For many of us, the summer ushers in a time of spontaneous activities, weekend trips, afternoons at the pool or park, and staying up past our usual bed time to watch movies as a family or spend time with friends. These activities are what make so many of us love the summer time, but like all good things, the fun must come to an end (sort of). With the summer winding down and the school year kicking into gear, it’s time to start getting back into a healthy routine. Creating a healthy routine doesn’t have to be hard or boring; in fact, it can be quite fun! There are so many ways to build a healthy routine for your family, and many areas of our lives benefit from routine. With that in mind, we are going to break our healthy routine series into three parts: sleep, meals, and scheduling. Let’s start with sleep!
How to Create a Sleep Schedule
We hear new moms and dads talking about sleep training their babies, but we often forget about the necessity of a sleep schedule as we age. Sleep is arguably the most important part of a healthy routine and that applies to all ages! Sleep is essential, and quality sleep makes a big difference in our physical and mental health and recovery. In order to have the energy to maintain healthy routines in other areas of your life, you have to start with sleep, and bed time routines are a big part of getting a good night’s sleep. If you don’t already have a bed time routine in place for your kiddos (and for yourselves, parents!), here are some tips:
- After dinner, start bath time and follow a routine! Bath time, or shower time if your kiddos are older, is an essential part of relaxing before bed. For littles, set a timer for bath time every night so you remain consistent and give your babes time to play, wash, and relax. Following bath time, dry off and use a pleasantly-scented lotion, and then put the kids straight into their jammies and have them brush their teeth. The routine of bath, lotion, jammies, teeth signals your little ones that it’s time to start winding down and prepare for sleep. While this routine is particularly helpful for young children, it’s an important step for older kids and parents, too. After homework and dinner are done, it’s time to relax. Baths and showers, while often cut short for parents of littles, are both physically and mentally relaxing and help our bodies calm down from a day filled with stimulation and activity.
- Turn off all screens 1 hour before lights out. Our devices emit blue light, artificial light that can interrupt our natural circadian rhythm when we are trying to wind down before bed. Not only that, scrolling social media or checking emails close to bed time can lead to more brain activity, which may make it hard to fall asleep if you read or see something that starts you down a thinking rabbit hole. Our recommendation? Replace iPad, phone, or TV time before bed with reading a book, listening to a soothing soundtrack or sound machine, or even try meditating! If you have kiddos, the first two options are probably a little more realistic for you. You wouldn’t be the first parents to have kids trying to jump into bed with you as you’re trying to fall asleep.
- Make your bedroom into a sleep cave! Bedrooms should be peaceful, dark, cold, and free from stress so that your body knows it’s time to sleep when going to bed. Of course, especially with littles, bed time often has interruptions for parents, but creating a sleep cave applies to your kiddos, too! One of our favorite kid-approved sleep cave additions is a sound machine or soothing audio book. Once the story starts, your kids know that sleep is soon to follow! For the parents reading this, here are 4 sleep cave essentials that our team swears by:
- Make beds in the morning. There are many good reasons to make your bed in the morning, one reason being it helps your kids form healthy habits at a young age. But one less-talked-about reason for making your bed in the morning is that climbing into a freshly made bed feels better than climbing into tangled sheets. Not only do the sheets feel cooler when they’re made up, turning down your sheets for bed signals the brain that you’re switching gears and are ready to sleep.
- Turn down the AC or turn on fans. No one enjoys waking up hot and sweaty! Keeping your bedroom cool helps regulate your body temperature during the night. Just make sure that you have adequate blankets available so that no one wakes up in the middle of the night shivering.
- Don’t watch tv in bed. This one is hard for many of us, myself included! My husband and I love watching movies together, and we enjoy watching tv from the comfort of our bed; however, we rarely sleep well during the night if we do. If tv in bed is something you and your partner do to spend quality time together without the kids, try shutting it down 30 minutes to 1 hour before sleep, or at least move it to the couch. Let your bed be a place for sleeping so that your brain (and body!) know when you’re in bed, it’s time to wind down.
- Invest in good blackout curtains. Shutters, blinds, and cotton curtains look lovely but they don’t do a great job of keeping the bedroom fully dark. Blackout curtains come in many different styles and price ranges, but we recommend investing in a good set. Based on the circadian rhythm, our bodies register darkness with sleep. That’s why our night shift warriors deserve an extra hug! The darker you can keep your bedroom, the better your sleep will be!
- Go to bed at the same time every night. This one is tough with busy schedules, but as often as you’re able, try to get to bed at the same time every night. Our bodies are big fans of routine thanks to the circadian rhythm, which runs on a 24-hour clock. When life is chaotic and parents are busy with work, homework, and shuffling kids to and from activities, it isn’t always easy to get to bed at a decent time. Consider this: bed times work in both parents’ and kids’ favors. When kids get to bed at the same time every night, it’s easier for parents to do the same. Make sure to include some quality time for you and your partner, or take time to yourself to decompress from the day before taking your shower and getting into bed. Just do your best to keep that bed time in mind! If you are consistently making an effort to get to bed at the same time each night, you will likely experience better quality, longer sleep. (And so will your kids!)
- Minimize caffeine intake. Some days we just need it. That extra cup of coffee we know we shouldn’t have when the 2 pm slump sets in. That energy drink before the gym after a long day at the office or before picking up the kids from school. When we are tired, we only make our situations worse by over-consuming caffeine. But we totally understand that when our energy is in short supply, we all need something to help kick it up a notch. That’s why we made Red Leaf Pre-Workout and Red Leaf Immunity. With 40 mg caffeine and 80 mg caffeine respectively, both of our energy drinks are designed to give you a little lift to conquer your day without making it hard for you to fall asleep. Not sure about pre-workout? We recommend starting with Red Leaf Immunity. It has the same amount of caffeine as one 8 oz cup of coffee, but it also packs in powerhouse ingredients like electrolytes, B vitamins, and amino acids, including glutamine and BCAA’s, for immune support. Try this refreshing, thirst-quenching energy boost in our signature cranberry lime flavor and save 10% when you use the code “redleaf” at checkout.
Sleep is incredibly important to living a long, healthy life, and the more researchers study sleep, the more they say it’s a game changer. When it comes to creating a healthy routine for your family this school year, don’t neglect your sleep schedules! Physically, our bodies recover during sleep. It’s when our muscles heal and grow! The same is true for our brains. After a poor night’s sleep, I have no energy, and am groggy, distracted, unfocused, unable to solve problems, easily irritated, and generally grumpy. I’m guessing that’s true for most of us, and especially true for our kiddos! If you’re a parent, you know the dread that follows a sleepless night for your littles.
Step one of creating a healthy routine for your family starts in the bedroom with sleep. Stay tuned for the next two blogs that discuss creating routines with meals and schedules and let us know if you try any of our recommendations for improving your family’s nighttime routine!