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Whether you yourself, or your child struggles with getting a good night’s sleep, you know how difficult poor sleep can make every other area of your life. When Rachel and I were getting ready to welcome our first child into the world, we did some research and learned what we could about babies and sleep.

We have been very fortunate to have good sleepers, but the first six weeks were always a struggle, so we are very aware of how lack of sleep can kill your productivity, diminish your health, and make you feel a little crazy.

We have come to learn that good sleep is a cornerstone to health in every other area of our lives, but it also has a symbiotic relationship with other practices and disciplines. In this episode we’ll share things you can do during your day that will lead to better sleep at night.

Highlights, Takeaways, & Quick Wins
  • Lack of proper sleep can do a lot of damage, physically and emotionally.
  • Sleep is a cornerstone for the health of everything else in your life.
  • When you have good nutrition, the chemicals your body uses to regulate sleep are in balance.
  • Doing focused work during the day is great for helping your brain start sleep processes at night.
  • Do whatever you can to avoid using screens before bed.
  • Having some level of routine and consistency throughout your day is helpful for better sleep.
  • When you don’t work through your unresolved feelings, your brain is still working on them when you’re asleep.
  • Sleep is so important that it’s worth investing in things that are going to increase your level of comfort.
  • When you invest time in helping your child get better sleep, you’re also investing time in helping yourself get better sleep.
Show Notes
  • 01:35 Ben: We’ve come to learn over the years that sleep is a cornerstone for the health of everything else in your life. The better sleep you get, the more productive you can be, the more focused you’re able to be, the easier it is to be more disciplined when it comes to eating, the easier it is to be calm, and the easier it is to make better choices in the way you interact with people—contrast that with not getting enough sleep. We’ve had six children now and even though our children are very good sleepers right now, for the first four to six weeks for each of them, we didn’t get much sleep.
  • 02:26 Rachel: Some people go through a whole year of that. We’re very very lucky.
  • 02:34 Ben: I can’t imagine. With the feedings every three hours and the occasional crying for no reason, I remember feeling like I was going to go insane. When I hear about my friends who have children who have a difficult time sleeping through the night, even when they’re older, or just people in general who have trouble falling or staying asleep, I think back to the way that felt. I think about how exponentially more difficult it was to do everything.
  • 03:17 Rachel: I remember it was so bad for me I would get migraines from not having enough sleep. Instead of just being a headache, it manifested itself as vertigo. When our second son was born, we were still playing pretty regularly with our band and I remember standing on the stage and the whole room would tilt.

Lack of proper sleep can do a lot of damage, physically and emotionally.

  • 04:11 Ben: We’ve had a lot of questions already asking if you have outside factors affecting your sleep—like your children aren’t good sleepers—how do you get the kind of rest that you need. I think we need to devote another episode to that specifically. Today I want to talk about some practices you can employ throughout your day, for yourself or your children, that makes it more likely you’re going to get a better night’s sleep.
  • 04:45 That is in part how you get better sleep when you have those outside influences, but we’ll cover that another time. I mentioned that sleep is the cornerstone of the health of everything else, but sleep also has a symbiotic relationship with many of the things you do throughout your day. I want to talk about how those things affect sleep and what the practices are we can employ to ensure better sleep.

Diet

  • 05:25 With the foods you eat, it makes sense you wouldn’t want to eat something super sugary or that has caffeine right before bed. That may seem pretty obvious, but what’s not obvious is the fact that maintaining good nutrition throughout your day is essential to getting a good night’s sleep.

When you have good nutrition, the chemicals your body uses to regulate sleep are in balance.

