19 ways to sleep better: tips for the whole family

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Sleep can be pretty complicated. For something that’s one of our most fundamental human needs, getting enough sleep can often feel frustrating. Especially when busy lives, inconsistent schedules, and modern screen time practices are thrown into the mix. 

Our bodies and brains require enough sleep to perform at our best, and not getting enough sleep can have numerous health side effects. We feel the need for sleep every day at all ages – and know firsthand the consequences of not getting enough of it. 

The facts are that most people in the US aren’t getting enough sleep. 1 in 3 US adults, 70% of teens, and almost 60% of elementary-aged kids get less than the recommended amount of sleep for their age. That’s the whole family, except maybe the dog. 

Let’s be real. There comes a point when coffee and just-one-more-episode of Bluey won’t work anymore. 

The good news is that you’re not alone – families everywhere are working on adopting better sleep habits that incorporate limiting screen usage at night and fostering family connection.  Sleep affects so many parts of our lives, so making the right adjustments can lead to huge benefits.

You CAN conquer that elusive beast called sleep. See our tips below and incorporate the best ones for you and your family to sleep and feel better. 

How Does Sleep Work? 

First, let’s go over how sleep works. Then we’ll talk about tips for going to sleep and staying asleep, followed by ideas for setting screen time boundaries at and around bedtime. 

Set the Right Sleep Budget. Sleep needs vary according to your age, and one of the most important first steps is setting aside the right “sleep budget” for each person. Here’s a quick breakdown

  • Children 3-5: 10 to 13 hours of sleep per night.
  • Children 6-13: 9 to 12 hours of sleep per night.
  • Teens 13-18: 8 to 10 hours of sleep per night.
  • Adults 18+: 7 hours minimum. 

You might be saying, but I’m fine! I can totally get through the day on four hours of sleep and go to work and take care of my kids because I’m superhuman (or don’t have much of a choice)! 

But how does that feel? Were you at your best, or did you drink three cups of coffee and eventually fall asleep in the laundry you were folding? 


Stick to a schedule. Remember, you can’t get enough sleep if you don’t have time to sleep. Establish routines and bedtimes for everyone and stick to them. It won’t work every time, but hey, most of the time or even some of the time is still great! 

Embrace the darkness (and light). Our bodies have a natural circadian rhythm that tells us to be awake when it’s light out and go to sleep when it’s dark. Embrace your natural rhythms and let in plenty of sunlight, or better yet, get outside during the day. At nighttime, make sure your sleep environment is nice and dark, and doesn’t have interruptions from light sources like phones or TVs (more on that later). 

Establish good habits. Creating a new habit is HARD. Whole books have been written on how and why you should create new habits, and all the hacks on how to rewire our brains. No matter what method you choose for how you create the habit, the most important thing is that you do it. As parents, we all know that “done” is better than perfect, and your efforts can lead to the well-rested life your family deserves. 

Parents lead the way in defining or reviving a family's sleep habits. ou’re their favorite role model, after all! Plus, you’ll be a way more patient wrangler of other people’s sleep habits when you’re well-rested yourself.

Tips for Good Sleep Hygiene

Want to make the most of your natural sleep patterns? Check out the tips below and see what works for you and your family. Then you can build your own routines and habits around them. 

