Sleep has consumed my life! Researching, experimenting on my own sleep, discovering strange myths and legends, unearthing animal sleep habits and trying out different sleep positions – watching my cat, trying to discover the perfect sleep technique (oh boy, are cats masters at it?). Twelve months on, it’s all still a mysterious world.
But what I have learnt is to not stress too much about it. To embrace it and look forward to bedtime even if sleep eludes you. Interestingly we all fit into different sleep types – or chronotypes for the technical term. Some people spring out of bed bright-eyed and bushy- tailed, others (like me) pull the covers over our heads and pray for more snooze time. There are three categories, charmingly named after birds. Lark, Owl and Hummingbird – as research into sleep continues there are suggestions there may be more subgroups – Swifts and Woodcocks!
Which chronotype are you?
A chronotype follows a set sleep pattern. The Lark as the name suggests are early risers and do well in the mornings but fade in the evening. The Owl is a night person, functioning better later in the day. The Hummingbird really had the best of both worlds, swapping between Lark and Owl patterns. If you were born a true Lark or Owl it’s difficult to change your natural sleep model, society tries to shoehorn everyone into the same daily patterns - you can see why many people struggle.
As a family it makes sense to work to your strengths – find out what your chronotype is and make little tweaks and changes that can generate a smoother, healthier and happier family unit – this by getting a decent night’s sleep.
Find out more about chronotypes here (please note this is not a Green Parent site and we don’t necessarily endorse the info given).
6 SLEEPING HABITS FOR YOUNG AND OLD
Here are a few easy little sleep tips the whole family can embrace:
Routine: Once you work out what your chronotype is, do the same relaxing things in the same order each evening. Go to bed at the same time and get up at the same time. Toddlers particularly benefit from this rhythm.
Get outside: Nature has such a positive effect on our mental health it stands to reason that will also impact on our sleep. Get out into some green space daily if at all possible. It will do wonders for your mood, its great for exercise and if it’s sunny that extra boost of vitamin D adds to positive sleep. Hey, why not try a bit of bird watching too!
Houseplants: Yep, the humble house plant can help too. Spider, Aloe vera and Snake plants all remove toxic chemicals from the air - purifying and improving air quality – pop a plant in your child’s bedroom for better health and sleep! Pop a few in your own while you’re at it too!
Napping: There is nothing wrong with an afternoon power nap for young and old alike. 20 – 30 minutes is the sweet spot - and if possible before 3pm. Any longer or later and it can impact on your night-time sleep. However children under the age of five benefit from longer nap times.
Gadgets: TURN THEM OFF! Easier said than done, but if you can put them ALL away 1 hour before bed it will do wonders. The blue light that beams out from the screen’s messes with our sleep hormone, melatonin, that then stops us falling asleep. (That includes TV screens.)
Bedtime story: A bedtime story - reading or listening, every night promotes a set routine and can help de-stress at the end of the day.
DISCOVER Take my free downloadable quiz and find out what chronotype you are. Fancy getting creative - Included are bird face masks of your ‘type’ to colour in, decorate and cut out!
READ The Magic of Sleep – by Vicky Woodgate Published by DK, it’s out now. Dive into the weird and wonderful world of sleep, from the science behind dreams to a peek into animal sleeping habits, what happens to our bodies when we snooze and tips for better sleep for the whole family, in this incredible book for children aged 7 to 9.
Vicky Woodgate is an author and illustrator of non-fiction books for children – she lives on the south coast with her husband and sleep expert Moka, a grumpy Siamese cat.
This article can be found in issue 103 of The Green parent magazine, buy it here: