a full 20 minutes of cleaning up and organizing time. I’m an introvert and I’m easily distracted, so that quiet time helps to keep the peace, and to get to me to bed before 11:00 on most nights.

Transition from the Day

When possible, and if you find yourself tense and stressed at the end of the day, it’s ideal to do some small grounding act for yourself to transition from the day before heading into dinner, family and bedtime. If you can avoid allowing the intense pressures of the day from continuing to build and/or overflow, your evening will flow much more smoothly. Think: slower is faster. For me, it’s a quick hot shower by candlelight with a meditation playing in the background. It only takes me 15 minutes, but it is crucial to dissipating the stress from the work day…(and I have allergies, so more about that in another post). I wish I could just sit and meditate separate from my shower, but…I ain’t got time for that. Our baths and showers center around making or heating up dinner, and who goes first depends on what time we get home and what’s for dinner. What we do is usually the same when we get home, but often how we do it fluctuates. When we are able, we do meditate together, but that’s new and has yet to become routine. In days gone by, when we lived overseas and I had more leisure time, the Goose and I would do something together, like walk along the river, go on a bike ride, or go to the cafe/bar/playground, but time is a luxury we just don’t have here. That being said, when she was a wee toddler and I needed to shower before bed (because living in the tropics), I was able to put her in the pack-and-play while she Skyped with my mom in the hallway — virtual babysitter (don’t report me to the authorities).

Strive to Sleep at the Same Time Each Night

There’s not much to say about this one, other than that routine and biology play really well together. It’s not one I follow because the time I set my alarm for varies based on what time I go to bed, and the fact that I need at least 6 hours of sleep (although I am now aiming for a 6.5-hour minimum), but I will work toward it. However, I do strive for the Goose to go to bed and awake at the same time. There’s a big difference when she gets 9.5 hours of sleep versus 10. Her ideal sleep and wake times are 8:30 pm and 6:45 am, while mine are 10:00 pm and 5:00 am.For weekends, with the exception of teenagers, it is recommend that you do not sleep in too much. (Biologically, teenagers’ sleep schedules shift to a later sleep cycle). Personally, I try not to sleep longer that 1 or 2 hours more than the weekdays or 8:00AM at the latest, if I went to bed really late.

Purposefully Relax Before Bed

There are some people, like my mother, who just can just fall asleep anytime, anywhere. I am not one of those people. I will ruminate, and grind my teeth, and awake thinking about the thing….If you are like me, it’s best to purposefully relax before bed. That could be for only 5, 10 or 15 minutes. Color, journal, meditate, do a progressive relaxation, a body scan, yoga, or some other form of gentle stretching. On a side note, straightening the house for 15 minutes has been proven to reduce anxiety, so if you too don’t want to worry about infestations as you’re lying there trying to sleep, there’s that. One activity I find particularly satisfying is writing a gratitude list before bed. It leaves my mind on something positive before I drift off to sleep, and reminds me that I was not a complete failure that day.

Don’t go to Bed Angry or Anxious

This is very personal, so I won’t digress too much. BUT, for a lot of us it’s our minds that keep us awake at night, not our bodies. If you are married or partnered, you may want to seek someone else’s advice on this one, because mine is limited to this: It’s OK to table an argument. If excess emotion or thinking does keep you up, try to channel it before heading to the bedroom. THE BED IS FOR SLEEPING (and intimacy), which we’ll cover another time.

Write it Out

It takes 5-15 minutes to write out any frustrations or transmit any pain so as not to ruminate ALL. NIGHT. LONG. There are lots of techniques out there expounding on the benefits of expressive writing in the evening before bed, and if necessary upon waking. The goal is to write down everything that comes to your mind — including all the curse words — usually the negative events and thoughts you are overthinking. One strategy is to then rip up the pages when you’re done and throw them away (this pertains to a theory about chronic pain and retraining our brains), while the other suggests that once you write for 5 minutes, you then review it to see if there are any takeaways you can use. If I need to do this, I do it with a cup of tea, while listening to meditative music, after cleaning up the kitchen, and before I wash-up and start my bedtime yoga routine.