  • 06:01 When you’re not getting proper nutrition, it throws those things out of balance and it’s difficult for your body to have those regular processes in place that help you fall asleep at the right time and help you feel wakeful at the right time. It’s going to be different for everyone. We all have different body types. Some of us process carbohydrates differently, some of us process fats differently. Some of us have larger bodies, some of us have smaller frames. It’s important to understand for your body type what the proper nutrition is.
  • 06:55 Some of what comes into play there too is your level of activity. You might need to eat a little bit differently according to your level of activity throughout the day. The level of work that you do affects it too, and not just physical work, but the kind of mental work you do. When you’re doing stuff that takes a lot of focus and a lot of attention or creativity, that takes a lot of energy as well.
  • 06:43 It’s important to offset the energy you’re spending so you don’t get exhausted. Rachel has been the one really driving the changes in our food lifestyle. Rachel, what have you noticed in terms of the kind of sleep you’ve been getting as we’ve been adjusting our diet?
  • 07:37 Rachel: For the last four years we’ve been on a food journey, but just recently we cut out all sugar and I cut out all carbs because my body doesn’t process them. I know the times we’ve ordered in and eaten it right before bed, I do not sleep very well at all. I never have trouble going to sleep, but I’ll have trouble staying asleep. It’s not as deep of a restful sleep.
  • 08:19 Ben: That’s a really important distinction too. This is something interesting I learned: when you drink alcohol before bed, the quality of sleep you get is affected because of the way it messes with your body timing and where you are in your sleep cycle, even though it’s easier to fall asleep. I was in a habit for a while where I’d have a glass of wine on the weekends before bed because it was relaxing. Honestly, for me, learning that made me decide if I do have something, I’d rather have it closer to dinner time where there’s still plenty of time between then and when I’m falling asleep.
  • 09:39 What Rachel said about her body not processing carbohydrates is interesting to me. We’re still learning a lot about this, but everyone has a pair of APOE genes—one they receive from their mother and one from their father. Everyone is one of six combinations of those genes—a 2/2, 3/3, 4/4, 2/3, 3/4, or a 2/4. Depending on what your combination is, it influences a lot of different factors, but one of the things is the way your body processes certain foods. People with a 4/4 do not process fats and oils very well, and it causes obesity and that kind of thing. People with a 2/2 are very rare and they process fats and oils very well. Those are the people who could eat bacon every day for every meal and it wouldn’t make a difference, but simple carbohydrates, especially found in processed foods, aren’t processed very well in their bodies and it can lead to a lot of complications.
  • 11:21 Rachel: Mainly heart disease.
  • 11:24 Ben: In Rachel’s case, not getting enough carbs can lead to poor sleep because your body doesn’t have what it needs to make it through without going into starvation mode. It’s really important to find the balance between what your specific body needs and what’s going to allow you to get enough sleep because you can get yourself into a negative cycle. Rachel is a 2/2 and I’m a 3/3. I’m normal—65% of the population are that gene type.
  • 12:08 Rachel: My doctor has called me super human because of my ability to process cholesterol, but it’s super annoying because, like you said, your brain needs carbohydrates. My body just doesn’t process them.
  • 12:29 Ben: What we’re learning is that your body type can process complex carbs in moderation.
  • 12:38 Rachel: I took nutrition in college and there’s just a lot of questions about it. You hear different things from different people. It’s really one of those things where you have to figure out what’s best for you.
  • 12:56 Ben: It’s good to do your research but you can also find out from experience, just listening to your body and finding out what’s working or what’s not working.

Exercise

  • 13:16 Are you getting enough exercise throughout the day? For kids, this looks like play. Most kids don’t have a gym membership or go out for jogs until they’re older. As parents who are really busy, it can be difficult to find time to exercise. Our next episode is going to be talking about that a little bit, but a great thing we can do is make time to play with our children. When they run around and get physical exercise, they get better rest at night, and it does the same thing for us.
  • 14:02 Rachel: Especially when it’s outdoors. It’s the sun, being out in nature, and they’re sweating if you’re in Texas. It’s really good for kids to play outside and it’s good to play with them. If we play like kids it’s probably much better than running a handful of miles. I’ve played chase with the boys where it’s an aerobic workout.
  • 14:32 Ben: It’s like interval training. We go to the park every once in a while and our boys’ favorite thing to play with us is freeze tag. If you don’t know what freeze tag is, it’s basically a series of sprints across the playground. There are five boys who can actually run around and play, two of them that don’t understand the rules and keep running after you tag them. It’s a real challenge to get them all to freeze.
  • 15:08 Rachel: And if you ever want to be terrified, let your kids be it and you’re the one running.
  • 15:15 Ben: Another thing we do pretty regularly as a family is have dance parties. One night we’ll put on some music and we’ll all dance. We usually try to show each other up. That’s a really good workout if you get into it. I want to insert something here that can have to do with exercise, but can also have to do with the kind of work you’re doing throughout the day. For kids, part of the equation is also doing some form of work. It’s not necessary manual labor, but doing something that causes them to spend energy. Either focusing and trying to solve problems or doing something that’s tedious like chores around the house.

Doing focused work during the day is great for helping your brain start sleep processes at night.

