Getting Your Zzz's: Tips for an Effective Sleep Routine
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Getting Your Zzz's:
Tips for an Effective Sleep Routine

by guest writer Sheila Olson

June 26, 2018

Photo by Krista Mangulsone on Unsplash
Children and adults need to get good, regular, healthful sleep every night. The reasons may be somewhat different, but healthy sleep is equally important for grown ups and kids. Children need regular restful sleep for their physical and mental development. During a child's sleep cycle, blood supply is increased to muscles, tissue growth is enabled, and hormones involved with growth and development are released. For adults, sleep heals and repairs blood vessels, and helps prevent heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke and diabetes. And it enables people of all ages to concentrate during the day and maintain effective cognitive functioning. Fortunately, there are many strategies that can help both adults and children sleep better.

Turn off the screens

A recent study has revealed that children and adults are adversely affected by the blue light emitted by screens, especially kids, whose melatonin -- the sleep hormone -- drops twice as much as adults when exposed to the light from screens. This sleep disruption results in hours of lost sleep and unproductive sleep.

Sleep-enhancing foods

If you suffer from insomnia, maybe there's something to having a glass of warm milk before bed after all. It turns out that foods that combine carbohydrates and protein, such as oatmeal and milk, or toast and peanut butter, behave like tryptophan, the chemical in turkey that induces feelings of sleepiness. Bananas, eggs, yogurt and tuna before bedtime are also foods that contribute to falling asleep. For parents, it's an opportunity to work in a healthy bedtime snack that also works as a kind of sleep aid.

Check that mattress

Don't dismiss the significance a quality mattress plays in getting the quantity and quality of sleep you need each night. If you've got an older, sagging mattress, it may be time to upgrade. The general rule is to replace a mattress every 7 to 10 years, particularly if you wake feeling groggy or achy (which could indicate your mattress is interfering with quality of sleep). If you decide to upgrade and purchase online, keep in mind that the convenience factor makes reading online product reviews and paying close attention to trial, warranty and return policies even more important.

Out go the lights

One of the most important factors in getting the sleep you need is to create a completely dark sleep environment. Light disrupts sleep patterns by impeding proper hormone regulation. For kids who have a fear of the dark, try using a night light that's on a timer and shuts off at a given time. Blackout curtains will block light from outside if a street lamp or car headlights prevent your child from getting to sleep. Sleep masks are another option, one that kids can have a little fun with.

Cut off game time

Studies have shown that video gaming can be disruptive to children in multiple ways, including sleep and the ability to concentrate on schoolwork. A 2012 study found that individuals who played video games for more than 150 minutes in the evening were delayed in falling asleep an average of approximately 40 minutes, losing about a half-hour of sleep altogether. Of particular concern is that excessive gaming can produce a loss of REM sleep. That's bad news for children, because a loss of REM sleep prevents teens from remembering things learned earlier in the day, which can lead to problems at school. Another study indicated that excessive television watching can also have a negative impact on sleep. It's recommended that both children and adults cease playing video games several hours before going to bed.

Getting a good night's sleep is a matter of healthier habits and blocking out distractions. Slowing down your routine, winding down physical activity, and cutting out gaming and TV watching at least two hours before bed can markedly improve both the quantity and quality of sleep for children and adults.