Add this to your list of “Stuff I Already Knew”:
Sleep is important.
But for such an important facet of our lives (a person living to the age of 90 will have spent 30 years of their life asleep!), we don’t seem to do very well at getting enough sleep…not to mention getting enough quality sleep.
So how do we start to better our sleep lives?
Dr. Archibald Hart says people today are sleep-deprived, and adds that nowhere are the negative effects felt more acutely than in families. Hart believes most parents realize that their families aren’t getting enough sleep, though they likely don’t understand how serious the problem is and need help finding a solution. Dr. Hart has written Sleep: It Does a Family Good, and joins Ted and PK on Faith Radio Mornings to share 5 steps to helping your family create a consistent and quality night’s rest:
1. Determine your family’s sleep distractions
Whether it’s TV-watching, exercising too soon before sleeping, or too many stimulants (like caffeine or tobacco use), there are a plethora of distractions that can keep you and your family from getting that quality rest your body needs. Hart says families should abstain from heavy exercise for at least 2 hours before their planned bedtime, abstain from stimulants for at least 5 hours before bedtime, and abstain from TV watching for the hour leading up to bedtime.
Hart says we need to make sure we diagnose what might be keeping our families from getting good sleep, and take appropriate action.
2. Shut down mobile devices
Hart says the #1 issue in most homes today is bringing the tablet, laptop, or phone to bed. He says electronic devices can inhibit sleep in many ways (like the unnatural light from the screen exiting your brain), but the biggest reason why so many people want their devices in or near their bed is because they think they need to be available at all hours of the day. What happens is that they will, inevitably, be distracted by something that could probably wait until morning.
Hart is adamant that all members of the family shut down their electronics well before bedtime.
3. Turn off all the lights in your house
Another crucial step in this process is making sure your house is as dark as safely possible. Hart says that in order for Melatonin (the hormone our brain produces that helps controls our sleep-wake cycles) to work, we must make our home as dark as possible by bedtime.
4. Go to sleep at the same time each night
As mentioned in the previous step, Melatonin helps control our sleep-wake cycles. We, Hart says, have to help ourselves by going to bed at the same time each night.
Hart says developing consistent bedtime will help your brain regulate and anticipate your daily sleep patterns.
5. Sleep in multiples of 1.5 hours
Hart says that everyone needs a different amount of sleep, but there is one rule that applies to everyone.
When you sleep, you sleep in 90 minute cycles which culminates in REM (rapid eye movement) sleep; the deepest sleep. What everyone has to do is schedule the time between bedtime and the morning alarm to be in multiples of 1.5 hours.
This allows our sleep cycle to be uninterrupted by our morning alarm clock, resulting in actually feeling ‘awake’ when you awake.
Here’s the trailer for Dr. Hart’s book, Sleep: It Does a Family Good:
Archibald D. Hart is a former dean of the School of Psychology at Fuller Theological Seminary, trained as a clinical psychologist in his native South Africa. Dr. Hart is now retired from full-time teaching but continues to teach two courses in psychology, as well as in the doctor of ministry program.