  • Exercise: Adults who exercise 30 minutes a day reported better sleep quality than those who didn’t. Find an exercise that works for the whole family, like a walk or bike ride and try to commit to that at least a few times a week. t
  • Journaling: Journaling before bed each night is proven to decrease stress and improve sleep. 
  • Reduce Clutter: Researchers suggest  that bedroom clutter is linked to sleep disorders. Getting those basics done, like folding laundry or keeping shelves organized, can encourage a sense of calm in your sleep space. Organizing shelves can be satisfying, right?  
  • Make Your Bed. Who knew? Making your bed when you get up helps you sleep better at night. In fact 19% of bed makers got a better night’s sleep than non-bed makers. 
  • Open a Window: We sleep better in cooler temperatures. Open the window and enjoy that fresh air. 
  • Pillows! The right pillow makes all the difference. Maybe there’s a fun family shopping trip in your future?
  • Tune into the  the quiet. Snoring, traffic, phone notifications, that dog barking since he’s so well rested. These can all disrupt sleep. Try to cut out the noises you can, and enlist the help of a soothing noise machine to create a peaceful environment for sleep.
  • Relax before bed. Your body needs time to transition from day mode to night mode. Think about activities you can do to calm down before bed, like reading or meditation. Maybe you can think of something for the whole fam, or take advantage of some me-time.
  • Use your bed for sleep only. Your bed should be a sanctuary for sleep. Yes, your kids may love gaming in bed and you may love curling up there and watching Netflix. But keeping your bed as your sleep haven will improve your sleep quality. This goes for you and your kids (can’t say the same for the dog). 
  • Leave the room if you can’t sleep. Experts suggest getting out of bed if you can’t fall asleep. Get up and do something else until you feel tired enough to fall asleep within fifteen minutes or so. 
  • Nix those late night meals. Heavy meals and sweets before bed can lead to indigestion and sugar rushes. Have a light snack about 45 minutes before bedtime for the best chances of getting a good nights’ sleep. 
  • Yoga: Research shows that yoga can help you sleep better and longer. Try a fifteen-minute bedtime flow solo or with the fam. 

Screentime Before Bed

All families have different screen time rules that work for them, but one thing is clear: screens can be a huge detriment to sleep. Screens at night, and in the bedroom in particular, make it harder to fall asleep and get a good night’s rest. So why is that, exactly? 

Screens cause a lot of sleep disruption and interference. The light from screens doesn’t mesh with our natural circadian rhythms and throws off our ability to fall asleep. Plus, disruptions from notifications can wake us up and make it harder to fall back asleep.  

You may feel tied to your phone at night, but a few small changes can have huge benefits. 

Try out some of these. 

  • Set a family-wide screen curfew. 70% of kids check their phone within 30 minutes of falling asleep. Ask everyone to turn off screens one hour before their set bedtime to reduce screen interference. 
  • Go device-free in the bedroom. You could even consider a no phones in the bedroom rule! Set up a charging station outside somewhere neutral, like the kitchen or living room. Keeping devices out of the bedroom entirely will definitely help lessen those nighttime screen interruptions. 
  • Darkness, again! Darkness is really, really important for sleep. The lights from phones, TVs, etc. interferes with our sleep hormones. Blue light from screens, especially if the big lights are already out, can really confuse your sleep-brain.
  • Have face-to-face conversations before bed: It’s tempting to zone out on your phone after a long day. Hanging out, playing games, or doing chores or activities together can help minimize nightly screen time and promote better sleep. 
  • Invest in an old-school alarm clock. Many of us rely on our phones as alarm clocks. Totally understandable – it’s a portable alarm clock that saves all your preferences. It’s great technology! On the other hand, relying on an old-school alarm clock can help you decrease late-night scrolling by providing another alarm option and keeping your phone out of the bedroom.
  • Turn off notifications. Ever wake up with your heart pounding because you get a notification in the middle of the night? It’s not pleasant. Turning off notifications might feel nerve-wracking at first, but your body (and sleep cycle) will thank you.  Yeah, let’s try to stop that from happening, shall we?
  • Turn off the TV, too. People who fall asleep with the TV on or sleep with it on have poor sleep quality because it tricks your internal clock into thinking it’s awake time. It’s tempting to watch one more episode…. but waiting until morning might be for the best.

There are a lot of ideas here, but the most important thing is to find what works for you and your crew. Every family is different; there’s no right or wrong way to improve your family’s sleep, and trust us, no one is doing it perfectly. Don’t try to change everything at once. Try out the tips you’re interested in and pick the ones that help your family sleep better and – just as important – stress less. Because one thing that will definitely interfere with sleep is making everyone anxious about it. Have fun and  work together to develop new, healthy habits. 

Now imagine this. You wake up from a glorious night’s sleep on your comfy new pillow, your kids are well-rested and happy (maybe) and you’re all ready to start the day. Yes, including the dog.

While some adults don’t need the 7-hour minimum, they’re pretty rare. It’s more likely that you’re pushing yourself too hard – or being pushed by all the challenges of modern parenting.

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