It’s school time again and for young families especially, tight schedules once again rule. Whether young, adult, or a senior, the age-old challenge is getting enough good sleep.
Young moms and dads face the biggest challenge. We asked one experienced local mom who’s also a nurse, Stefanie Crawford Farris, how she and her husband Dustin assure that their four children, Peyton, age 3, Talin 9, Aliva 10 and Keegan age 12, stick to a reasonable schedule.
“On school nights at our house, we start our nighttime routine of shower, brushing teeth, getting clothes out for the next day, etc. around 8pm and try to get them all to bed by 8:30. Because of sports practices or games lasting until 8pm some nights, we just rush home and do the best we can. Unfortunately, Peyton being 3, is pretty much on the same schedule because of sports practices that keep us away from the house most evenings.”
Stefanie’s older children are up again at 6:30, allowing the grumpy three year old to sleep until they’re out the door by 7:25 to school, work, and the little one going to grandma’s. That’s a good eight to ten hours if all goes well.
Kids Need More Sleep
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that, even for your older children, getting eight hours of sleep is probably not adequate. The younger your child is, the more sleep they need. Infants may spend more than half their day asleep (including naps) — a welcome respite for tired parents and much needed time for the infants’ mental and physical development.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends:
- Infants 4 to 12 months: 12 to 16 hours (including naps)
- Kids 1 to 2 years: 11 to 14 hours (including naps)
- Kids 3 to 5 years: 10 to 13 hours (including naps)
- Kids 6 to 12 years: 9 to 12 hours
- Teens: 8 to 10 hours
Sleep is especially important for children as it directly impacts mental and physical development. When children meet the adequate number of sleep hours for their age on a regular basis, they’re likely to see benefits; including better behavior, attention span, learning, memory, emotional regulation, and overall quality of life.
Different Types of Sleep
Not all sleep is the same! While sleeping we drift between REM and Non-REM sleep throughout the night.
1) Rapid Eye Movement (REM) or “active” sleep. During REM sleep, our brains are active and dreaming occurs. Our bodies become immobile, breathing and heart rates are irregular.
2) Non-Rapid Eye Movement (NREM) or “quiet” sleep. During the deep states of NREM sleep, blood supply to the muscles is increased, energy is restored, tissue growth and repair occur, and important hormones are released for growth and development.
And throughout the day, our internal circadian biological clocks regulate the timing of periods of sleepiness and wakefulness. The circadian rhythm dips and rises at different times of the day, so adults’ strongest sleep drive generally occurs between 2:00-4:00 am and in the afternoon between 1:00-3:00 pm, although there is some variation depending on whether you are a morning person or evening person.
The circadian rhythm also causes us to feel more alert at certain points of the day. Knowing your circadian rhythm can help help you plan your day around when you are most alert, and sleepiest. The sleepiness we experience during these circadian dips will be more intense when our sleep bank is empty.
More information about keeping your sleep bank full: https://www.health.harvard.edu/womens-health/repaying-your-sleep-debt
Do You Need Extra Sleep?
A good night’s sleep can make a big difference in how you feel during the day. Here are the signs that you might need more sleep:
- Need a stimulant like coffee to wake up or get going
- Feel down, irritable, or tense after not getting enough sleep
- Have poor short-term memory
- Have a hard time staying focused and productive after sitting for awhile
If you’re able to get enough sleep but still don’t feel refreshed in the morning, discuss the problem with your doctor or with our pharmacists. Many common medical conditions, from depression to sleep apnea (the condition in which breathing pauses during sleep), could be responsible, or some medications might be interfering.
Tips for Better Sleep
- Create a sleep sanctuary. Reserve it for sleep and other restful activities, like pleasure reading and meditation. Keep it on the cool side. Banish electronics from that space.
- Nap only if necessary. Napping an hour or two at the peak of sleepiness in the afternoon can help to supplement hours missed at night, but naps can also interfere with your ability to sleep at night and throw your sleep schedule off.
- Get plenty of natural light during the day.
- Avoid caffeine after noon, and go light on alcohol.
- Get regular exercise, but not within three hours of bedtime.
- Develop a bedtime routine to remind your body it’s time to wind down. This can include making some decaf tea, reading, and staying off your phone, TV, or other bright electronic screens.
If you are truly not getting enough sleep, but aren’t sure why, see your doctor or a sleep disorders specialist. We’re fortunate to have a local sleep lab right here at the hospital in Brady. The Heart of Texas Healthcare System operates a sleep lab for the diagnosis and management of sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, insomnia and restless leg syndrome.
For details on how their sleep lab works, visit: https://www.heartoftexashealthcare.org/services/sleeplab.php
Every Living Creature Needs Sleep
Each adult, child, and animal needs to find what works best for their dynamic and overall function — there is not a one-size-fits-all solution to sleep. Even “a decent hour” is defined differently in different families, cultures, and situations. We could all be better at prioritizing sleep health for our children, and that starts with prioritizing it for the entire family, especially the grown-ups, whose behavior provides a life-long model for their children.