How to Get More Sleep

Feet of family with small children trying to find ways to get more sleep.

Avoiding bedtime battles means the whole family can get more shuteye and improve overall health and happiness.

As any new parent quickly learns, sleep deprivation can feel like torture. Without proper sleep, we may be more moody and careless, but the consequences can have a greater impact on our health and even be more dangerous than we might think.

Researchers have found that being awake for 18 hours without sleep can impact people’s abilities and have a similar effect as being under the influence of alcohol.

How much sleep we get also affects our health in surprising ways.

How getting more sleep can affect your health

When we’re tired, our bodies aren’t working at their best.

Getting proper sleep means we’re more equipped to to fight off infections, prevent diabetes and keep our hearts healthy! Not sleeping well can raise your blood pressure and cause inflammation; both of which can lead to heart disease. Love your heart by getting enough pillow time.

A good night’s sleep can also help us stay slim. Getting less than seven hours of sleep each night means that your body might not produce enough of the hormone leptin, a satiety hormone that helps us recognize when we have had enough eat. Without sufficient leptin, our brain might not send out that fullness signal; leading to cravings and overeating.

The benefits of proper sleep for kids

Sleep is important for parents, but it is arguably even more important for growing children! Most parents who have dealt with tired kids won’t be surprised that adequate sleep is associated with better learning, behaviour, mental and physical health and quality of life for children and teens. In 2016 the American Academy of Sleep Medicine issued new recommendations for how much sleep, infants, children and teens should be getting.

How to catch more Zzz’s

Bedtime battles mean that your kids (and you!) are chronically tired. Here are some strategies to help you and your kids get a better night’s sleep – even if your little one doesn’t want to leave your side when it’s time to get some shuteye.

  1. Create a bedtime routine: a warm bath, comfy pjs and a good book to read may help to send the signal to your children that it is time to sleep. It is important to follow the same routine each night, so that your kids feel safe and associate those activities with going to sleep. You might also want to try children’s meditations to help children feel drowsy and calm.
  2. Establish a sleep schedule: Getting up and going to bed at the same time each day allows our bodies to develop their own, healthy and natural sleep/wake cycle.
  3. Turn off electronics: At least one hour before bedtime, turn off all electronics, and don’t allow them into the bedroom. They can be distracting, and the light they emit can disrupt our sleep.
  4. Big kid bed: Many families enjoy co-sleeping with during infancy and into toddlerhood. At some point, however, it is time to transition to the big kid bed. Make this an exciting prospect by letting them pick the colours of the sheets and selecting a new or favourite stuffed animal to sleep with. Create a routine around bath, pjs and story or song at tuck-in, and stick to it. It may be hard for a bit, but everyone will sleep better in the long run.

Make sleep a priority and you will reap the rewards in all aspects of your life. This will benefit the whole family’s health and well-being in more ways than one.

Dr. Pamela Fergusson, RD

Pamela Fergusson is a Registered Dietician with a PhD in nutrition with a private practice in Toronto. She brings a love of nutrition, wellness and fitness to her blogging. She loves to cook and bake with her four children, teach them about food and nutrition through shopping for and preparing colourful, healthy family meals together. Pamela is also a runner and speed walker and has completed six half and full marathons.

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