Create Calm

The hours before bedtime should be all about calm. While that’s not always possible, creating that environment as a habit will allow you to ease into bedtime mode more quickly, even if you have been out or up late. It’s the cues you send to your body that it’s time for peace and rest that matter, and each household will have their own way of doing that.

We're in the mood for better bedtime routines, so we're highlighting how to keep home cool, calm and collected with these sleep hygiene tips.

The cozy corner is a great place for Goose to read, relax or meditate in the evening. Fairy lights (or plain old Christmas lights) help to warm up the room.

We're in the mood for better bedtime routines, so we're highlighting how to keep home cool, calm and collected with these sleep hygiene tips.

Himalayan Salt Lamps warm up the atmosphere and keep the rooms low-key at night. If possible, 5 minutes to breathe or meditate or just sit can ease tensions that have built up over the day.

Harness the Sleep Hormones

The number one most important hormone for sound sleep is melatonin. It signals darkness, not sleep, so it should be taken around the same time as the sun sets, or as a compromise time for those of us living in time zones with time changes. I am not recommending anyone take melatonin who doesn’t need it. Most people with a relatively healthy body and lifestyle will be receiving melatonin cues at all the right times. But, if you do need to take it, look for USP verified Melatonin, which should not contain a lot of additives. It’s good to keep in mind that histamine is a waking hormone (so antihistamines at night) and tryptophan (in milk and in turkey) really do help you sleep. Serotonin plays a roll as well.

Keep the Lights Low & Warm

After sunset it’s best to avoid bright and blue light. Blue light is found everywhere in our natural environment, most notably from the sun. It also comes from computers, phones, TVs and other electronic devices. However, it suppresses melatonin and signals wakefulness, thus exposure to blue light at night pushes your sleep cycle later. If you’re unable or don’t desire to give up blue light at night altogether, most newer devices allow you to switch to Night Shift so that the light from your deceive is warmer. You can also add a blue light filter to your screen or to a pair of computer glasses (or the glasses you already own). In terms of bright light, it’s a good idea to switch to lamps instead of overhead light in the evenings. LCD light bulbs also contain blue light, so if possible, try those that are coated to provide a warmer glow. What we can’t control, unfortunately, is the time the sun sets. That extra hour on the clock during Daylight Savings Time affects not only the amount of sunlight we receive in the evening, but it also affects our circadian rhythms. It’s a personal choice whether you want to combat that evening sunlight by heading indoors or closing your blinds. Candles at the dinner table and in the kitchen, will warm up the atmosphere, and a Himalayan salt lamps near your home office or in the bedrooms will likely increase negative ions. Those funky, boho-looking lamps reduce excess allergens and positive ions from microwaves, computers and chargers, all while adding to a cozy and relaxing mood.

Include Calming Herbs

Two herbs that compliment bedtime really well are lavender and valerian. Personally, I don’t give the Goose any herbs to imbibe unless she’s drinking an herbal tea that’s recommended for children, but I myself love a cup of tea in the evening. While living in Dubai, I would enjoy a mug of Valerian tea while soaking in the tub, but only on nights when I knew I’d be able to sleep for over 8 hours (British grocery stores meant better/stronger tea). Now I like to have a cup of hot tea while sitting down to make my to-do list or to “write-it-out” (see below) I’ve found that any teas with Valerian in them that I’ve tried stateside do not prevent me from waking up after 6 or 7 hours of sleep, but that likely differs for everyone.

Avoid Aerobic Exercise within 3 Hours of Sleep

Aerobic exercise is great for you, but it’s also likely to wake you up — that goes for any strenuous activity such as packing or rearranging furniture. I can’t advise you about sex, because, well it just hasn’t been on my radar in awhile, ha!, so I don’t know…however, it’s unlikely that it’s bad for sleep. If you have time though, physical exertion after work or before dinner is a great idea, and can really allow you to release any tension buildup from the day. Bike commuting to or from work counts, too. When I worked remotely, I would walk the 2 miles to my daughter’s preschool just to transition, and I also tried some fun aerobics at home, like a salsa or belly dancing workout DVD. If it fits your budget and you have childcare coverage, hitting the gym, or pilates or yoga studio is also a fantastic option.