  • 16:11 What you want to avoid, both with exercise and with your work, is getting to the end of your day and being exhausted. It’s the same thing with the wine, when you’re exhausted, you might fall asleep more easily but the quality of the sleep is going to be affected. For those of you who procrastinate on projects like I do sometimes and then have to work super hard and really focus to get it done at the last minute, that’s going to affect your quality of sleep.
  • 17:11 Another thing that can cause this is if you’re trying to adjust your sleep schedule. Some people say if you want to start going to bed earlier or start waking up earlier, just wake up early the first day. That seems to make sense because if you wake up early the first day, even if you haven’t gotten enough sleep, by the end of the day you’ll be tired and go to bed earlier, but that exhausts you. It would be better to sleep in and to get enough sleep to be rested and then at the end of the day, with a rested body and mind—not exhausted—try to get yourself to sleep a little earlier.

Screens

  • 18:01 Rachel is probably more strict about this than I am.
  • 18:09 Rachel: I’m not a big fan of screens. I know at a certain point our kids need to know how to work screens, but I prefer the kids to read a book or go outside and play. We’ve just started introducing a little bit of screen time to our boys. I don’t usually like to deal with it because kids, especially boys, get a laser focus on screens so when the timer goes off, there’s always a fight. That gets a little exhausting. I feel like I probably have a prejudice about screens.
  • 18:56 Ben: I think it’s good because I like how strict you are about it. I don’t think I’d be as mindful of the amount of time they’re spending and the effect that’s having on them. For kids, the rules are different, obviously, than adults. I think for kids it’s two years and younger, they’re actually not supposed to have any regular exposure to screens because it influences the way they understand how physics and gravity work. It also really over-stimulates their brain.
  • 19:40 Rachel: Research has shown that it actually remaps the brain. The synapses start firing in a different way.
  • 19:48 Ben: We’re watching a series called The Brain and we highly recommend it because it offers some great insight into the developing brain and how outside influences can change the way the brain wires together during development. Up until the age of five they say something like 30 minutes per day is the maximum amount of time they should have exposure to screens. Beyond that, I think it’s up to two hours. Our nine year old is in the range where two hours is an acceptable amount of time.
  • 20:34 That seems like a lot if you’re sitting down and doing it all at once, but if you think about over the course of his day, he’s definitely having exposure to screens at school. They have computer lab and they do some stuff on the iPad in his class. By the time he’s come home, he’s already logged some time, and then we give him some pretty heavily regulated screen time. We’re not talking about throughout the day, not even right before bed, if there’s too much stimulation—particularly where the person using the screen is being very passive and not interacting with it—the brain has trouble turning that off when it’s time to wind down to sleep.
  • 21:33 Rachel: Especially when that screen time hasn’t been balanced with any kind of expelling energy time, like going outside to play or taking a walk. I think anything we can apply to children is also true for us.

When we haven’t expended our energy in other ways and we’ve only been staring at screens all day, it affects how well we sleep.

  • 22:06 Ben: Not all screen time is created equal. There’s a difference between watching a movie or playing on social media and actually doing creative work, like when Rachel writes. She’s spending four hours at a time writing on a computer. I do want to talk about screens right before bed. Within two hours of when you’re trying to get to sleep, if you’re looking at a screen and you’re not using any mechanism for changing the color temperature of that screen, that can actually cause your brain to halt the process of becoming sleepy and falling asleep.
  • 23:52 The melatonin that causes you to feel sleepy is blocked when you’re exposed to blue light because that’s closely associated with sun light. Every person experiences this to a different degree, but biologically speaking, when we’re exposed to sunlight, it makes sense our bodies want to be more wakeful. When we’re exposed to diminishing sunlight—it gets into the orange and the red tones—our bodies get sleepy.
  • 24:36 Historically, our ancestors weren’t well-suited to deal with the dangers of night, so the safest thing to do was find shelter and sleep, so our bodies have this natural thing built in. With the wide use of screens, they’re finding that people who are looking at screens right before bed are having a really hard time getting to sleep and staying asleep.
  • 25:02 Rachel: Which is ironic, because now we read so many books on screens. I actually had to stop reading books on my Kindle before bed because of that. I had noticed there was a drop in quality of sleep.

Whatever you can possibly do to avoid using screens before bed is optimal.

