Keys for Getting A Good Night’s Sleep

A good night’s sleep has far-reaching benefits for both children and adults. When we are well-rested, our bodies and minds can be healthy and strong. A good night’s sleep helps us have more energy, feel happier, and perform better in all areas of our life. In order to get a good night’s sleep, we need to follow several key steps for good “sleep hygiene.” Just like dental hygiene in which we are taught to brush and floss daily, sleep hygiene involves following daily routines and rituals that vastly improve our ability to get a good night’s sleep.

Several keys for good sleep hygiene are as follows:

  • Have a set bed time and wake time for every day of the week (even the weekends)
  • Turn off the television at least one hour before bed
  • Stop caffeine intake at least 4 to 6 hours before bedtime.
  • Develop a regular sleep routine that you use every day (e.g., take a shower, brush your teeth, read a short book, and then listen to a calming song)
  • Turn off your brain (see below)
  • Limit distractions from noise and light
  • Exercise daily, but not too close to bedtime
  • Limit naps during the day (for older children and adults)

One of the biggest complaints of both children and adults who have trouble falling asleep at night is that they can’t “turn off their brain.” Often, life is so busy that we do not have time to think through and process events from our day and/or to plan for the next day until we get into bed at night. If difficulty turning off your brain is keeping you or your child from falling asleep at night, several techniques may be helpful. Relaxation exercises, such as counting your breaths or doing progressive muscle relaxation, are often helpful. Visualization, ranging from the classic example of counting sheep to imagining yourself in a calm, soothing, relaxing place, can be very effective for promoting sleep as well. It also is important to set aside time during the day for processing worries, talking about meaningful events, thoughts, or feelings, and/or getting emotional support.

A good night’s sleep is the first step toward making each day a great one. Thus, taking the time and putting forth the energy to make positive changes in your family’s sleep habits and routines will be well worth it.

Kelly H. Theis, Ph.D.
Licensed Clinical Psychologist
October 18, 2010