From shift work to going back to school, families with differing bedtimes and wake-up schedules can find harmony by adopting some savvy strategies
What happens when everyone in your household has a different sleep routine? Perhaps Mom does shift work and Dad’s a night owl. Add into the mix kids attending school at varying times. It can be a challenge. But there are things we may can to do to help sync family sleep routines to keep everyone healthy and happy. The good news is that even subtle adjustments can help us cope, from tweaking our sleep spaces to retraining family members to get them in and out of bed at optimal times.
Why healthy sleep routines matter
Getting into a good groove and navigating different sleep routines is not just about feeling well-rested. It’s about good health. Shortchanging sleep comes with a high price. Research shows insufficient sleep can increase your risk of serious conditions, from cardiovascular disease to diabetes. A study from the Jama Network found that of the 990 adult participants those who slept less than six hours a night regularly were much more likely to carry excess weight. Meanwhile, those who slept eight hours most nights had the lowest amount of body fat.
Consistently ignoring sleep is one of those behaviors, like bad eating habits and a sedentary lifestyle, that contribute to poor health. Good quality sleep is a powerful tool in maintaining wellness and preventing disease.
And it’s not just physical health that’s impacted by poor quality sleep. It’s also tied to compromised emotional health, too, like depression. An estimated 4.4% of the world’s population experiences depression, which is the leading cause of disability globally. Almost all of those people will have some sort of sleep issue. Depression and sleep have a bidirectional relationship, meaning poor sleep quality can contribute to depression, and depression can contribute to poor sleep. They are intertwined.
Mismatched sleep routines impact relationships too. About 70% of American adults share their beds with someone else. When sleep couples don’t jive together – maybe one person likes to stay up later and the other prefers to get up with the first rays of the sun – problems can occur for either or both people. Studies show that sleep-deprived couples fight more and enjoy less intimacy.
Clearly, there’s a case to be made that households with varying sleep routines and schedules face an uphill battle to get the rest they need.
Troubleshooting common sleep routine issues
Chances are you aren’t alone in your home when it comes to struggling with sleep routines. Here are some common scenarios and some strategies to address them.
1. How to improve sleep for couples with different sleep routines
Experts suggest meeting in the middle when sleep routines can be shifted for the benefit of each partner. The night owl can be trained to get to bed earlier and the early riser can go to bed a bit later to get closer in sync with each other.
Agreeing to some basic sleep rules is also useful. If your bedmate likes to read into the wee hours of the morning, he or she should do that in a different area of the home to avoid disturbing the other partner. Some couples find that sleeping separately is a helpful strategy. While you might sleep better, you do need to set aside time some special couple time.
Sometimes out-of-sync routines can’t be helped because of work or school demands. The person who gets out of bed earlier can do things, like setting out their clothes, dressing and making their lunch the night before to reduce noise. Later sleepers can wear earplugs or a mask to lessen light and sound disturbances.
2. How to ensure better sleep for kids heading back to school
Consistent sleep/wake routines work best for children, but over the summer, it’s easy to get off track because of vacations, going off to camp and longer daylight hours. Get back into the swing by enforcing regular bedtimes and wake-ups. But start slowly, adjusting the kids’ sleep schedules by 15 minutes a night until they’ve hit the desired bedtime.
Some youngsters are resistant to change so be patient and help them by establish a wind-down routine before heading to bed. That might include quiet activities like reading books, doing jigsaw puzzles, cuddling or taking a warm bath. If your child doesn’t fall asleep after 20 minutes, allow them to get out of bed to do sleep-inducing activities until they get tired. Keep them away from electronic devices since they emit blue light and can disrupt sleep.
Prep your child’s bedroom for sleep success by using curtains to block ambient light and use a white-noise device. The sounds of other family members still up and moving about might prevent kids from falling asleep.
3. How to increase sleep for teens who want to stay up late and sleep in the next morning
It’s not your teen’s fault entirely for their wonky sleep schedules – you can thank their hormones. According to a post by UCLA Health, a teen’s circadian rhythm changes with the onset of puberty. Before puberty, their bodies began to get “time to sleep” signals around 8 or 9 pm. When hormones start kicking in, there’s a shift by a couple of hours. To parents, it might seem like their teen is suffering from insomnia but it’s a physical phenomenon called “sleep phase delay.” And it’s normal.
The desire to get to bed later means that teens may have trouble getting out of bed in the morning and head to school on time. It can be frustrating for parents. They can help their adolescents by nudging them to stick to a sleep routine, creating a calm environment before bedtime and encouraging them to exercise and eat right, including avoiding anything with caffeine, like soda and chocolate (after 4 pm). Institute an “electronic-free times” to help them wind down before bed. Teens might feel the need to nap and catch up on sleep on the weekend, but these cat naps shouldn’t exceed one hour.
Rest well & wake up ready to go!
Better sleep gives rise to better mornings, bringing your goals into focus and dreams within reach. Hungry for more sleep info? Dig into these posts:
- TED Talks – sleeping with science
- Can CBD oil help you sleep better?
- Do non-smokers sleep better than smokers?