Parents of young children know that sleep is precious. Whether you have night waking or early mornings to contend with, you’re not alone. It is one of the most common frustrations that come with parenting little kids.
Once your kids get older, it’s not necessarily any easier. Older children can find it harder to fall asleep and can then struggle to wake up in time for school.
Lack of sleep not only affects physical energy levels, but it can affect mood, concentration and mental productivity. This goes for all the family. Children who are not sleeping well can suffer from mood swings and decreased learning power, too.
It’s really important that all family members get to sleep well. And there is a simple change you can make to your routine that can help all of you enormously: adding regular exercise.
When you’re tired, the thought of exercise can be overwhelming. However, making the effort brings a lot of benefits. Here’s how:
Daily Exercise Helps Everyone Fall Asleep Faster…
Studies published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine have demonstrated that exercise can make a significant difference to insomnia sufferers. A 55% reduction in the time taken to fall asleep was reported by insomnia patients after undertaking a daily routine of moderate aerobic activity.
… Sleep Longer…
The same patient group slept 13 to 18% longer each night. That should equate to an extra hour for most adults, and perhaps two for younger children.
… and Wake Less Often
Patients spent 30% less time awake in the night. That’s a big win!
Exercise Reduces Anxiety and Stress
If you believe that you or anyone in your family is losing sleep over worries and anxieties, then regular exercise should really help. Researchers at Duke University found that exercising three times a week was as effective as antidepressant medication.
So now that you’ve seen the benefits of exercise, how do you develop an exercise routine for your family?
What Kind of Exercise Should You Go For?
To improve sleep, any kind of exercise that gets your body moving will help. The most effective exercise will be one that the family enjoys doing together, and one that everyone will happily commit to.
You just need to hit upon something that feels like physical effort. Find something that will get the heart beating faster and get you all at least a little out of breath.
Choosing sports for your kids and yourself to enjoy can be tricky. A lot will depend on the ages of your children and all your interests. Swimming, walking and cycling are popular with many families.
Or try something new together. Racquet sports like tennis, or a family game of basketball or soccer in the backyard, can be really fun and great workouts.
Or fancy something more unusual? Try a visit to the local climbing center, perhaps, or see if there any water sports facilities around. Check out if there are any family-oriented fitness classes or groups near you, too.
A mix and match routine of enjoyable, motivating activities is perfect for families.
Gain Some Added Benefits
You could choose sports that help you achieve other goals, aside from improving sleep. For example, think yoga for improved flexibility. Or consider jogging; it can improve mental focus by boosting your brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).
And When Should You Exercise?
Anytime! Science has shown that time of day makes no positive or negative difference when it comes to physical activities.
Pick a time of day that suits your lifestyle and the rhythm of each family member. If you’re all early risers, then make the most of a longer morning. If you’re night owls, then instead of sitting on the couch, get up and move.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that some people find it hard to sleep if they exercise right before bed. Although science can’t find any reason for this, if you feel that moving right up until lights out isn’t working for you or your kids, then exercise earlier in the day.
The important point to remember is that your exercise should be regular and preferably daily to reap the greatest benefits. For days where it seems especially hard to get going, then healthy energy-boosting snacks may be the answer.
So, getting up and being active are two important steps a family can take. Everyone will sleep better; you will all feel healthier and enjoy spending the extra time together.
Dave Asprey is the creator of the widely popular Bulletproof Coffee, host of the #1 health podcast, Bulletproof Radio, and author of the New York Times bestselling book, “The Bulletproof Diet.” Through his work, the Silicon Valley investor and technology entrepreneur provides information, techniques and keys to taking control of and improving your biochemistry, your body and your mind so they work in unison, helping you execute at levels far beyond what you’d expect, without burning out, getting sick, or allowing stress to control your decisions.