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Sleeping Better for Better Family Health

Sufficient sleep helps you all stay strong and healthy.


Updated July 01, 2012

Sleep, health, and fitness are all related. Improve one, and you just may improve the others too. Let one suffer, and the other two may suffer as well. So make sleeping better a priority for your entire family. Here's how, and why, to rack up enough rest.

Know how much sleep kids need.

Do you know how many hours of sleep your kids should be getting every night (and day, if they're under six year old)? You might be surprised at these numbers, especially if you have a child that insists "I'm not tired!" These are just guidelines, but if your child is straying too far from the ideal, talk to his doctor about it.

Know how much sleep you need.

Thirty percent of American workers, or over 40 million people, sleep fewer than six hours per night, according to one Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report. That's well under the average of eight hours that most adults require. To pinpoint your particular needs, try this five-step plan to determine your sleep needs.

Sleep better to prevent obesity.

And vice versa: Being overweight can disrupt your sleep (with problems like sleep apnea, for example). And insufficient or disordered sleep can lead to weight gain. Addressing both problems may make it easier to resolve them.

Improve sleep for other health benefits.

Instead of counting sheep, count the ways that sleep can improve your health and extend your life: heart health, cancer prevention, stress reduction, and more.

Use exercise to help you sleep better.

Research has shown that physical activity can help both kids and adults fall asleep faster and even get better quality Z's too. And the benefits work the other way around too: More sleep can improve athletic performance.

Create a soothing bedtime routine for kids.

Having a calming, consistent nightly ritual reminds your child's body and brain that it's time for sleep. Dr. Iannelli has advice for all ages, or you can look for specifics for babies, toddlers, preschoolers, school-age kids, tweens, and teens.

Create a calming sleep environment for yourself.

Goldilocks had it right: Most of us need a place to sleep that's not too soft, not too hard; not too quiet, not too loud; not too dark, not too light; and so on.

End your day in a restful way.

Adults can benefit from bedtime routines too! Find your own soothing rituals to encourage restorative sleep (shutting off screens will definitely help).

Try natural sleep aids and remedies.

Need more help sleeping better? These suggestions are all natural and include inexpensive options, such as meditation and guided imagery.

Track your sleep with an app or gadget.

If you love numbers, consider an app like MotionX. It can record how long and how well you sleep, and even wake up you up at the best time in your sleep cycle. Some pedometers and activity trackers, like the FitBit, will also track sleep data.

Sleep like a baby while you're pregnant.

Babies can wreak havoc with your sleep even before they're born! Try these 10 pregnancy sleep tips to help you get some rest while you're expecting. Got two, or more, buns in the oven? Moms of multiples have advice especially for you.

If you can't sleep, find out why.

Learn more about common sleep disorders and their symptoms. Sound familiar? Check with your doctor about further testing and treatments.
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