You’re Getting Very Sleepy… 

There’s a reason why they call NYC The City that Never Sleeps. When my husband and I lived there a few years ago, we both had grueling schedules that required the occasional all-nighter from me, and what seemed like weekly ones from my husband. If he wasn’t pulling all-nighters, he’d consistently work 18 or 19 or 20 hour work days – often equaling to 115+ hours a week, lots of stress, and very little sleep.

He was lucky to have a supporting wife (not to toot my own horn ;)) and a stable family that he visited several times (only because he worked on a deal near his hometown…) but other than that it is a miracle he was still sane at the end of those 2 sleep-deprived years from banking hell. Throughout the whole ordeal, we often wondered if it was worth it to finish out the 2 years (the length of his work-program) and feel, sluggish, unhealthy, tired, irritable, and zombie-like day in and day out. I’m telling you, sleep deprivation does quite a number on your body. And he wasn’t the only one feeling the effects of little shut eye; a 2015 NY Times article chronicled the suicide of 2 young bankers – most likely due to stress and substance abuse in efforts to have more energy – as well as the effects of sleep deprivation on two other young men: 

Around that time, another Goldman first-year analyst in the health care group who had worked 72 hours straight was hospitalized after having a seizure. {….} Two years before, Moritz Erhardt, a 21-year-old investment banking intern at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, died after having an epileptic seizure while he was taking a shower to prepare to return to the office after working the previous 72 hours without sleeping.

The thing is, you don’t need to work 72 hours straight for the physical, emotional, behavioral, and mental effects of lack of sleep to become evident. Just a partial night of sleep significantly reduces the amount of white blood cells in your body – the very same cells that fight disease. Similarly, a 2015 study found that children with ADHD who responded to a sleep intervention, and thus had improved sleep, had a decrease in their ADHD symptoms and better behavior, functioning, and quality of life. It’s easy to see the role that sleep has in your and your kiddo’s mental health when you note how many mental illnesses list sleep disruptions as symptoms – and that the same sleep problems can contribute to those (and other) mental illnesses as well.

Now, take all of this information and think about how it affects our little growing sprouts. This is why it’s crucial to establish habits early on that can help our little ones (and you!!) fall and stay asleep as long as their growing bodies and minds need it. Try the following tips to get this important feat accomplished; none of this is revolutionary and I’m sure you’ve heard it before, so use this review of the info to add to or begin better sleep habits for you and your little ones (believe me, this night-owl sure is!):

Sleep Hygiene/Bedtime Routines: One of the most popular things I helped parents and their children with when interning and working at mental health centers was to help them establish bedtime routines. It sounds like common sense, but don’t underestimate the power of habit-forming routines- there’s a reason why this is one of the most suggested sleep-aids. A simple routine can include a bath, putting on PJs, brushing teeth, a few minutes of reading, and saying goodnight to family members. You’re essentially training your mind to get sleepy when these cues are introduced night after night.

Ban Electronics: Did you notice that one of the latest iPhone OS updates included a setting to put your phone on Night Shift? It tones down the blue light on the screen that tells your brain it’s daytime. The thing is, even if you turn Night Shift on, your brain is still being stimulated by the information on your hand-held computer so you’re better off discontinuing using your phone once you’ve started your bedtime routine. Same goes for computer screens, TVs, tablets, hand-held gaming devices…. Etc, etc.

Relaxation techniques: These techniques not only help your body calm down from a hectic day, but they also aim to clear your mind of any anxious thoughts that may intrude in your efforts to fall asleep. We’ll talk in detail about these later, but some common techniques include progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, and deep breathing exercises.

Sugar and Caffeine avoidance: Self-explanatory, you know what happens when you give a child sugar- if for some reason you don’t, heed this cautionary tale: Don’t give your 12 month old 1/8th of a Levain Dark Chocolate Chocolate Chip cookie at 8pm or he may not go to sleep until 1:30am. Same goes for adults and caffeine in the evenings, so try to drink your Diet Coke before dinner 😉

Daytime napping: Too much daytime napping can interfere with the total amounts of sleep your body needs at night, causing you to stay up later…. And you see how that can spiral out of control. If you’re a parent, you’ve surely experienced needing to wake your napping child lest their bedtime (and wake up!) gets messed up. A cat-nap in the early afternoon can help you feel refreshed without affecting nighttime sleep (nap times may vary by age, you may only need 20 minutes, but your toddler might need an hour and a half). 

White noise: It’s magical. For the first year of my son’s life he slept in his crib, which was 2 inches from my head (expensive rent problems). White noise helped him stay asleep when we inevitably stepped on the creaking floorboard when climbing into bed, and helped US stay asleep when he made the common sleeping-baby sounds. Try a sound-machine with different options so you can figure out which one helps your family the best (rain is our noise of choice).

Exercise: Although exercise gives you energy, it also relaxes your body and tires it out which makes it easier to fall asleep at night. This tip plays double- (triple-, quadruple-….) duty since there are SO many benefits to physical activity.

Is there a specific thing you like to do with your kiddos for their bedtime routine? Do you agree/disagree with any of these tips? Let us know in the comments!

*The information on this site is provided as an information resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes. This information is not intended to be patient education, does not create any patient-provider relationship, and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment. Please consult your healthcare provider before making any diet or treatment decisions.

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