He encourages parents to create a room for their child that is quiet and dark. For adults who can’t resist their phones or other screens at night, adjust your display setting to night shift, which shifts the colors on your screen to the warmer spectrum. Experts also recommend exposing yourself to as much daylight as you can during the day and dimming the lights in your home in the evening as part of healthy sleep hygiene.
Screens, usually come hand-in-hand with being sedentary, Dr. Canapari said, and exercise promotes healthy sleep. He suggests parents help their children get at least 60 minutes of vigorous physical activity every day, though not just before bedtime. “It’s pretty clear that’s going to help the sleep,” he said.
Lay off the booze.
Maybe you have a cocktail in your hand instead of a screen. People drink in good times and bad, but evidence suggests that consumption has increased since the onset of the pandemic. Alcohol suppresses the central nervous system. It causes brain activity to slow down and produces a sleepy, sedative feeling. This can seem very relaxing for someone struggling with sleep, but as alcohol is metabolized through the night it actually creates trouble. It robs the body of crucial REM sleep and can trigger a “rebound effect,” waking you up in the wee hours after its sedative effects have worn off.
So should you never drink again if you want to sleep better? Not necessarily, said Dr. Martin. “Give it up for a week and see if you sleep better. For some people, one or two drinks doesn’t affect their sleep very much, but for other people — especially when we’re already experiencing a little more stress and maybe we’re a little more likely to wake up anyway — that’s enough to disrupt their sleep.”
If alcohol is affecting your sleep it may be causing you to consume another insomnia culprit the next day. Caffeine comes in many forms and, like alcohol, affects people differently. If you think it’s causing sleep problems, cut back. Parents whose children aren’t sleeping well should also read the labels on what they’re drinking. Sodas and chocolate contain caffeine, as do some sports drinks.
“Pretty much everybody should quit drinking or consuming any caffeine about five hours before they go to bed,” said Dr. Martin, though some people may be better off with 10 hours, she said.
In some insomnia cases, prescription drugs and supplements — particularly melatonin for children — may be helpful, but it’s important to talk to a doctor before going that route. The ultimate goal, Dr. Canapari said, “is to address the issue so you don’t need to use the medication long term.”