Engage in Quiet Activities

Activities such as coloring, knitting, journaling and reading are excellent for after dinner or before bedtime. I’ll admit that I am not an expert here because Goose and I have only about 2 hours from the time we get home until she needs to be in bed, so her time for activities is limited. When we do have an early evening, I really enjoy just cuddling with her at bedtime, or reading a longer book or more books. This is also a great time to listen to kids, because of course bedtime is exactly when they want to start talking. A phenomenal educator I know says let them talk, even if it’s past bedtime, because that’s what we want them to do with us when they older.


Stay Cool

We're in the mood for better bedtime routines, so we're highlighting how to keep home cool, calm and collected with these sleep hygiene tips.

If you’re not into making your own bath salts or oils, and epsom salts don’t cut it for you, bath bombs are fun way to create a spa-like atmosphere.

Create a Temperature Drop

For years and years we’ve heard that taking a hot bath will help us fall asleep. It will, but not for the reasons we think. It’s not the relaxation that lulls us into dreamtime, it is in fact the decrease in temperature that occurs after the increase cause by the hot bath. A drop in our body temperature helps us fall asleep, which is one of the reasons experts recommend we sleep in cold rooms (around 68 degrees). It’s up to you how you want to work this into your home life – this is definitely a matter of personal or family preference, but here are some suggestions.

  • Hot Bath — I rarely have time for a hot bath unless Goose is away, and if I do try to squeeze it in on a Sunday night, I almost always get to bed later than I’d like. After all, if you’re using all that water, you want to stay and hang out for awhile. Light some candles, add a bath bomb, some epsom salts or some essential oils, and enjoy. For that extra sauna-like effect, use a space heater and/or some incense. Meditate, read, exfoliate, whatever. I know most of you are already thinking “I ain’t got time for that,” but I predict that the authors of If You’re in My Office, It’s Already Too Late: A Divorce Lawyer’s Guide to Staying Together would tell you that is a great time to negotiate individual nights without the kids, and if you don’t want to spend that out with your girlfriends, you could use it for a spa night at home.
  • Drop the thermostat — There are some people who prefer to go to sleep in a warm room — most of them wake up in the middle night sweating (even without an alcohol binge), and waking up is something you definitely want to avoid. You can either drop the temperature gradually throughout the evening (I do turn the thermostat down first when my daughter goes to bed, again when I do my nightly yoga, and then finally right before I get into bed). If you can’t stand the thought of being cold and you have a programmable thermostat, even better, and if you can control your A/C with a remote, then that’s fantastic, too. In the winter, it’s recommended that you turn the heat way down (more than I can bear). If you’re committed to that and can’t program your thermostat, I suggest keeping some “cozy clothes” right next to your bed to throw on before you get out to crank the heat back up (and maybe turn on a space heater in the bathroom).

Aim to Stay Cool Through the Night

Sleep in cotton pajamas. Silk is probably fine, too (and lovely), but polyester and most other synthetic materials are likely to have you waking up sweating…and you really want to avoid waking up in the middle of the night. REALLY. Sleeping nude is also fine, and if you have a partner is also, apparently very good for health, so there’s that. How many blankets and how much they weigh are something to consider, and sticking to cotton or silk sheets is a good rule of thumb as well.

Embrace Darkness

If I haven’t mentioned yet that darkness is essential for cuing sleep in the body, I’ll harp on that here. Keeping the lights low, taking melatonin at the right time, reducing screen time, using a sleep mask, and (f you choose) room-darkening curtains are all strategies to signal to your body that it’s time to get organized for sleep. Some sleep experts even wrap a towel around their head at night over a sleep mask. They recommend no nightlights and compete, pitch black.

  1. Melatonin – Again, I am not a doctor. If you need to take to take melatonin, keep in mind that it signals darkness, not sleep. You should be taking it in time for your body to get organized for sleep or when the sun would normally go down. I believe it’s recommended to take it for no more than 2 weeks consecutively. I take mine year-round to combat the effects of Daylight Savings Time, but I have extreme needs for regulating my circadian rhythms.
  2. Tea – A cup of herbal tea can be very relaxing in the evening. To avoid frequent nightwaking or overtaxing the body before bed, you don’t want to do this too close to bedtime. Some experts recommend no later than 8:00 for liquids if going to bed at 11:00.
  3. Magnesium – If you have to take magnesium (and there’s not reason to take it if you medically don’t), that’s a good one to take in the evening. It is not a sleep aid, but it can help with sleep.
  4. Epsom SaltsEpsom salts are magnesium sulfate, which aids in muscle relaxation. Adding them to a bath in the evening has a lovely effect, and it helps with detoxification. You can mix with baking soda, essential oils, herbs, tea, or even milk and honey.
  5. Essential Oils – In addition to adding them to a bath or using them in the shower, you can add essential oils to a bottle of vinegar with a little bit of water as a cleaning solution. Use it on your kitchen counters in the evenings, as a refresher for the bath tub or every few months to disinfect your mattresses (with a calming scent of course). They’re also great to rub on temples for headaches or feet for cold symptoms.
  6. Bath Bombs – So simple. Throw a bath bomb in your hot bath, and you’ve got frothy ambiance at the ready. No need to make your own.
  7. Blue light-blocking glasses – If you need to be on your computer or phone after sunset, a pair of blue light-blocking glasses will help to avoid the false message that it’s time to wake up. If you work on the computer all day, your eye doctor can help ensure your prescription has all the anti-glare, and UV- and blue light-blocking it needs.
  8. Himalayan Salt Lamp – Himalayan salt lamps near your home office or in the bedrooms will likely increase negative ions (good for your mood), as well as create a warm cozy glow.
  9. Non-toxic candlesCandles at the dinner table and in the kitchen, will warm up the atmosphere, and they’re also fantastic for evening showers or baths. Avoid those that are too heavy with synthetic fragrances when possible.

The key to good sleep hygiene is not only getting to bed on time ready to sleep, but also to stay asleep throughout the night. Nighttime waking is going to happen: we have kids, they wet the bed; we are older, we have anxiety; we’ve had babies, we need to pee; we hear noises, we have to check on the kids. It all happens. Our goal is to reduce the number of times it happens. We’re not striving for perfect, we’re aiming for better. So, keeping whatever you might need throughout the night within an arm’s length is essential. That being said, if you do have to get up, you want to keep things dark — a reading lamp within reach, a nightlight or fairy lights in the kids’ rooms, nightlights in the bathroom (or just stumble around in the dark, if you’re comfortable).

Nighttime Necessities For Mama

  1. Cotton PJs – The key to staying cool is a) sleeping in breathable fabrics, or b)sleeping nude. Sleep in cotton pajamas is a is preference. Silk is fine, too (and lovely), but polyester and other synthetic materials are likely to have you waking up sweating. I love these cotton PJs. They’re so light and comfy they’re barely noticeable. Apparently, linen and rayon (made from wood pulp) are suitable choices, too.
  2. Sleep Mask –  I love the one pictured, and am ordering it now. This is the one I have, which ironically I couldn’t find for about 30 minutes last night when it was time to go bed. That reminded me that I like to have two around, so that my sleep hygiene tools don’t actually become a reason I miss out on much-needed zzzz. 
  3. Moisturizer – It’s a pain in the tuchus to have to have to get up after climbing into bed simply because your hands are dry. I keep this Trader Joe’s Head to Toe Moisturizing Balm in multiple places, most importantly in my nightstand drawer. It doesn’t leave a lot of residue, so you can still read without leaving spots everywhere. If you can’t find it because it’s out of stock, this lotion doesn’t get too greasy either.
  4. Foot Cream – I’m happy to also use Trader Joe’s Head to Toe Moisturizing Balm on my feet, but I also like Burt’s Bees Coconut Foot Cream, especially in summer when I’m be wearing open-toed shoes a lot.
  5.  A Good Book – Good old fashioned reading…Cozying up with a engaging story at bedtime never gets old. Again, if you’re an over-thinker, you want something that will take you far from your worries, and for many people, fiction will do that. I read Little Fires Everywhere this summer…so freaking good, I can’t recommend it enough.
  6.  Bedside Lamp – A good reading lamp next to your bed is essential. We got a set with dimmers when Goose a baby, which is awesome both for turning up to read before bed, and for turning down low to change diapers or whatever.
  7. Water – A carafe or a glass of water bedside is a great idea. For those of you who get thirsty, you don’t want to have to walk all the way into the kitchen or turn up all the lights if you don’t have to. However, it is recommended not to drink too close to bedtime, so having water on-hand when you first awake for rehydration is essential.
  8.  Journal – Some people find journaling before bed essential to reducing mental clutter. I find that it’s more romantic to have a pretty journal I love, and before bed I pretty much just stick to a gratitude list. Writing it out happens outside the bedroom for me.
  9. Yoga mat – If you’re going to do yoga before bed, and you’re not a yogahead and don’t have a mat already, it might be best to go for lightweight travel mat. I keep one in my carry-on so that when I travel, I can take my routines with me.

