Underused Parenting Tool: Sleep

SLEEP is a parenting tool?! Yes siree bob, sleeping is most definitely an overlooked tool for us tired & cranky parents. 

Sleep regulates our cortisol (stress hormone), sleep reboots our brain, sleep helps us create, maintain and sustain memories. Getting a good night sleep helps you lose weight. Say what?! It's true, sleeping is part of an awesome diet/health plan. Sleep is so, so, so important and we often think we can get by without it. I know, I know - work, housework, volunteering, Downton Abbey, Transparent, Vines, Jimmy Fallon's latest lip syncing - that won't watch itself!

Hold onto your excuses people. Keep them, embrace them, AND try to get more sleep.

Seriously, what if you could be more patient, creative and encouraging and the only thing you had to change was the shut eye situation? Joy, hurrah, whoopee! Here's a down and dirty list of helpful hints:

1. Set and UPHOLD regular bed/wake up times for everyone in the house using guidelines below for timing. (psssst. . . that's US. We can't stay up until 1 am because the quiet is so delicious and then wake up at 6 am because we have to and then expect that we will act rationally when, not if, our four year old has a temper tantrum. GO TO BED PEOPLE! Thank you.)

2. Everyone is device free one hour before their official bedtime.

3. Everyone get into bed about 1/2 hour before their designated sleep time and read together, or solo read, or play with dolls, or any other quiet activity.

4. Release the temptation to control, nag and be concerned about when people actually fall asleep. Focus on upholding your devices down hour and bedtime limits. Do NOT focus on the sleep. You can not make anyone eat, poop or sleep, as much as we try.

5. Declutter all bedrooms. Why do we sleep so well in a hotel room? Because it's clutter free. No clothes talking meanly to us that they need to be washed, or they don't fit. No giant pile of books we should read to be a better parent, a shrewder investor, less anxious, more fit, or get a green thumb. No kids toys dumped on the floor. No piles of kids artwork to sort. No bills. No unframed photos making us feel guilty & lazy. What would happen if our bedrooms looked like, even just sorta like, our favorite hotel room? Imagine?! Sigh . . . . . 

6. Avoid binge mentality - keep disruptive nights out, sleepovers and sleeping in late to a minimum. Do what you can to wake up around the same time every day. Do what you can people, I understand parties, teens, good movies, catching up on Netflix binge watching . . . all I ask is that you are mindful and keep disruptions to a reasonable number.

7. Waking up in the middle of the night for middle aged folks is normal. Remember, we are all up with you worrying about our kids. We all think YOUR kid is fine, but OUR kid needs to be fixed. And so it is for all of us. I've started having a Kindle near by, I can keep the light low and can fall asleep with it in my hand. WARNING: Do not start surfing for "How to Fix My CHILD (spouse, mother, sister, boss, money, weight, anxiety)" books!

8. Stop eating 2 hours before bed. Drinking (anything) is best shut down around then too. You might feel hungry at bedtime, it passes and it really helps your sleep when you give your insides a break.

We can't do all of these at once, don't even try! But thinking about sleep as a way to minimize the nagging and maximize the cooperation might give you the motivation to uphold some limits, create some routines and just all around get the rest you need!

Recommended hours (from the National Sleep Foundation)

  • Newborns (0-3 months):  14-17 hours each day

  • 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 

  • Younger adults (18-25): 7-9 hours 

  • Adults (26-64): 7-9 hours