Pillars of Health: Sleep


Let’s move on to sleep next. Just like relaxation, proper sleep may help give us the energy and motivation to do the things that are important to us. 

Some things to think about:

  • For all ages, lack of sleep can lead to difficulties in alertness and attention, low energy and mood, increased emotional dysregulation and irritability, increased anxiety, and difficulties with learning and memory. Not surprisingly, consistent lack of sleep has the potential to result in symptoms that mimic mental health conditions like ADHD, Anxiety, Depression, and a Specific Learning Disorder.
  • An Oxford University study suggests that we sleep 1-2 hours less per day than 60 years ago. Why is this happening? Unfortunately, we may live in a culture that frequently places value on getting less sleep: adults work late to power through all their daily tasks. Similarly, busy working parents are engaging in “revenge bedtime procrastination,” which is the decision to sacrifice sleep in order to get some late-night leisure time (a decision that likely results from having too little free time during the day to relax – see the last post on how to help that!). Some children and teens stay up late to connect with friends over social media and play video games. How many parents have heard their kids say, “my friend is allowed to play video games late, so why can’t I!?!”) Children and older teens can feel pressure to stay up later than their parents want, experiencing FOMO if they go to bed earlier than their peers.
  • So how many hours of sleep do we need? That depends on age; generally speaking, here are some guidelines to keep in mind: Newborn: 14-17, Infant: 12-15, Toddler: 11-14, Preschool: 10-13, Elementary School: 9-12, High School: 8-10, Adult: 7-9. With a range of hours needed, it is helpful to notice how you or your child feel in the morning. Is it a struggle to get out of bed? Are you or your child feeling tired part way through the day? If so, more time sleeping may be needed. 

Some things to try:

  • One of the most effective tools for managing sleep is to keep a consistent bedtime and wake schedule with no variation of more than 30 minutes during the week and no variation of more than 60 minutes from week to weekend. 
  • No screen time or social media 1 hour before bedtime and 1 hour after waking. If that is too difficult, consider smaller steps like turning on “sleep mode” 1 hour before bed and overnight to reduce notifications, using blue light glasses, or starting with cutting back on screen time even 10 minutes before bed and then increasing that each week. 
  • For families, it’s often helpful to have a screen time curfew. Like a regular curfew, the family adopts a time when all screens are put away, or children are given a time when their phones or devices need to be handed in or shut off. 
  • Limit or eliminate consuming foods or drinks with caffeine after noon.
  • If your child is really struggling, the first steps to consider aresleep hygiene,” which would include no screen time 30-60 minutes before bedtime, a routine that stays relatively the same each night (i.e., snack, reading, bed), and a consistent bedtime.
  • Keep the bedroom or house cooler at night by dropping the thermostat a few degrees.
  • Relaxation strategies like deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation can be beneficial for managing anxiety and tension at bedtime. 
  • Work with your body’s natural melatonin production by embracing darkness at night time (i.e., reducing unnecessary light close to bedtime) and embracing light in the morning (i.e., getting outside first thing in the morning or using a light-therapy box that gives off the recommended 10,000 lux of light during winter months).

Author: Danielle Rozon, M.Ed. Registered Psychologist