Nighttime Necessities For Kids

  1. Cotton PJs – I love Sara’s Prints: they don’t have flame retardants in them (so they should fit snugly). If you’re ready for winter, these long john pjs in organic cotton are on sale.
  2. Sleep mask: This sleep mask is super-cute, handmade and 100% cotton. It’s in my cart. I suggest avoiding any with velcro closures since those can get caught in hair easily.
  3. Tissue – Both Mama and the kids need tissue throughout the night, especially when suffering through a cold or allergy season. This set has fun themes for kids if you’re not boring like me and only get the recycled kind.
  4. Moisturizer – We use Honest All-Purpose Balm on Goose’s hands on winter nights, but I also found this Badger Balm with lavender and chamomile (another relaxing herb) that looks delicious as well.
  5. Bedtime Stories Harry Potter is great for adults too — unless his challenges come too close to yours.
  6. A calming routine – I won’t tell you what your child’s calming routine should be — It can a bath, deep breathing, the bedtime story, meditation or whatever. If you’re into yoga or you want your kid to be, this book has a lovely yoga routine/bedtime story, and then a cozy cloud visualization at the end. LOVE.
  7. Water – Water first-thing in the morning can be really refreshing, especially for young kids who sleep hot. A ball jar with a straw and a lid is a kid-friendly way to manage that. Goose loves her “special” glasses.
  8. A Lovey – Many young children still find their security blanket or lovey comforting. We recommend soft, not too furry, and easily washable — oh, and when you find the right one for your baby or toddler, get multiples of it.
  9. Nightlights!– You definitely need nightlights in the bathroom for any kids not comfortable stumbling around in the dark. If they can avoid turning on the lights when they go wee during the wee hours, all the better. I keep one in my bathroom too.

We're in the mood for better bedtime routines, so we're highlighting how to keep home cool, calm and collected with these sleep hygiene tips.

There was actually a time, well about a decade, when I thought that 3 hours of sleep was acceptable. In high school, some guy — and I believed him, because, well, he was a guy and I probably had a crush on him — said that the brain only needed 3 hours of sleep to function and that our bodies just liked the extra rest. It turns out that our bodies do like the rest, and in fact they need it. Not only that, if they don’t get that rest, and if they don’t their jobs of detoxing our organs, it’s unlikely our brains will function well regardless (more on that in our next post). Babies need roughly 12-17 hours of sleep; kids need roughly 9-13 hours of sleep; teens need 8-10 hours of sleep; and adults need 7-9 hours of sleep. I’m striving for 7 y’all, and it’s the struggle of a lifetime.

I am living proof of why it’s essential to help your children (and yourself and your family) establish a healthy before bed routine right now. Take it from me — I was the kid who didn’t sleep well at night, and I became the teenager who didn’t sleep much at night, who became the young adult who barely slept at night, who developed into the deeply sleep-deprived grownup with an autoimmune disorder. I don’t want that happening to my kid, so I view sleep as the best preventative measure for her well-being. (And I’m a much better, less cranky mum when I get enough sleep, too).