  • 25:22 Ben: But if you absolutely must use screens, there’s a program called Flux that you can use for your desktop or laptop computer and if you’ve jailbroken your phone, you can use it there too. Flux changes the color temperature of your screen to those yellow tones based on the time of day. You can also program it to reach a certain color temperature by a certain time. It’s really great. If you’re working into the later hours, it will shift gradually and you won’t even notice it. It blocks all of that blue light that would normally keep you awake. Now, with Apple’s latest iOS release, they have something similar called Night Shift that does the same thing. That’s a great way to still use screens if you need to.
  • 26:56 Rachel: Sometimes when you’re parents you do need to because that’s prime working hours when the kids fall asleep.
  • 27:04 Ben: It is and I have the bad habit of doing visual creative work to where I disable Flux “real quick” because I need to see the actual colors on my screen. I’m brainstorming ways I can keep that from happening, like doing that kind of work at different times so I’m not doing it at night. That’s why reading a physical book is such a great thing to do before bed. The way the softer light bounces off the pages is like watching the colors in a sunset.
  • 27:53 Rachel: I wonder if that’s why I never have trouble going to sleep. There are very few nights where I have trouble going to sleep and it’s usually when I’ve had something on my mind I didn’t get to work through before I went to bed. For about half an hour before bed I read.
  • 28:14 Ben: That’s something I’d like to be doing more. I oscillate between having the habit of reading before bed and watching some kind of show or movie before bed. There’s not really another time I can do that. I know that when I read before bed, I get much better sleep than when I watch something. Especially last night. I watched a really creepy movie and my brain wouldn’t shut off.
  • 28:46 Rachel: Sometimes it even depends on the book you’re reading. You could get a psychological thriller and then your brain isn’t going to shut down.
  • 28:58 Ben: Yeah, so maybe be careful about what you’re reading.
  • 29:01 Rachel: Get some mild books or nonfiction.

Consistent Routine

  • 29:07 One of the things we can do, even throughout our day, to get a better night’s sleep is to have a consistent routine. Part of this is getting up and going to bed at around the same time. If you’re in a place where you can do that, that’s fantastic, because you’re linking your body’s clock to specific anchor points throughout your day. If those are consistent, what messes with that is daylight saving time. Having those consistent times is awesome, because your body gets to a point where it anticipates those times and it’s already getting ready.

Having some level of routine and consistency throughout your day is helpful for better sleep.

  • 30:15 We’ve learned with our kids that when we have them on a routine, they thrive. They have a much easier time listening and paying attention. It’s great to do something unexpected and I don’t want my kids to be so rigid that we’re not able to do fun things or be flexible, but at the same time, I can’t deny the fact they get better sleep when we’re in a routine and we do too.
  • 30:58 You’ve got to weigh the pros and cons of that. If you know you’re going to have a day where things are going to be a little different, try to bring some version of your routine into the different thing you’re going to be doing. If you’re taking a trip, try to find a way to still have elements of your routine as a part of your day so there’s something familiar for your body to key off of. For us, for example, we’ve got our night time routine.
  • 31:38 The night time routine is super important and we’ve talked specifically about the things we do to get our boys ready for bed (Related: e003 The Seven Stages of a Successful Nighttime Routine). On Wednesday nights, we’re actually traveling home from a church around the time we would be doing those things, so one of the ways we can employ the night time routine everyone is familiar with is while we’re in the van, we do some of the same things like read a story, have someone else read a story, or have a time set aside for silent reading time.
  • 32:42 Rachel: Sometimes we listen to audio books.
  • 32:46 Ben: That can be a version of it too. Be creative about the ways you bring that in. The night time routine is really important. For our boys, it’s the only way we can get them from being wild and crazy to being calm enough to go to sleep.
  • 33:07 Rachel: Sometimes they’re still pretty wild and crazy and it’s usually when we’ve had something out of the ordinary. Last night we took them for frozen yogurt and I thought we were going to die. Our twins were up at 4:45 this morning.

Ritual

  • 33:51 Ben: Routine has become a vital part of our lives, but something else that really helps is ritual. For example, every night the twins will ask me to put their blanket on them. This was a ritual we created together—they influenced some of it and I influenced some of it. They lay down and they say, “Put the blanket on me!” so I’ll toss the blanket on them and give them a hug and a kiss. Then, they ask for courage—I’ve done this for all of the boys—and that’s basically where I rub my hand on their chest. The friction of my hand on their chest makes it feel a little warm and we call that, “Now you have courage.”
  • 35:04 It’s my way of saying, “Here’s some courage because it’s scary when it’s dark and this will help you to feel like you can handle that,” then I give them a kiss on the forehead and I walk out. Like I said, I’ve done different things with the boys at different times. If you don’t have kids, maybe a ritual for you could be something you do, say, write, or think about every night before you go to bed. That can be really powerful. I see it with the twins before and after going through that ritual. It gets them ready. While we’re going through it, they visibly start to get sleepier.

