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Establish a Sleep Routine for Your Kids and Yourself -- Get the Rest You Need (Part 3 in a 3-part series)

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This is the final installment in this 3-part series on what keeps a child up at night and how parents can help children feel calm and secure, and sleep. You may already have a sleep routine for your little one, but did you know it's equally helpful for parents -- indeed, any adult -- to have a sleep routine.

Sleep routines signal the body and mind that's it's time to wind down and release sleep-inducing melatonin into the body. You may wonder how much sleep you and your child needs to be at your best.
The National Sleep Foundation recommends people get the following amounts of sleep:

  • Newborns -- 14 to 17 hours
  • Infants -- 12 to 15 hours
  • Toddlers -- 11 to 14 hours
  • Preschoolers -- 10 to 13 hours
  • School age -- 9 to 11 hours
  • Teens -- 8 to 10 hours
  • Young adults -- 7 to 9 hours
  • Adults -- 7 to 9 hours
  • Older Adults 65+ -- 7 to 8 hours

Here are some simple, proven strategies for a sleep routine for infants.
At bedtime:

  • Pull down the window shades.
  • Lower the lights.
  • Bathe your baby to relax him or her.
  • Turn on white noise.
  • Feed and burp your baby.
  • Change his or her diaper.
  • Read your baby a book (optional).
  • Swaddle your little one (recommended until they learn to roll over).
  • Hugs and kisses, then put your infant down on his or her back.

Modify the sleep routine according to your child's age. Get little ones to bed before they are overtired.

For adults, a sleep routine isn't all that different than for a child:

  • Create a calming bedtime routine. About an hour before bed, start your routine. It could include readying things you'll need the next day -- like what clothing you'll wear -- to reduce stress. Before bedtime, take quiet time and avoid using electronic devices as they can make it difficult to sleep. Your routine should include relaxing activities, like listening to calming music, reading or a bath.
  • Read in a low lit room. Our biological clocks are set by the sun and the moon. As the sun goes down, the melatonin in our bodies begins to increase, which prepares the body for sleep.
  • Avoid large meals too close to bedtime, but don't go to bed hungry. A small snack is okay.
  • Keep bedrooms cool and comfortable. The best temperature for sleep is between 68 and 72 degrees.
  • If you are kept awake or awakened by light, use blackout shades and/or eye pillows.
  • Get a white noise machine or app. The Marpac Dohm line of products creates the soothing sound of rushing air, which has been proven to effectively block noises at a broad range of frequencies. You can download the app, SimplyNoise, on a smartphone (put your cell on airplane mode).
  • Do a bedding check, and replace old pillows; clean duvet covers, pillow covers and mattress pads.

Once you have established a sleep routine, stick with it -- even on the weekends. You'll have the most restorative sleep when sleep is predictable. Getting enough quality sleep is critical to your health. Establish good sleeping habits for your entire family with these strategies. Actions speak louder than words, and the example you set by making sleep a priority will serve you and your child -- now and throughout his or her lifetime.

If fear of the unknown is keeping your little one up at night, see Part 1 in this series; for more information on how structure, boundaries and consistency manifest as security in a child, please see Part 2.