Sleep Better with Wind-Down Time

09/04/2017 12:34 pm ET
Wind-down time helps the whole family sleep
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Wind-down time helps the whole family sleep

First things first: We can’t hear enough how critical sufficient sleep is for our health and happiness. We all live in a sleep-deprived world. Stress and anxiety, and cultural pressure have us wear sleep deprivation as a badge of honor. It is a part of daily life but it doesn’t have to be that way with planning.

Wind-down time is essential to better sleep. This is not just that 15- to 30-minute bedtime routine, but a real dedication to slowing down at the end of the day.

Here’s what consistent, sufficient sleep does for us

  • Decreases the possibility of diseases
  • Decreases the possibility of accidents and life-threatening incidents due to drowsiness
  • Nurtures daily health
  • Keeps brain functions in tune such as the ability to learn, memory, and problem-solving abilities
  • Amplifies creativity and attention span
  • Strengthens the immune system
  • Keeps our moods balanced and thereby our relationships balanced

Given all those positive results from an activity that is natural, essential, and free – isn’t it worth scheduling some wind-down time every day, for yourself and your family?

What is wind-down time?

Wind-down time is that time when we begin the transition from daily activities and make the transition for sleep. It makes sense: you don’t down-shift from fourth gear into first or neutral. Slowing down – winding down – is as much a part of life as speed and being productive.

Just as sleep gives us the opportunity to heal, and dreams help us integrate the lessons of the day; wind-down time sends a similar message: that calm and peace are priorities for ourselves and our kids. When you plan for this intentional calm time, you set the tone for the night…and better sleep. During wind-down time you can listen to your body, relate to the people (or pets!) around you, and set the stage for a stress- and anxiety-free evening.

Dr. Amy Johnson says this about “doing” and anxiety in this post:

“Doing more doesn’t outsmart anxiety. Anxiety is created by the misunderstanding that we have to do more to begin with. Slowing down and coming back home within ourselves is how anxiety goes away.”

“Coming back home within ourselves” sounds like a pretty great thing to schedule in a day. A healthy habit for ourselves and our kids.

When is wind-down time?

If you pick up a copy of Kate Hanley’s book Stress Less: Stop Stressing, Start Living you’ll find a field guide with 100 exercises for calmness and clarity you can do in less than two minutes all day long.

Kate’s message is important: we can choose calm any time we want. But for bedtime, sleep, and particularly if we have children, wind-down time is that time after school activities, after dinner – or whatever we’re scheduling for the evening meal. Wind-down time comes in before pajama, toothbrush, and tuck-in time.

Wind-down time begins 1 ½ to 2 hours before lights out for the youngest member of the family.

And everyone benefits. Parents stop working which sets up boundaries when it comes to “being” and “doing”. Families relate to each other – or enjoy personal projects in a kind of family “parallel play”. Kids learn to get involved in activities such as reading, puzzles, or even calm and gentle movement. Everyone gets the important messages that they are not their work or their grades, they are in a supportive caring environment, and slowing down for sleep is important.

Adults may benefit the most: when wind-down time and bedtime routines are in place and consistent, the kids are sleeping and you get an extra hour or two in your evening.

Do these things for an effective wind-down time:

  • Plan for it! Get the free Bedtime Blueprint here which will start you planning your days with sleep in mind. (Extra credit if you spend 12 minutes and watch Laura Vanderkam’s Ted Talk on how to gain control of your free time here.)
  • Turn off the screens: televisions, tablets, and smart phones. If this seems scary and drastic to you, just plan your screen time for a different time of the day or week.
  • Encourage everyone to speak a little softer, enjoy silence. Open a window and have everyone identify 3 different sounds.

You and your family will benefit from wind-down time. They’ll sleep better, interact with each other more, and everyone will be set up for a lifetime of happy and healthy habits. To help you schedule wind-down time, get the free Bedtime Blueprint here.

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