For many families, night time can be a nightmare. It is quite common for every family to have at least one person not getting a full night’s rest. More often than not, when one member isn’t sleeping well, another member becomes affect. For example, if a child will only fall asleep when lying next to a parent, the parent has to bed-hop from the kid’s room to the master bedroom. If a parent with insomnia is making noise or turning on lights at 2am, younger children’s sleep can become disturbed.
When parents, children, or teens become sleep-deprived, symptoms such as irritable moods, lethargic behavior, poor concentration, ineffective communication, and depleted energy begin to shape the family’s functioning. Mornings are hard enough getting everyone dressed, fed, and off to work, school, or daycare on time. An exhausted family will find stressful mornings as a cynical “cherry on top” of restless nights. Every member of the family- no matter what age needs healthy energy and stamina to enjoy their day and fulfill their independent roles. Healthy sleep patterns are an integral part of wellness, both physically and emotionally.
There are several steps towards more consistent night of better sleep which encompass a nightly routine. Implementing a set two-hour routine for babies through teens is essential to create a long-term strategy for your family to cope with sleep issues. Begin with physical activity before mealtime. Excessive physical energy spent on the playground or bike ride before enjoying a full belly will reduce later bursts of energy or disruptive hunger pangs. Bathing in warm water with or without calming aromatherapy will ensure feeling clean and comfortable while in bed. Next, calming entertainment such as reading, quieter shows, playing with the pets, imaginative play revolving around bed time (parking the trains in the station for bedtime, etc.) will allow kids the opportunity to “not go to bed yet”- reducing arguing and whining.
Have each member of the family set out what they will need for the next day: laying out clothes, packing sports bag, gathering homework, printing a report, etc. Setting backpacks and shoes near the door shifts gears mentally from “tonight to tomorrow” -creating a gateway naturally leads to rest. By feeling prepared, anxiety and mental to-do lists won’t disrupt anyone’s sleep.
Finally, the last five minutes is “one-on-one” time, setting the tone for healthy rest. Hold the intention of creating a peaceful, reassuring, and loving closure through soft music, nightlights, prayer, meditation, storytelling, rocking, etc. Through consistent practice of a night time routine, families can rest easier knowing their family is on track for sweet dreams.
Annie K. Jung is a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC) who specializes in children, teens, and families. Her private practice is located at the non-profit Awakening Center in Brentwood. She is also a married, mother of three; you may find her in a carpool line near you. Contact Annie at firstname.lastname@example.org or (925)-759-7200.