Ground Work for – Good Sleep Habits

Mon Aug. 21st 2023

Cultivating healthy sleep habits is essential for overall well-being and productivity.

It’s an amazing feeling waking up after a solid sleep, well-rested and ready to tackle the day. But in our fast-paced and demanding world, getting a good night’s sleep has become a challenge. Good sleep habits are exasperated even more when you’re caring for a sick child, or when life’s circumstances require you to be in and out of hospital regularly. A busy life and unplanned events make it difficult to cultivate healthy sleep habits.

You may begin to notice when your sleep is poor, small problems become big problems. When you’re tired, things that you would normally take in your stride become hurdles that are overwhelming and too difficult to get over. However, there are strategies you can implement to promote better sleep, for both you, your partner, and your children. Cultivating healthy sleep habits is essential for overall well-being and productivity. By placing importance on quality sleep, what you innately ‘feel’ after a good sleep, becomes a series of facts and strategies you can put into practice. This provides you with insights to help you get the great sleep your body and mind need to function optimally!

There‘s Power in a Great Sleep!

Sleep is essential for our bodies. At a biological level, sleep allows our bodies and minds to recover, repair and recharge. These fundamental functions hold power - and you are more likely to notice when they haven’t been met than when they have. As a parent, it can be particularly challenging to get enough sleep, especially when you have young children or children who are unwell. You may notice when your sleep is poor, you feel exhausted, irritable, and emotional. When you’re tired, things that you would normally handle with ease are unmanageable and impossible tasks to complete. On the flip side, when you’ve been getting adequate sleep, you have energy, your emotions are stable, and you can power through the tasks of the day. The realization of the power of sleep helps to prioritize it as much as possible. Nobody wants to trudge through life, but rather keep the mind well, and the outlook on life positive. This is not always possible, especially when you have children under your care. Remember your sleep may not be perfect, but it can always be better. If you’re starting to feel tired and edgy - be aware of it and do your best to work toward getting a few more hours of sleep.

Establish a Consistent Sleep Schedule

Sleep is a marvelous gift for your body, it’s like giving your internal body clock a high five! The reliable rhythm of a consistent sleep schedule not only enhances your overall well-being but boosts your energy levels, sharpens your focus, and enhances your mood. Having a consistent sleep schedule is like laying the foundation for a healthier, happier life. Start by determining the time you want to go to bed each night and stick to it. Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day helps regulate your internal clock, ensuring a smoother transition between sleep and wakefulness. Choose a time that allows you to get the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep for adults. Then comes the hard part - waking up at the same time each day. Just like setting a bedtime, establish a consistent wake-up time. Try to wake up at the same hour every morning to regulate your body's internal clock. It may take some time for your body to adjust to a new sleep schedule, so be patient and don’t give up! Commit yourself to prioritising sleep. Your body and mind will thank you for it!

Check your Sleep Environment

Have a look around your bedroom, does it make you feel rested or would you rather close the door and not look? Are you the type of person who needs the bed made, clothes away, and everything in place until you can relax? Or are you happy to climb into bed and ignore the unfolded pile of washing in the corner? Everybody is different and there’s no right or wrong here - but assess where you sleep and think about if it helps you to relax or hinders you from a good night of sleep. We want a sleep-friendly environment: make sure your bedroom is a comfortable temperature, quiet, and dark. Think about the senses, what you see, what you hear, what you smell, and what you feel; it may be a nice, scented candle, a favourite soft throw rug, or plush cosy pillows - whatever makes your environment more restful and invites you in for a good night's sleep, that’s the goal!

Unwind and Prepare for Sleep

Preparing for sleep each night is a key element in establishing good sleep habits. As each day comes to a close, begin ‘unwinding’ to release all the demands of your schedule and relax your body to get it ready for a night of quality sleep. Again, everybody is different in what they deem to be ‘relaxing’ - but think about what it is that helps to calm your mind and body. It could be practicing deep breathing exercises, reading a book, or listening to your favourite music. It may be an episode of your favourite TV show or a warm shower that helps you to feel calm. A warm bath can also be incredibly beneficial, as it helps release tension and promotes muscle relaxation. By taking the time to unwind before bed each night, we set ourselves up for a peaceful and rejuvenating sleep, ensuring a fresh start to the new day ahead.

Daytime habits/ stimulants and disruptors

Since we’re talking about habits (the good ones concerning sleeping) we also need to consider any detrimental habits and disruptors that can negatively impact our sleep patterns and lead to a poor night of sleep. One common habit is consuming excessive amounts of caffeine, especially later in the day. Caffeine is a stimulant that can interfere with falling asleep naturally and disrupt your overall quality of sleep. Different people are affected in varying degrees by stimulants, so if you think that your late evening coffee might be making it difficult for your body to move into sleep mode, consider dropping it, or moving it to earlier in the day. Another stimulant is physical exercise. Engaging in intense physical activity too close to bedtime can interfere with sleep, as it stimulates the body and makes it harder to wind down. An evening walk can be relaxing, but a HIIT session at 9 pm might make getting to sleep difficult! A final stimulant to consider, which has become second nature to most, is their exposure to bright screens before bed. Smartphones or tablets can suppress the production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycles. This can make it harder to fall asleep and affect the quality of our sleep. It is important to be mindful of these habits and disruptors and make adjustments to ensure you're allowing yourself to sleep well.

Manage your Stress

It’s not unusual at some point in your life to be lying in bed, wanting to get to sleep, but it’s near impossible when your mind is racing with thoughts and stress. Stress can disrupt sleep patterns and make it very difficult to fall asleep. Identify what is causing you stress, and put in place some stress management techniques, such as practicing mindfulness, journaling, or engaging in relaxation exercises. While you can’t always eliminate stress, it can help calm your mind to manage it and lessen the feelings of anxiety before bed. If persistent stress or anxiety affects your sleep, consider seeking professional help.

Limit napping

While a short power nap can be just what you need to get through the day, excessive daytime napping or drowsiness can interfere with nighttime sleep. Limit naps to no longer than 20-30 minutes and try to avoid napping late in the day. If you struggle with excessive daytime sleepiness, consult a healthcare professional to rule out underlying sleep disorders.

When your sleep is disrupted

Caring for sick children, or a newborn baby can undoubtedly disrupt your sleep patterns and make it challenging to develop good habits. This is very normal. Be patient and understanding with yourself and your child during this ‘season’. Prioritize rest, as in the case of a sick child, this aids in their healing. If possible, try to align your sleep schedule with your child’s so that you can maximise the amount of uninterrupted sleep for you both. Take shifts with your partner or family members if the lack of sleep starts to affect your well-being.

Remember, when caring for sick children, it's normal for sleep to be out of routine. As their health improves, gradually reintroduce and reinforce healthy sleep habits to restore a regular sleep routine for the whole family.

Developing good sleep habits is a valuable investment. Consistent, good-quality sleep is essential for your body to function well. Try implementing a couple of these good sleep habits and take note of the difference it makes to your overall health. Here’s to a great night's sleep!