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At Professor Wellbody's Academy of Health & Wellness, we understand there's only one thing harder than making healthy behavior changes: Sticking to them! We all need a little help from our friends, and that's the purpose of the Wellbody Blog, a friendly online gathering spot--a community well--where you can dip into health news; wellness tips; recipes; latest research about nutrition, exercise, sleep and hygiene; plus, real stories from virtual neighbors who are also trying to change their lives for the better. Start from wherever you are; share ideas, information, inspiration. At Pacific Science Center, we believe each of us can do something everyday to improve our health and well-being.

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10 Ways To Convince Kids To Go To Bed On Light Summer Nights

sunset200Here in the Northwest, long summer days + lingering light = bedtime creep. If your kids have been staying up later and later, keep reading for 10 ways to help them get a healthy night’s sleep.

1. First, try teaching children why they need to sleep. Present sleep as an activity that’s important for their health, rather than as a vague punishment—isolation in a dark room. Recent studies on seventh graders and preschoolers found that children in sleep smart programs went to bed earlier and slept longer on weekends.

2. Share that sleep is a time when the mind recharges, organizing thoughts and preserving important memories while discarding those that aren’t needed. Children who get a good night’s sleep are better remembering what they learned – that includes basketball footwork and violin fingering as well as memorizing vocabulary lists.

3. Share the health risks of not getting enough sleep. People who are sleep deprived risk damaging memory, learning, creativity, productivity, emotional stability and physical health. They’re more vulnerable to cancer, diabetes, weight gain, colds and flu and car accidents. They’re more likely to gain weight, be forgetful and feel cranky during the day.

4. Discuss why children especially need sleep to grow and repair muscles and tissues; growth hormone is released during sleep. As most parents have noticed, lack of sleep can also cause behavioral problems for kids. One study found that sleep-deprived children were often misdiagnosed with ADHD.

5. Discover with your child  how much sleep is enough based on age. 

Most adults: 7 or 8 hours a night

Adolescents: 9 – 10 hours

Elementary school children: 10 hours

Preschoolers: 11 – 13 hours

Newborns: 16 – 18 hours

Teens: Note that even though adolescents may have as many (or more) activities and obligations as adults, their bodies still need a couple more hours of sleep every night. It’s not enough to “catch up” on the weekends. Discuss how to make time in the schedule for sleep.

6. Set a consistent bedtime and stick with it. Even on the weekends, try to stay close to the same bedtime. If you must drastrically deviate from the schedule, aim to meet your usual sleep goal on the day before and day after the special event. 

7. Create an artificial sunset by dimming lights and avoiding screens an hour before bedtime.

8. Create a bedtime routine. Children can read a picture book with a parent, then tuck a favorite stuffed animal into bed and kiss it goodnight before getting into bed themselves. Tweens and teens can create their own ritual. (Best that it doesn’t involve devices with bright screens.) Kids can create a poster or chart that depicts the steps of their bedtime ritual (e.g. putting on pajamas, brushing teeth, reading book, tucking in stuffed animal, getting into bed.) That way, the chart they created themselves is telling them what to do, not the parent.

9. Use blackout shades. These can be expensive, but there are creative ways to make your own using free and inexpensive materials. Flatten cardboard boxes and tape them together with duct tape in a shape and size that matches the window you want to cover. At least a half-hour before bed, place the cardboard on the sill, leaning it toward the glass and pushing into the window frame for a snug fit.

10. Use a sticker chart or habit app to track progress. Here’s a Wellbody Blog survey of free habit apps plus tips and downloadable pdfs for making star charts.

Visit Wellbody Academy's Slumbertorium to learn more about sleep through hands-on activities!

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Guest Sunday, 21 September 2014