What are Sleep Routines?
Sleep is essential for a healthy body and mind. It is a basic human need and without it we would not be able to function properly. People often believe that they can get by with a little sleep but it catches up with you eventually. Getting a good sleep benefits your mood, memory and concentration. It also promotes growth and development, boosts the immune system as well as nervous system.
Understanding the sleep cycle is important to ensure that you get a peaceful, sounder sleep. When you sleep, your sleep goes in cycles between rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep. REM sleep is a basically a light sleep where you will most likely awaken. In REM, you do most of your dreaming and your body does not move much, heart rate increases and your eyes move back and forth. In NREM your body slows down to prepare you for your deepest sleep.
Why are Sleep Routines important?
Developing healthy sleep routines can help make up for lost sleep and ensure that you function at your optimal best. Predictable routines are especially important for babies and children as child sleep problems can greatly impact a child’s mental and physical wellbeing. You might encounter some resistance at first but with consistency and lots of practice, you will be able to reap the rewards at a later stage.
Initially, your newborn will sleep most of the time and wake up for feedings many times during the night. Parents are usually at their wit’s end during the first few months of the birth of the baby and lack of sleep is definitely the order of the day. Expecting your baby to sleep through the night will depend on the baby and his or her age.
By the time your baby is two or three months old, you can start developing predictable sleep routines. Babies welcome and respond well to any form of routine. A regular sleep routine allows your baby to experience the same thing every night, cues him or her that it is time to sleep and also promote an easier, quicker sleep. Like babies, children need plenty of sleep every night to function and perform better throughout the day. Children with healthy sleep habits tend to be happier, more alert, concentrate better, and have more energy.
What are healthy Sleep Routines?
Each person’s sleep requirements are different. Infants may need 16 hours of sleep while babies and toddlers from the age of 6 months to 3 years may need between 10 and 14 hours per day. Children from ages 3 to 6 years need between 10 and 12 hours of sleep, ages 6 to 9 years need approximately 10 hours of sleep and ages 9 to 12 years need approximately 9 hours of sleep.
Most teenagers need about 9 hours of sleep per night while adults generally need between 7 to 8 hours per night. Older adults also need about 7 to 8 hours of sleep but this sleep may be for shorter time periods, be lighter and include a nap during the day. Pregnant women may need more hours of sleep at night and often catnap during the day.
Help for healthy Sleep Routines
Many people suffer from sleep disorders and often they may not only be as a result of poor sleeping patterns but also of an underlying disease such as arthritis or fibromyalgia. A variety of over-the-counter and prescription medications are available to treat disorders such as insomnia, restless leg syndrome, narcolepsy, sleep apnea or snoring that affect your ability to have a good night’s rest. It is important to note that these medications are harsh and if the dosage is monitored correctly can become addictive.
More and more people are choosing natural remedies over allopathic medications. Herbal and homeopathic remedies can effectively offer symptomatic relief while at the same time they are safe to use for all ages. Certain herbs such as Avena sativa, Scuttelaria laterifolia and Passiflora incarnata can safely be taken to treat chronic sleep problems and maintain healthy sleep patterns.
In addition, a combination of herbs and sleep facilitating nutrients such as Hypericum perforatuma, Schizandra chinesis, Calcium lactate, Magnesium lactate and Vitamin B6 treats the underlying causes of sleep problems, balances serotonin levels naturally and induces a regular, satisfying sleep. Homeopathic ingredients such as Calcium sulphate, Magnesium phosphate and Calcium phosphate can also help to maintain a deep, restful sleep. For children, Matricaria recutita (Chamomilla), Passiflora incarnata, Coffea and Cina can successfully promote healthy sleeping patterns in babies and children.
More Information on Sleep Routine
Sleep Tips For babies
- Keep to a regular schedule by feeding or nursing, bathing and putting baby to bed at the same time every night and waking them at the same time each morning
- Bath and massage your baby to relax, calm him or her and also provide a soothing effect to prepare them for sleep
- Ensure that you have nursed or bottle-fed your baby before putting them to bed – babies who are hungry will not sleep for long periods and will wake up to be fed
- Read a story to your baby to promote sleep. Babies find it comforting when they hear the sound of your voice, learn to relate story reading as a cue for sleep time, pictures that are textured and have bright colors are appealing to them and encourages language skills and a passion of reading.
- Rock, kiss and snuggle with your baby before he or she sleeps because they need to know that you are there and feel safe and secure
- Sing a lullaby to the baby or play soothing music to promote easier sleeping patterns Introduce items such as a pacifier, stuffed animal or blanket that can be placed in the baby’s crib and he or she can associate with you
Sleep Tips For toddlers and children
- Create a familiar routine for bedtime - feed, bath, cuddle, saying goodnight, a story or lullaby
- Establish regular daily routines by maintaining the same waking time, nap time, meal time, and play time for your child - this makes going to bed easier and also helps them to feel secure.
- Interact with your child in an affectionate but firm manner so that he or she becomes accustomed to the bedtime routine
- Find out when your child’s ideal bedtime is by observing in the evening when he or she is starting to wind down and tire
- Ensure that children are physically active throughout the day and get plenty of fresh air
- Allow your child to choose his or her favorite stuffed animal or soft toy to sleep with
- Dim the lights in the evening as bedtime approaches and provide a night light if your child does not like the dark
- Avoid giving your child food, snacks or drinks that contain sugar and caffeine (chocolate, cola) as it disrupts the sleep cycle
- If your child is frightened of the "monster in the closet" or of being left alone, promise to return and check on him or her every ten minutes.
- Avoid sending your child to bed as a threat or punishment as bedtime should be an enjoyable experience
Sleep Tips For adults
- Establish and maintain regular bedtime and wake-up time patterns, including weekends – the circadian clock in our brain helps to balance sleep time and wake time
- Establish bedtime rituals such as relaxing in a hot bath, read a book or magazine or listen to soft, soothing music and drink warm milk before bedtime
- Talk to your spouse or partner about your day as this will enable you to stay connected to each other and clear the problems of the day
- Avoid working, participating in solving family problems or discussing finances before bedtime
- Practice relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga or visualization to reduce stress and anxiety
- Create a comfortable, tranquil and relaxing sleeping environment
- Use the bedroom only for sleeping and sexual activity and remove distractions such as televisions, computers
- Eat a healthy balanced diet packed with fresh fruit and vegetables
- Exercise regularly as it helps to fall asleep easier – remember to exercise at least 3 hours before sleep time
- Spend time outdoors after waking as this regulates the body’s biological clock
- Maintain a healthy weight as being overweight or obese also affects sleeping patterns
- Avoid stimulants such as caffeine, sedatives, alcohol and nicotine that may interfere with the sleep cycle