Back-to-school season means both excitement and stress for families — and this year, of course, there’s more than a little extra uncertainty with the added element of back-to-office discussions for many adults, too. Whatever your situation looks like — as a parent, partner, worker, and high-performing human being — it is important to prioritize your sleep health.
“When we don’t sleep well, it’s harder to regulate our emotional state, and we tend to feel more anxious the next day,” Inna Khazan, a clinical psychologist and faculty member at Harvard Medical School, tells Thrive. “With prolonged sleep deprivation, anxiety can become chronic. We become anxious about sleep, and stay awake worrying about all sorts of things. It becomes a vicious cycle.”
In anxious times, sleep needs to be a priority for adults and kids alike, says Dr. Chris Winter, director of the Charlottesville Neurology and Sleep Medicine Center and author of The Rested Child and The Sleep Solution: Why Your Sleep Is Broken and How to Fix It.
“Anxiety is at an all-time high for children and adults,” Dr. Winter tells Thrive. “There’s a direct connection between anxiety and sleep quality. There’s a real opportunity right now for the whole family to support one another as you ease your way into a healthy sleep schedule.”
Here are eight tips to help you build routines and create an environment that allows you and your family to get the sleep you need to feel your best.
Get up and go to bed at the same time every day
Timing is key to good sleep and health. It’s important to understand and honor your individual circadian rhythm, and how a consistent bedtime and wake time helps improve your sleep quality.
You don’t have to be obsessive about it, but gradually establishing regular wake-up times and bedtimes has its benefits, Dr. Winter says. As kids adjust to an in-person school schedule, they may be waking up much earlier than they have in the past year. For parents, there’s an opportunity to ease children into a new wake-up time. “If you control the wake-up time, you’ll control the bedtime,” Dr. Winter says. In other words, once they’re getting up earlier, they’ll be ready for bed earlier, too, because they’ll be tired.
To help find your ideal sleep/wake schedule and best times for activities like working out and winding down, use the circadian rhythm feature on the Sleep Number 360® smart bed if you have one. Sleepers who use the smart bed’s circadian rhythm feature improve their bedtime and wake time consistency by 35 minutes for better quality sleep.*
With insights on your circadian rhythm, bedtime reminders and light exposure, you’ll learn how your ideal sleep schedule can affect your sleep health over time.
First thing in the morning, try to get some sunlight, says Dr. Winter. “Get outside if you can. You might consider having breakfast outside and taking the dog for a walk,” he says. Being outdoors in the morning, along with interacting as a family, “can be powerful in terms of establishing a new rhythm and will get a conversation going with the brain, so you naturally become acclimated to your new routine.”
Move every day
“Research shows that exercise improves the quality and duration of sleep,” Khazan explains. “It doesn’t have to be an intense or prolonged workout, but making time to get moving will help you and your children sleep better.” Just be sure to wrap up any intense exercise before you begin to wind down for the night.
Yoga can be great to wake up your body in the morning or to wind down at night. In fact, Sleep Number 360® smart bed sleepers who do gentle exercise, like yoga, get the most restful sleep.** Try these five morning yoga poses you can do in bed, and these nighttime yoga poses to do in bed for better sleep.
Set up daily family check-ins
Dr. Winter suggests making time each day to connect with your family, even for just a few minutes — at the dinner table, before bed, whenever it makes sense for your schedule. “You can ask: ‘What was the best part of your day and the worst part?’ And talk about what you are all grateful for.”
Set a cut-off time for blue light from devices
Disconnecting from the digital world will help you sleep better. “Stay away from blue-light-emitting devices [phones, tablets, laptops] at least an hour before bed,” recommends Khazan. “Blue light stops melatonin production before we can store enough to last through the night, which interferes with the duration and quality of sleep.”
Melatonin is the hormone that helps us feel sleepy. Research shows wearing blue light blocking glasses two hours before bedtime can help you sleep more, experience higher quality sleep and feel more engaged at work the next day. If you and your kids are in front of a computer or under bright school lights during the day, consider investing in blue light blocking glasses.
Establish a wind-down routine
“Your body is built to thrive on routines,” says Khazan. “In fact, it has a built-in mechanism for this, the circadian rhythm, or biological clock, that regulates many processes in your body, including sleep, body temperature, and hormone secretion.”
So try to follow this natural rhythm by creating a routine that helps you wind down and leave behind the stresses and demands of the day. Enjoy family wind-down time with calming activities like reading (real books), coloring, or playing a board game. Take a warm shower or bath before bed. And avoid big meals or snacks close to bedtime. Instead, Dr. Winter recommends light snacks such as fruit, crackers, a glass of milk or a cup of chamomile tea.
If you’re not sure where to start, try the free 30-day Sleep30® Challenge shown to help improve poor sleep habits and improve sleep quality.
Sleep on a comfortable bed
The right bed and bedding can make a world of difference when it comes to getting the sleep you need. The Sleep Number 360® smart bed is a great investment in your family’s overall health and wellbeing. It effortlessly adjusts throughout the night, sensing your movements to keep you comfortable. The beds have circadian rhythm insights, analyzing sleep and wake cycles, so you can establish an ideal schedule that will motivate you to improve your sleep.
Sleepers who routinely use their Sleep Number 360® smart bed features and SleepIQ® technology get almost 100 hours more proven quality sleep per year!***
Reclaim your bed as a place of relaxation and even joy
“Any kind of relaxation technique will help your mind disengage from unhelpful thinking and allow your body to settle,” she says.
And this might seem obvious, but for many of us it’s harder than it sounds: When you’re in bed, allow yourself to relax.
“You’re not in any danger, you’re safe,” says Dr. Winter. “Don’t treat being in bed while you’re still awake as a problem that needs to be solved. Learning to enjoy being in bed makes most sleep problems instantly disappear.”
Finally, says Dr. Winter, “if you or your child continues to experience anxiety, make sure you seek professional help and go to see your doctor.”
Thrive Global and Sleep Number believe quality sleep has a profound impact on health and well-being. Today, this is more important than ever as we look to quality sleep to help boost immunity, increase energy and improve recovery. Visit sleepnumber.com to find the best sleep solution for you, so you can wake up to your greater purpose.
*Based on SleepIQ® data from 6/9/20 to 8/15/20 of sleepers who viewed the circadian rhythm feature vs. those who did not, with sleep timing capturing bedtime and wake time consistency.
** Based on SleepIQ® data from 1/2/20 to 1/1/21 and self-reported responses of sleepers using SleepIQ® technology from 5/12/19 – 1/1/21
***Based on internal analysis of sleep sessions assessing sleepers who use multiple features of Sleep Number® products. Claim based on sleepers achieving over 15 more minutes of restful sleep per sleep session.