It’s summer and a great time to start new sleep habits. With the sun out longer and the weather warmer, I find that I’m more interested in moving my body, being outside, and socializing… and not watching a screen. Is it the same for you? Some people are the opposite, and that’s ok. Summer is still a good to time to reset our sleep patterns. The beauty of improving your sleep habits is that you will have a new you!
First - are you and your family members getting enough sleep? If your home has little ones, check out the table below to learn how many hours they need to sleep. When developing brains (and adult brains) get enough downtime, they have more ability to learn, better memory, more balanced moods, and less anxiety.
Recommended Sleep Hours form 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-aged 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
Older adults (65+): 7-8 hours
When trying to get enough sleep, it’s helpful to anchor one end or the other of your sleep time. If you are a night owl try, to always get up about the same time. Yes, it will hurt the first few mornings, but if you prioritize sleep your body will be happy to go to bed earlier. If you are a morning person, don’t get out of bed until it is time to get up. I’m a morning person and my brain will wake me at 5 am because the sun is up. I encourage my thinking self to stay quiet and stay in bed until 6am. Otherwise I can’t complete sentences after 8:30pm .
Since the sun is out and the weather is nice, turn off the screens. Turning off the screen at least 30 minutes before bed helps with falling asleep and having restful sleep. Develop a list of what else to do before going to bed. Here are some ideas:
Play board games or cards
Paint, draw, sketch
Listen to music, play music
Sit outside and actively notice colors, sounds, plants, growth, seeds
Play with pets
Walk around the block
Listen to a non-emotionally charged podcast or a calming story
Knit, bead, sort
Stretch, yoga, walk
Remember that your brain encodes what you do right before bed. So if you are reading or watching stories with psychopaths killing people… your brain is going to deeply encode that. A few years ago, I noticed that I was watching NCIS before bed. Almost all the stories included someone getting killed. I decided to take the summer off from reminding my brain that people get murdered. Three weeks after stopping fear-based entertainment, I had about 3 days of intense nightmares - all of them, in part, from NCSI story lines. After the purging of fear, I found that I was more curious about people and their stories outside my office. Maybe my survival brain was a little more interested in people because I was not consistently reminding myself that people are going to get killed in the next episode. Over the years, science and experience suggest that our brain does not separate stories from life. So maybe we should monitor what we tell ourselves about the world, particularly before sleep.
In summary, three things we can do to improve our sleep and the sleep of the people we are connected to are:
First, be in bed for the time that is appropriate for your age.
Second, move screen time away from bedtime and don’t use it while in bed.
Third, develop a robust list of activities that you can do before bed that supports your happiness.