Have a Calming Environment

  • 36:03 Part of the routine is having a calming environment, but even throughout your day, think about the mental energy it takes to deal with an environment that’s not calm. Whether that’s shouting and noise, a lot of distractions, or a messy house. Whatever it is for you that helps you to feel more calm. You can even ask your kids, “What helps you to feel more calm?”
  • 36:42 Rachel: Their answer might be something like “playing legos,” but that’s not something that gets parents calm.
  • 36:51 Ben: I’ve noticed that one of the ways our oldest gets calm is having reading time by himself. For a long time, I would offer the older ones reading time in the library, but he does particularly well when he gets to have reading time on his own. A lot of times he has his reading time in the bathroom because he’s alone and nobody’s bothering him. That’s his calming environment.

Napping During the Day

  • 37:41 Ben: Napping during the day, whether you’re a kid or an adult, can actually help you get a better night’s sleep. This goes back to exhausting yourself. For kids of a certain age or younger, napping is the only way they get the amount of sleep they’re supposed to. It also gives parents a break. We’ll have to devote an episode to the practice of napping. For you, if you’re working really hard and you’re exhausting yourself consistently, it might be good for you to set aside time during the day to nap.

A quick power nap could make the difference between you having a nice restful sleep and not getting good sleep.

  • 38:41 Rachel: Do you take naps?
  • 38:46 Ben: I don’t but I would like to. There are some days, I’m pretty sure my body is telling me to take a nap.
  • 38:56 Rachel: I don’t ever take naps.
  • 38:58 Ben: Well, it’s difficult right now because of our kids.
  • 38:02 Rachel: I guess when we have a full work day, it will be different.

Level of Comfort

  • 39:11 Ben: This is one of those not so obvious ones: how firm your mattress is, the kind of pillow you have, how supportive that pillow is, the kind of fabric your sheets are made of, the temperature of the room, and the humidity level can all influence whether or not you get a good night’s sleep. Are you cosleeping? Do you sleep next to someone who snores loudly? Do you have trouble sleeping when it’s silent? Do you have trouble sleeping when there’s white noise? All of those things are important things to consider.
  • 39:57 Your level of comfort is worth spending a good amount of money on a mattress that’s going to help you get good sleep. If it means your productivity is going to be better, you’re going to be able to make more money working your job, or whatever it is.

Sleep is so important that it’s worth investing in things that are going to increase your level of comfort.

Emotional Health

  • 40:56 Emotional health goes along with mental health in some ways. It’s not just necessarily about how you feel, but if could be unresolved issues, things you’re still thinking about, or things you’re going to have to do the next day that your mind is still working on. For example, if your kids went through a traumatic experience during their day that made them feel afraid, scared, or ashamed, it’s important to address that and teach them how to express those things and work through them.

When you don’t work through your unresolved feelings, your brain is still working on them when you’re asleep.

  • 41:59 We’ve all had dreams before that were influences by the kind of experiences we had throughout our day. That’s our brain trying to make sense of all those things, put those pieces together, and feed us back information that either caused us to feel fear, excitement, or anxiety. It’s important to work through those things. Also, if there are things you’re going to be working on the following day, problems you’ll be solving, or things you’re excited about, one of the practices I’ve gotten into is writing some of those things down that are churning in my head and then telling myself, “Brain, you can let go of those things now because they live on the paper.” I’ve found when I do that, it allows me to get more restful sleep because I feel the freedom to let go of those things.
  • 43:03 Rachel: It can also work not just things to do, but with things you’re thinking or worrying about. Sometimes jotting that stuff down can help clear it from your mind. It’s still sort of in your mind because things are always in your subconscious, but it’s not in the forefront making it difficult to sleep. Sometimes if I’m having trouble going to sleep I have a little journal in my bedside table and I’ll just list some of the things I’m worried about—the things that don’t feel like they’re resolved but need resolving.
  • 44:00 Ben: There’s nothing worse than your brain treating something as if it’s a problem you’re capable of solving at a time when you’re completely incapable of doing anything about it. If you have a way to monitor your sleep or to record the things you’re doing, the changes you’re making, and how they’re influencing your sleep, you should do that. We use an app called Sleep Cycle that can be used with the accelerometer in your phone by setting it on the edge of your bed. I believe you can even connect it to your Apple Watch or wearable device, or you can just put it beside your bad and use the microphone.
  • 45:07 It tracks your sleep throughout the night and it will show you where you were in your sleep cycle throughout the night. All that is is useful information. It tells me what kind of sleep I got and I can look back to what I did the day before. If you do that over the course of a month and gather that data, you’re probably going to start seeing some patterns emerge. You’ll know when you do certain things you tend to not get as good of sleep or when you’re exercising regularly, your overall sleep score goes up. It’s good to monitor those things when you can. Don’t try to do these things and get frustrated because you’re not seeing any changes or results. Be intentional about trying things out.

