Hello Rise Family!
For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Katie Keller, and I am a Rise parent as well as an integrative family physician here in Austin. When I was asked to write about sleep for the Rise blog, I had to chuckle to myself, because my little one woke up at 4 am earlier that morning. You can have all the information in the world, and sometimes life just happens!
So, on that note, the first thing I would like to stress, is that sleep patterns can change. Especially with transitions like starting a new school year, travelling, or illness. What can you do to minimize the negative effects of these bumps in sleep pattern? You can make sure you and your children don’t have much Sleep-debt. If you and your family are practicing good sleep-hygiene (see tips below) and getting overall quality sleep, you are actually filling up your “sleep bank,” and can more easily tolerate a few rough nights. With chronic suboptimal sleep and limited length of sleep, the “sleep bank” gets drained (sleep debt), and those rough nights can cause more problems. That brings me to my next point.
Make Sleep a Priority!
When I discuss the pillars of health with my patients of all ages, sleep is part of that foundation, along with food, movement, and stress (encompasses connection, community, and relationships). Sleep is often overlooked, but it is extremely important for everyone in the family.
How much sleep do we need?
The most recent recommendations from the National Sleep Foundation are as follows:
Newborns (0-3 months): 14-17 hours
Infants (4-11 months): 12-15 hours
Toddlers (1-2 years):11-14 hours
Preschoolers (3-5):10-13 hours
School age children (6-13):9-11 hours
Teenagers (14-17):8-10 hours
Adults (18-64):7-9 hours
Older adults (65+): Sleep range is 7-8 hours
With our toddlers and preschoolers at Rise, there is a recommended range of 10 to 14 hours. It can sometimes be confusing to know what is right for your child within that range. If your child is getting the lower end of the recommended sleep hours (naps count towards the total number), and thriving, then don’t stress about it. If they are at the lower end and throwing more tantrums, crying more than usual, falling asleep at mealtime, or any other unusual behavior, they may need more sleep. For us adults, if you have suboptimal energy, mood, or focus, you may need to bump up your sleep hours as well.
You should always consult with your doctor, but here are a few easy things to work on for now:
If needed, make adjustments in increments. If you feel you or your child needs to move sleep times, it is best to alter that time by only 15-minute increments. You would use that new ‘bedtime’ for 4-5 nights to get comfortable with the new schedule and then shave off another 15 minutes. This is helpful when transitioning from your summer sleep schedule to the school year sleep schedule or when approaching daylight savings changes.
Establish consistent sleep and wake schedules, even on weekends. Our bodies have an internal clock or circadian rhythm, and our sleep quality improves when we stick to a schedule. Try to stay within an hour of normal sleep and wake times. And, try to get early morning sunlight exposure to set that rhythm. Just a quick step outside first thing in morning will do the trick. Maybe check out the sunrise with your littles for a few minutes.
Maintain a regular relaxing bedtime routine. This should be a predictable series of events that trigger our brains to get ready for sleep. Soak in the tub, brush teeth, 2 books, and 1 song. Or for adults, you could add a soothing foot soak with Epsom salts to your nightly routine to help wind down and let your brain know it’s time for rest. Whatever routine you choose, keep it regular, and you will see the benefits.
Keep the lights low. In the hours leading up to bedtime, lights should be low. If we are exposed to bright lights in the evening, it suppresses our melatonin production and makes it harder to fall asleep, for both children and adults. Use dimmers on the overhead lights, or a soft lamp. Limit screen time in the evening, or at least turn the night setting on. If you really want to go all out, you can buy blue light blocking glasses to wear in the evening.
Create a sleep-conducive environment. The bedroom should be dark, quiet, comfortable, and cool. Make sure the temperature is not too hot, as that can disrupt sleep. If noise is an issue, you can use a white noise machine. Blackout curtains help keep that outdoor ambient light from disrupting our melatonin. Make sure your child’s and your own bed are comfortable. We don’t want something like unnecessary pain or discomfort waking us up. Invest in a good bed. We spend about a 1/3 of our entire life in it!
Lastly, Exercise! Children and adults need regular activity and movement. Try to make sure that you and your children are doing something active every day, so your body is worn out and ready for sleep. Our kiddos get lots of activity at school, but on the weekends, try to fit in at least one “gross motor” activity. Go for a walk, dance, run around in circles…anything to get those bodies moving!
Sleep well my friends,
Dr. Katie Keller