During the winter the short days and long nights can contribute to sleep disruptions for both children and adults. It can be especially hard to wake up when it is still so dark outside each morning. There are some tricks you can use though to help your family get the best possible sleep during these cold months.
First, make sure you aren’t being exposed to lights that can disrupt the quality of your sleep. Most electronic screens emit light wavelengths that cause a portion of your brain to be very alert. This means falling asleep to a tv or interacting with a computer or cell phone just prior to sleep can confuse your brain.
Part of your brain will stay active even after you fall asleep and this hampers the rest your brain needs. Therefore, even if you are allowing your body enough time to sleep you might still be waking up feeling tired.
Each evening, be mindful of the light sources throughout your home. As bedtime approaches make sure you and your children are exposed to soft, indirect, yellow spectrum light. Also, consider gradually turning off some of those lights so the space becomes gradually darker. These light signals help prompt your brain and body to feel sleepy and to prepare for a good night’s rest.
Avoid electronic screens ideally for an hour prior to bedtime. Also, avoid nightlights that emit blue or green light as this tends to excite the brain.
In the morning, bright white to blue spectrum lights can help your brain and body feel more alert.
If the sun is up it is a good idea to open the curtains in your child’s room 10-20 minutes prior to waking them completely. The light will help your child’s body and brain recognize the start to a new day and can help them to naturally wake up. If it is still dark outside you can try the same effect with a bedside lamp with a white spectrum bulb.
Lastly, there are a variety of products that can help to simulate sunrise and sunset light patterns. Some are designed to function as alarm clocks while others are programmable light bulbs and lamps.
Products come with a range of options and prices, but could make for a wonderful holiday gift for the non-morning person in your life. I myself struggle most mornings and loathe my alarm clock but decided to try an app-controlled lamp for the last 6 months. It simulates a sunrise starting 15 minutes prior to my alarm and I can report having successfully woken before my alarm most days of the week feeling refreshed (and less vicious towards my alarm clock).
Good sleep is important for everyone. Improve your family’s sleep hygiene with just a little extra attention to the lights in your home. And remember, it’s not just about quantity but also quality.