With the time change, I’m really enjoying the extra daylight but I must admit, the sleep schedule was a little more challenging this year. We know that studies show that when we get healthy sleep, it’s easier to eat well, move more, and be in a good place mentally. One study found that the pandemic had caused further sleep concerns with both adults and children. When we have challenges with our sleep, it can contribute to anxiety and depression, as well as additional medical concerns like cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, and impaired immunity if sleep challenges continue over a long period of time.
So how do we go about changing our habits to ensure a good night's sleep? Here are few ideas to consider:
Establish a regular routine. Getting up a regular time every day is helpful - yes, even on the weekends. Enjoying the sunshine early in the day helps our internal body clock to acknowledge being awake, and it’s helpful if we can get outside during the morning with the sunlight and movement. Then when evening comes, we’ll feel sleepier earlier.
Beginning an evening routine is essential, especially for children. Time outdoors, a snack, a bath, and reading a book may all be part of the time before they climb into bed. Having a regular schedule helps them feel secure as they know what to expect each evening.
Monitor stressors in life. Whether it’s work hours, the kids' schedules, or the virus, the more focused on the problems we are, the harder it is for our bodies to relax and go to sleep. That’s no surprise to many, but the challenge is, how do I turn the brain off? Keep a pencil and paper by the bedside to write things down that you think of before drifting off or that wake you up - then you won’t have to worry about remembering them till morning. If falling asleep is the problem, try soothing music or a mindfulness practice that helps to relax the body and train the mind to let things go.
Turning off the screens.
Make it a point to have some screen-free time in the home. Leave the phones away from the table during mealtime. Take walks outside with conversation, not texting. Selectively choose what’s on the TV or video screens and try to plan for no screen time at least 30-60 minutes before bedtime. This allows the brain to settle and the internal clock to release the natural melatonin to induce sleep. The blue light from many screens is stimulating, not relaxing and can interfere with sleep patterns. If school or work extends into the evening, look for a screen light filter which makes the color of the screen adapt to the time of day.
Get Moving. The daily recommendation is 10,000 steps a day, and while Ohio weather may challenge that on a regular basis, moving more is definitely a goal for many of us. Taking the time to move every 30 minutes is another encouragement, and when working from home, it’s easy to lose track of the time. Set alarms to move and challenge yourself to get more steps everyday. With children, take a walk, play ball, or while they are at their events use the time to walk with another parent to increase your own health. Physical activity increases chemicals like serotonin which help with our internal clock and decrease our stress levels.
As spring weather continues, let’s all challenge ourselves to be more active and establish a routine that will enhance better quality sleep so that we may mindfully enjoy the blessings of each day.
Melinda Hill is an OSU Extension Family & Consumer Sciences Educator and may be reached at 330-264-8722.
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