Forty percent of Americans are classified as sleep-deprived. As a family wellness practitioner, I can tell you that this number holds true in our own community.
How important are those extra two hours of sleep you are not getting? The consequences of not enough sleep can, in fact, be dire. While most people don’t give a second thought about sleep and whether they are getting enough of it, the effects of sleep deprivation can have serious and-long lasting side effects. Poor sleep habits can also contribute to unnecessary stress in the household.
Get to bed earlier
If a child does not wake up easily and with energy each morning, this could indicate they are not getting enough quality sleep. This will affect their personality, their learning and their health, in general. When children are tired they cannot concentrate, learn tasks or play sports well, and they crave sugary foods that leave them prone to dietary imbalances, just like adults.
As parents we often miss our child’s “tired cues,” and we have great difficulty trying to put them to bed when their brain has moved into fifth gear. If your child consistently wakes up tired or is sluggish in the morning, try getting them to bed an hour earlier for a period of time and watch how this can transform grumpy or emotional behavior.
Over the years, I have learned that a set routine for dinner and bedtime makes life easier for everyone. This means aiming to feed children early, well before they are tired. Plan an ideal time for bed, and give yourself plenty of time for baths and the reading of evening books, etc. Some nights, you will be able to have long, luxurious baths, and other nights, you will need to be a drill sergeant.
It is a good idea to limit the number of late nights that children have in a week. With social, school and family activities, bedtimes can gradually become later and later for older children; however, sleep requirements remain just as vital for teenagers as when they are younger. It turns out that teenagers actually need more sleep than in their younger years.
Good lifestyle habits are the first step to getting a good night’s sleep. Try the following:
• Consider your intake of stimulants (coffee, tea, chocolate), stimulating herbs (ephedra, guarana), marijuana, over-the-counter and prescription medications, your alcohol consumption and sugar intake.
• Avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol late in the day. Caffeine and nicotine are stimulants and can keep you from falling asleep. Alcohol can cause waking in the night and interferes with sleep quality.
• Ensure you have a comfortable supportive mattress and pillow.
• Exercise at least 30 minutes a day, but avoid high-intensity physical exercise just before bedtime — If exercising in the evening, try to do so at least two to three hours before going to sleep.
• Follow a routine to help relax and wind down before sleep, such as reading a book, listening to music or taking a bath.
• If you can’t fall asleep and don’t feel drowsy, get up and read or do something that is not overly stimulating until you feel sleepy. Try meditation or relaxation techniques. Try some essential oils such as lavender in a diffuser.
• Try to go to sleep at the same time each night and get up at the same time each morning. Try not to take naps during the day because naps may make you less sleepy at night.
• Get checked by a recommended chiropractor — Chiropractic care may ease and assist with chronic sleep problems.
• Don’t eat a heavy meal late in the day. A light snack before bedtime, however, may help you sleep.
• Stress-related sleeping disorders might result in teeth grinding, which, in turn, can cause headaches. Sleeping with a dental night guard will eliminate grinding and its effects and potentially assist with the process of sleep.
• Eliminate any “white noise” in your room — Turn off television and other loud electrical appliances.
Make your sleeping place comfortable. Be sure that it is dark, quiet and not too warm or too cold.
If light is a problem, try a sleeping mask; if noise is a problem, try earplugs.
• Adopt a healthy posture in bed — Don’t sleep on your stomach because it puts unnecessary pressure on your neck, due to the twisting of your head; it also strains your lower back.
Lying on your back and side are the best sleeping positions. When lying on your side, try placing a pillow between your upper knee and the bed for support. When sleeping on your back, try placing a pillow under your knees to help reduce the strain on your lower back.
DR. NATE CLEM is a chiropractor specializing in pediatrics and family wellness at Discovery Wellness Center (www.discoverywellnesscenter.com). To comment on this column, write to QAMagNews@nwlink.com.