Let the results of monitoring your sleep be what shapes your activities throughout your day.

Understanding Sleep Cycles

  • 46:22 Rafael asks, “What is the best way to recover from a bad night’s sleep and guarantee your next night of sleep will be way better?” If you do have a bad night of sleep, if you can try to get a little bit of extra sleep if you need it. I say “if you can” because I know sometimes your schedule doesn’t allow for that.
  • 46:23 Rachel: Are you saying extra sleep at night, or during the day?
  • 46:55 Ben: In the morning. There’s this thing called sleep inertia, for example. If you wake up in the middle of your sleep cycle and you’re in the middle of the deepest part of your sleep, it actually takes you a lot longer to feel wakeful during your day. If your sleep cycle is 90 minutes, for most people need at least five sleep cycles to get the right amount of sleep. That ends up being somewhere around seven and a half hours.
  • 47:54 The way the sleep cycle works is, at the end of 90 minutes, you experience the most wakefulness. Let’s say you only had four sleep cycles—that’s six hours of sleep—if you were to wake up at your most wakeful point, at the end of that fourth sleep cycle, that would actually be better than if you woke up in the middle of your fifth sleep cycle because of the sleep inertia.

Waking up in the middle of a sleep cycle makes you feel more exhausted throughout the day and makes it more difficult to go to sleep at night.

  • 48:33 I thought it was really interesting, that in that sense, getting less sleep is better because of when you wake up. That’s one of the things the Sleep Cycle app does—it tracks where you are in your sleep cycle and it will actually change the alarm time based on where you are in your sleep cycle so it wakes you up when you’re the most wakeful. You can set your time and it will give you a range to wake you up, like between 4:30 and 5:00. For some people that sounds terrible.
  • 49:09 Rachel: That’s what mine is set to, but if I were to sleep a little longer, it wouldn’t be as restful sleep because I’m so used to getting up around 4:45 that it’s really hard for me to go back to sleep for another hour.
  • 49:26 Ben: You’re also using Sleep Cycle, so it is waking you up when you’re most wakeful. You’re also accustomed to that. If you find you’re waking up exhausted, it may be worth allowing yourself to get a little more sleep so you can realign with the correct place in your sleep cycle. Get a nap later in the day if you can, but going to bed earlier can be an answer to that as well. The best thing you can do is avoid being exhausted. You want to get to where you’re at the end of your day and feeling like you could just pass out. That over-tiredness actually makes it difficult for you to get a good night’s sleep.
  • 50:14 Rachel: Which means that’s hard for parents, because most of the time, you’re so exhausted from having to deal with children during the day.

What if My Kids Don’t Sleep Well?

  • 50:22 Ben: Cory Miller asks, “What if you have kids and those kids aren’t good sleepers? How do you work to maintain the quality of sleep when it’s literally impossible to?” I do want to devote an episode to that specifically—managing outside influences.

When you invest time in helping your child get better sleep, you’re also investing time in helping yourself get better sleep.

