Ways to Get Better Sleep

Christopher Morgan, MD, Neurologist/ Medical Director of Mercy Health Sleep Center

Kids Are More Than One Hour Sleep Deficient Each Day
Springing ahead one hour tomorrow night simply reflects what our children go through daily.

Although sleep problems persist among many American children, parents can make a difference by setting boundaries around electronics use, enforcing rules and setting a good example. Mercy Health has taken some of the latest findings from the National Sleep Foundation's (NSF) Sleep in America® poll, an annual study that began in 1991. The 2014 poll took a deeper look into the sleep practices and beliefs of the modern family with school-aged children.

Below are tips from the National Sleep Foundation on how to get better sleep for yourself and your family.

How much sleep do I need? Refer to the chart below:


Recommended Amount of Sleep


16–18 hours a day

Preschool-aged children

11–12 hours a day

School-aged children

At least 10 hours a day


9–10 hours a day

Adults (including the elderly)

7–9 hours a day

Many children are not getting the sleep they need

Many children get less sleep on school nights than they should, with some getting less sleep than their own parents think they need, about 1.1 hours less.

· The poll asked parents to estimate how much sleep their child typically gets on a school night. Parents' estimates of sleep time are 8.9 hours for children ages 6 to 10, 8.2 hours for 11 and 12 year olds, 7.7 hours for 13 and 14 year olds and 7.1 hours for teens ages 15 through 17.

· The NSF recommends that children ages 6 to 10 get 10 to 11 hours of sleep per night, and that children in the other three age groups get 8.5 to 9.5 hours per night.

The common culprits of lack of sleep:

1) Evening activities and homework can affect sleep quality

The modern family's busy schedule affects their sleep quality. More than one-third of parents report that scheduled evening activities pose challenges to their child's sleep and 41 percent point to these activities as challenging their own sleep.

2) Use of electronics during bedtime

We are often asked what items can be used to facilitate sleep, but let's take a step back, and ask, "What are the items that we use that impede our sleep?"

Parents report that nearly three out of four (72 percent) of children ages 6 to 17 have at least one electronic device in the bedroom while they are sleeping.

Children who leave electronic devices on at night get less sleep on school nights than other children do, according to parents' estimates – a difference of up to nearly one hour on average per night.

Teens who leave devices on are estimated to get, on average, half an hour less sleep on school nights (7.2 hours per night) than those who never leave devices on (7.7 hours).

Ways to Help:

Enforcing rules helps children get more sleep

Nearly all (92 percent) parents set one or more sleep-related rules for their children and 62 percent of parents say they always enforce at least one of these rules.

When parents always enforce rules on how late their child can have caffeine drinks, their child gets an estimated average of 0.9 hours more sleep than children whose parents enforce such rules less consistently or do not have those rules at all. When parents always enforce rules on how late smartphones and cell phones can be used, children get an estimated average of 0.8 hours more sleep.

Some bullet points from the NSF survey:

· 30% of children ages 12-14 and >50% of children ages 15-17 were getting 7 hours of sleep or less, when most children in this age group should be getting at least 9 hours of sleep.

· Children and teens who leave electronic devices on in the bedroom are estimated to get 30-60 minutes less sleep on school nights and have poorer sleep quality.

· Children get more sleep (1.1 hours more) when parents establish consistent bedtimes and have rules about bedtime, such as limiting caffeine, set times to turn off electronics/TV

· Be a role model! Children whose parents have healthy sleep environments tend to have healthier sleep environments themselves. And vice versa, of those parents that have "interactive" electronic devices in the bedroom, nearly 2/3 of their children had a device in their bedroom.

Setting a good example encourages children to follow suit

Children whose parents have healthy sleep environments tend to have healthier sleep environments themselves. Nearly two-thirds of children whose parents have one or more "interactive" electronic devices in their bedroom also have at least one device in their own bedroom.

Tips for a Better Night's Sleep

1. Keeping a regular sleep and wake time helps stabilize the biological clock.

- Wake up at the same time every day, including weekends.

o A regular wake time in the morning leads to regular times of sleep onset and helps to set

your "biological" clock.

- Go to bed at the same time each night.

- Sleep only as much as you need to feel refreshed during the following day. Restricting your time in bed helps to consolidate and deepen your sleep. Excessively long times in bed lead to fragmented and shallow sleep.

2. Create a regular, relaxing bedtime routine.

- This will help signal to your body that it is time for bed.

- Begin an hour before bedtime with a "wind down time."

- Dim the lights.

- If you watch TV, make sure it is OUTSIDE of the bedroom and a NON‐stimulating program.

3. Create a sleep‐friendly bedroom environment.

- Make sure that your bed is comfortable and that it is dark, quiet, and cool (around 65‐68°F).

o Darkness signals to the biological clock that it is night time.

· Creating constant background noise in the sleep environment (e.g. a fan or humidifier) may help eliminate unexpected sounds that would otherwise wake you.

· Insulate your bedroom against sounds that disturb your sleep. Carpeting, insulated curtains, and closing the door may help.

· Consider removing pets from the bedroom if they are a distraction to your sleep.

4. Strengthen the association that the bed is a place to sleep.

- Keep the bed (and bedroom) as a place of sleep and sexual activity only.

- Avoid watching TV, using the computer, or reading in bed.

- Avoid sleeping outside of your bedroom (e.g. on the couch or recliner).

- Never lie in bed awake for more than 15‐20 minutes. DO NOT try harder and harder to fall asleep in your bed. Get up, go to another room, and do something non‐stimulating until you are sleepy, like reading a boring book. Return to bed ONLY when you are sleepy. Get up at your regular time the next day, no matter how little you slept.

5. Do not watch the clock.

- Looking at the clock only worsens anxiety regarding nighttime awakenings. Put it under the bed or turn it away from you during the night so that you cannot see it.

6. Eat regular meals every day.

- Regular meals are signals to the biological clock about the time of day.

- Do not eat a big meal within three hours of bedtime.

- If you tend to get hungry during the night, have a light carbohydrate snack (e.g. crackers, bread, or

cereal) before bedtime.

7. Don't take your problems to bed.

- If necessary, plan some time earlier in the evening for working on your problems or planning the next day's activities.

o Make a "worry list" after dinner or earlier in the day (at least 2 hours prior to bedtime).

Think about each worry/problem/activity and come up with a plan of action or potential

solution to the issues so this can be off of your mind when you go to bed later.

8. Do not consume more than 8‐10 oz of liquids in the evening.

· A full or semi‐full bladder can contribute to awakenings.

· Restrict liquids in the evening after dinner and use the restroom right before bed.

9. Do not consume caffeinated products (e.g. coffee, tea, many sodas, or chocolate) in the evening.

- Caffeine makes it difficult to fall asleep and disrupts your sleep during the night.

- Eliminate caffeine within 8 hours of bedtime.

10. Do not use alcohol to help you sleep or consume alcohol too close to bedtime.

- Although alcohol may help you fall asleep more easily, it disrupts your sleep during the night by causing frequent awakenings.

- Avoid alcohol within three hours of bedtime.

11. Smoking and other drugs will disrupt your sleep.

- If you smoke, do not smoke too close to bedtime, and do not smoke during awakenings in the night.

- All illegal and abused drugs worsen your sleep.

12. Do not nap during the day.

- Napping makes it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep at night.

- If you must nap, keep your naps to no longer than 20 minutes.

13. Exercise regularly, but do not engage in activities that raise body temperature (e.g. a warm

bath) too close to bedtime.

- Regular exercise can improve sleep quality, but exercising or having a warm bath too close to

· bedtime can disrupt sleep onset. Plan to finish at least 3‐4 hours before your bedtime.

- The best time to exercise to help sleep is in the late afternoon or early evening.

- Warm baths can be taken in the evening, but not within 1.5 hours of going to bed.

14. Get some bright light in the morning!

· Expose yourself to bright light upon awakening for at least 30 minutes (either go out in the sun or use an artificial bright light box of at least 2500‐5000 lux).

· AVOID bright lights within 2‐3 hours of going to bed. This includes brightly lit computer screens or other electronic devices close to your face. If you must use the computer or are exposed to bright light before bed, wear dark sunglasses or shades.

We encourage you to follow up with your physician about your sleep. If you are interested in a more in-depth assessment, you may contact our Mercy Health Sleep Center directly at 616.685.6330 or grsleep@mercyhealth.com to schedule a consultation with one of our sleep specialists.

Courtesy: Mercy Health


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