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Blog: The Light of Aurora

Don’t Fight the Sandman: Sleep! We All Need It!

14:40 PM - November 20, 2023

Don’t Fight the Sandman: Sleep! We All Need It!

“But I’m not tired!”

“Just one more book?”

“I need to go potty!”

Settling ourselves and our children to get the sleep, rest, and restoration we need can be a struggle.

As adults, we understand the limited hours between going to bed and waking for our daily activities. We feel the cycle of sleep and wake and appreciate its importance. But for children, there may be a different understanding of the necessity of sleep. Caregivers need to help little ones understand how important it is to experience deep sleep.

Our distant ancestors worked hard during the day and slept intentionally at night. They did not have the modern technology we rely on - like electricity - and the ability to stay up well beyond sunset thanks to 100-watt bulbs. Their working and waking hours revolved around the sun's rising and setting. We could all benefit from returning to using the sun to guide our sleep habits.

During healthy sleep, our bodies calm inflammation and store energy for the next day. Our GI system digests food still in our bodies, our respiratory system breathes and brings in good, clean air for our lungs, and our circulatory system rids our blood and lymph of waste. Our brains continue to function like a well-oiled machine, carrying out the most complicated tasks, such as ridding themselves of waste products and preparing for the next day's activities.

Even with our best sleep intentions, there are times when we have a period of poor sleep, and so do our children. And we all know how this makes us - and our kids - feel yucky! We drag ourselves around during the day, yawning, eyes half open, generally overindulging in caffeine and junk foods. Our bodies are telling us to stop and listen. It's time to dial back on the electronics and its wake-inducing blue light screens. It's time to stop answering emails or text messages. It’s time to create a home environment suitable and sustainable for healthy sleep.

A colleague recently sent me a great article about sleep that suggested turning the power off in your home for a short while (not long enough to spoil anything in the refrigerator) and taking the time to notice how quiet your house truly is. We grow accustomed to hearing appliances and electronics running and working in the background so that we don’t hear the noise. These “noises” can keep our brains and bodies stimulated, affecting our readiness for rest. Try this brief experiment in your home and notice how you feel. Calmer?

When children are exhausted, they tend to express themselves by crying, fussing, being unable to focus on their work, generally disagreeing with almost everything, and even throwing tantrums.

Luckily, many things at our disposal can help improve young people’s sleep hygiene. Dimming the lights in the evening can allow their own body's melatonin - the hormone helpful in settling our bodies for sleep - to kick into gear, and creating a routine like resting or reading in a favorite chair or calm spot signals to children that the end of the day is upon us and sleep is near. Lavender diffusers or warm baths before bedtime can calm children and prepare them for rest. Noise machines that offer soothing sounds of nature prepare the sleeping space, and a solid bedtime routine helps the body relax for the day's closure.

With two-year-old twin grandchildren myself, I know how challenging it can be to quiet an active, overtired child into a blissful sleep routine. But when exhaustion sets in, our bodies cannot help but give in to the call from the sleep fairy, especially when we follow these good sleep habits.

We all need sleep for our bodies to restore and heal, so when yours tells you it’s time for a nap or bedtime, take a listen, grab that hammock, lay down with your little one, enjoy that snuggle, and hopefully catch some zzz’s. The chores can wait. When yawns start to come, and our eyelids feel heavy, listen to the calling of the sandman and give in to the sweet relief of sleep! (insert yawn)

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