  • 51:00 What we talk about in this episode goes to serve that, but in extreme cases, you may need to take it in shifts with your spouse. You sleep from this time to this time and they sleep another shift with an overlap of like five hours—a time when you know there are five good hours in there where the kid isn’t going to wake up. We’ve never had to do that.
  • 51:38 Rachel: When the kids were first born we did that, where we could have a bigger window of sleep.
  • 51:48 Ben: We staggered the feeding schedule where I would wake up at a certain time and bottle feed and then I would get to sleep for six hours because Rachel would take the feeding in between. Getting that six hours of sleep was definitely better than having to wake up every three hours.
  • 52:10 Rachel: If the kids are older than three, there’s a product you can safely give them with melatonin in it. It doesn’t have a whole lot of melatonin, just enough to help kickstart their own body’s melatonin. We’ve actually been giving that to our twins because they’ve never been great sleepers. They would wake up early without us knowing and would go roaming. Since we’ve had them on the kids melatonin, it’s helped them stay asleep longer, which is good for them because they need the sleep.
  • 52:50 Ben: Most of those products will have information on the labels about if you’re taking it for a certain amount of time, to consult your physician. Do some research to see if there are other factors. For kids and for adults, if you’re trying all of these things and you find that you’re doing everything right, but your baseline sleep is still not where it should be, then it might be time for you to consult with a doctor. They could research and might find something else that’s going on that could affect your sleep, and the same goes for your kids.
  • 53:36 Rafael had another question, “If you have kids, can you teach them the importance of sleep while they’re young?” We’ve said things like, “When you guys get enough sleep, it’s going to help you guys feel more in control.” All of that goes to serve us as parents though. I don’t want them to be whiny, I want them to get enough sleep.
  • 54:05 Rachel: They feel better when they get enough sleep too.
  • 54:09 Ben: The practice of doing these things regularly, allowing them to experience getting good sleep, is part of it. Whether they feel like it or not this is the rhythm we have as a family. Throughout the day, they’re going to encounter different circumstances and experiences that you can point back to and say, “You did a really good job being in control of yourself today,” and you can contribute that to many things. Maybe they’re working hard on being more self-disciplined and not throwing a fit, but a lot of that stuff has to do with getting enough rest.
  • 55:03 You can say, “It seems to me like last night you got plenty of sleep and you woke up this morning in a good mood. I think because you got a better night’s sleep, you were more in control of yourself,” or visa versa. You can say, “You sound really whiny today, did you have trouble sleeping last night?” Creating those associations can be a great way to help your child see the association between the kind of sleep they’re getting and the experience they’re having throughout the day.

Kids Napping & Bedtime Routines

  • 55:42 Sarah asks, “What age did or what age will your kids stop napping?” For us, I think it was between four and five years of age.
  • 55:53 Rachel: It depends on the kid too. Before our five old went to school, he still needed a nap. We didn’t force him to take a nap, we would do quiet time while everyone else was napping and he would do art or read a book and then we would find him asleep. We really need to devote an episode to quiet time too, because the practice of it is really good. As long as you don’t let them sleep past a certain time, they’ll still go down in the evening.
  • 56:36 Ben: Zach asks, “What time do you start your bedtime routine, and do you do snacks before bed?” This is an interesting question because I was reading something recently about the benefits of having certain kinds of food right before bed because of the way your body metabolizes things. It also helps you to get deeper sleep. I’m not going to make any statements about that, but I’ll have to look into it.
  • 57:15 We currently do not do snacks before bed, but we start our bedtime routine around 7pm. Actually, let me back up. I think it’s ok to include dinner as part of the night time routine, because dinner is where we start asking questions about their day, they have after-dinner chores, and from there we have several different points. Really, our night time routine starts about three hours before they go to bed—around 5:30. There are a few variances here and there, but mostly we do the same thing every day.
  • 58:10 Rachel: We were looking around the ice cream shop yesterday at the different families there and we were wondering, “How is it that other people can do this? What if we just didn’t do our rigid night time routine?” Ben was like, “Our house would be out of control.”
  • 58:36 Ben: I think most of those families had fewer children. The more children you have, the more complex it is and that’s just the reality. If you have one child and you’re dealing with one child who’s out of control, not listening, and is whiny and tired, that’s really frustrating and overwhelming. I remember having that experience, but when you multiply that by six, it’s a completely different animal and you have to manage that differently.
  • 59:23 I wouldn’t say that’s more overwhelming because I think time and experience have tempered us to be able to handle certain things. I’m not saying having six kids is harder than having one kid, because every parent’s experience is different, but it’s definitely a different animal. Because of the added complexity, we have to have certain boundaries in place. The fact we start our bedtime routine three hours before they go to bed doesn’t necessarily mean that’s what all families should do. Figure out what’s a good rhythm or routine for your family.