Think of it as your oxygen mask. Put that sucker on yourself first, and then put it on your child.

Sweet dreams. xo,
Alexis

PS – We’ll get into more science of sleep, including what to do during the day to improve your sleep at night, what to do when you do wake up way too soon, how to recover from a poor night of sleep, and how food and drinks affect your sleep in the follow-up post.

Share.

About Author

Alexis is our resident nerd and watchful editor. In addition to styling our syntax and fact-checking brand capitalization (ahem, rag & bone, and [BLANKNYC]), she’s also whipping up editorial guidelines, strategizing social media and conjuring up new projects. With her own personal style (boots, dresses, scarves), she doesn’t consider herself a fashionista, but she is keeping us #well #woke #sustainable #empathetic #inclusive #current, #down-to-earth and #open-minded; her wisdom ranges from yoga home practice and Feng Shui-ing an apartment, to living overseas and momming while black. As the single mother of an extrovert, she, like Julieta, often ‘forgets’ to come out of the bathroom.

6 Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing such a thorough overview. I too am a lifelong bad sleeper and needed this reminder about sleep hygiene. Your comment about being a teenager who rearranged furniture in the wee hours of the night made me laugh- I thought I was the only one who did that. I feel so seen, ha. Have a good night!

    • Alexis L. Richardson on

      Thank you for sharing Megan! I feel like I’m in good company now. It’s funny, my stepmom says she feels like sometimes she comes home to a brand new house because my dad is frequently rearranging the furniture…maybe it’s partially genetic :-). Be well. xo

  2. REading about keeping our evenings calm, cool, and collected and winding down…….while both my kids chase eachother shrieking around the kitchen-livingroom roundabout. Yeah, we definitely need some of that here!

    • Alexis L. Richardson on

      Hahaha! I actually meant to put in the post that it’s fine to have kids running around chasing each other as long as the lights are low :-). Working is different because it could stimulate the stress hormone cortisol, which is a waking hormone or adrenaline, which makes it harder to sleep. But play is likely to facilitate the feel-good hormones, and the benefits of that likely outweigh the risks of rowdy behavior :-). Plus, kids are resilient. I wish my Goose had someone to run around the house with at night, but we do dance together sometimes after dinner:-). It’s probably more important for mom not to be overwhelmed by stress and tension in the evening than the kids – after all, “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy”. xo

  3. hi Alexis, I really enjoyed your comprehensive Sleep Hygiene article and hearing your personal story. I wanted to add something to address insomnia or sleep struggles: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I).
    I had horrible chronic insomnia for 4 years. I was averaging about 5 hours of poor quality sleep per night. I was taking Ambien nightly for 2 of those years. I tried EVERYTHING…literally EVERYTHING. I was already a very physically healthy person with a very healthy diet and regular exercise. I tried talk therapy, acupuncture, vitamins, herbs, teas, yoga, sleep hygiene, CBD oil, eating certain foods before bed, diet changes, I’m sure I’m forgetting some things here! SO FRUSTRATING. Nothing worked until I stumbled upon 8 sessions of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia.
    I’ve been sleeping 7-9 hours a night ever since, no sleep meds. I’m a psychotherapist and I’m so inspired by this personal change (that literally gave me my life back). I am now trained in CBT-I and offering this type of work in my own practice. It’s so exciting to see patients who have struggled with sleep for years and years retrain their brain to sleep again in 5-8 sessions. Its pretty awesome!

    • Alexis L. Richardson on

      Thank you, Stephanie! This was wonderful — and serendipitous. Just hours before you posted this, I signed up for an Insight Timer course for changing my relationship with sleep — it’s from a yoga and meditation teacher, so it’s not the same as CBT, but I like the idea of changing one’s relationship with sleep. Anyway, I’m adding your suggestion into the follow-up post. Thanks again! xo

Leave a Reply