Contributed by Dr. Michael Dow
Great sleep is like the foundation of a family’s house, upon which all other systems are built. With great sleep, the family feels refreshed and cheery. Without it, grogginess and irritability set in. Most people can spot the telltale signs of great sleep from a mile away. But like a house’s complex systems that rely on a good foundation, multiple bodily systems depend on great, routine, sleep—in both adults and children.
And while getting back into a routine during the incredibly busy Fall season can be as tough as school, work, sports and other activities that kick off, the hard work is worth it. Here are five surprising things great sleep can do to help everyone’s day.
Great sleep can help to keep a family fit. Without great sleep, the appetite system goes haywire and leptin levels – an appetite-suppressing hormone that tells the brain there’s no immediate need for food – rise. Getting less than 7.7 hours of sleep is linked to low leptin levels and increased body mass in adults. And in children, getting less than 8 hours of sleep per day is associated with low leptin and an increased risk for childhood obesity, compared to children who sleep 10 hours per day or more.
Think of great sleep as a marathon, not a sprint. If you or your kids don’t sleep enough, it’s not enough to go to bed early on Sunday evenings. Adopt a marathon mentality, find a routine that works for your family and keep the bedtime stable seven days a week.
Great sleep can help the family stay focused. Even very small changes in sleep duration can lead to massive consequences in one’s ability to focus. One study found that just 27.36 minutes of extra sleep in children was associated with less impulsivity. In adults, consistently sleeping six hours or less per night can produce cognitive deficits equivalent to two nights of total sleep deprivation.
Summer’s long days make for late night family fun, but the late sunsets also shift the body’s natural production of melatonin to later in the evening. One way to help adults and children resync their natural sleep-wake cycle for earlier fall bedtimes is adding an age-appropriate Natrol Melatonin supplement 20-30 minutes before bed. Natrol Kids Melatonin contains 1 mg for children 4 and up. Parents can choose from 5mg or 10mg Natrol Melatonin supplements, depending on how much sleep support is needed.
Great sleep can create a calm household. In this day and age, parents and children have a lot of worry in their daily lives. My advice for families is to focus on the things you can control—with great sleep being one of those things. One shocking statistic: A recent study found adults with anxiety were five times more likely to experience lack of sleep, and in children, not getting enough sleep was linked to a higher risk of developing an anxiety disorder.
Children thrive on routine. Start making a good wind-down ritual a predictable part of your family’s evening.
Great sleep can help a family enhance performance as memory consolidation, a function that supports learning, occurs during sleep. In fact, great sleep is associated with better grades in math and language in school-aged children. Parents need to retain memory to be successful in their lives, too. Sleep deprivation in adults, a concern that is common among parents, is linked to deficits in working memory which can make you feel less sharp. Try tacking healthy habits on top of one another: While you’re brushing your teeth 30 minutes before bed, you can take Natrol melatonin at the same time. This can become a ritual that will begin to feel automatic. Over time, the brain will begin to associate all these behaviors with great sleep.
Great sleep supports a hearty immune system. These days, immunity has been on most parents’ minds. People who sleep six hours or less per night are four times more likely to catch a cold when exposed to the virus. And with a staggering 48% of American children not getting enough sleep during the school week, it’s time to make sleep a priority for everyone in the family. When it comes to kids, it’s less “do as I say” and more “do as I do.” Model great behavior by shutting off screens before bed and waking up at the same time each day.
About Dr. Michael Dow
Dr. Mike Dow is the New York Times bestselling brain health author of seven books - including The Brain Fog Fix, The Sugar Brain Fix, Heal Your Drained Brain and Chicken Soup for the Soul’s Think, Act & Be Happy. He’s also the host of many hit health-focused shows--including TLC’s Freaky Eaters, TLC’s My 600-lb Life Reunion, VH1’s Couples Therapy and Disney+’s Family Reboot. Dr. Mike makes frequent appearances on Today, Rachael Ray, The Talk, Live with Kelly and Ryan, Dr. Oz and The Doctors. Inspired by his brother’s recovery from a massive childhood stroke, Mike made it his life’s mission to give people the tools they need to heal using whole-person-centered strategies. He is trained in functional nutrition, clinical psychology, family therapy and epigenetic counseling. Dr. Mike is a graduate of USC where he was a Presidential Scholar.