Wellness Wednesdays: Smart sleep tips for exhausted parents



Exhausted parents everywhere, it’s time to prepare for the mixed blessing that is Daylight Savings Time.

Personally, I count the days until that magical day when we get to move the clocks — just because we want to — and ‘create’ more daylight. February has always been tough for me. I need the sun. Without it, I get cranky, moody, foggy brained and not fun to be around. I have learned to supplement with Vitamin D3 and sit in front of my magical light — it helps but it won’t replace the warm bright wonderful sunlight that has been missing for so long.

Along come my friends the Spring Solstice, warmer air and Daylight Savings and I can feel my brain coming back and my energy returning. 

Your body’s circadian rhythms respond to darkness. That’s why we tend to seek dark, warm, quiet and sleepier activities in the winter and we have so much more energy in summer. Modern technology has allowed us to stretch daylight into all hours but we still require sleep. Sleep is when your liver does so much of its work, your brain processes the learning you did that day and your body repairs itself.

If you have little people around, you’ve probably noticed they seem to grow overnight. They do!

As much as I love the return of spring, the next week or so is going to be tough for everybody. Just one hour difference in that clock and it seems like everyone in the house has lost their grasp on reality.

I am expecting everyone to be running late because we just can’t get up on time anymore, the kids won’t want to go to bed because it feels too early, and now we’re suddenly waking up in the dark again!

Our bodies’ rhythms will all be thrown off.

Nationally, we can expect more traffic accidents and heart attacks on the Monday after those clocks move.

To avoid a week of missed busses, mad dashes to the train and panic-filled mornings, here is what we have learned to do.

  1. Make the change gradually. This works especially well with kids before they can read clocks but you can be sneaky and change the time on the kitchen or bedroom clock by 15 minutes every couple of days.
  2. Start shutting lights off in the house at dinner time. I suggest this for people that have a difficult time falling asleep – or staying asleep. Get your body all ready to sleep by setting the conditions for it.
  3. Turn off all screens at least 1 hour before climbing into bed. That means everything. Including the cell phone. Put it down, plug it in and keep it out of the bedroom. Television immediately before bed is no good either. The light registers in our eyes and brains as sunlight and your brain will have a more difficult time shutting down.
  4. Establish (or reestablish) your evening routine. When the babies were babies, the bedtime routine was everything! Dinner, Bath, Pj’s, ‘Goodnight Moon,’ cuddles, lights out. Grownups can benefit from the same kind of comforting routine. Take some time to stretch, read, journal, take a bath, PJ’s, bed. Learn to mother yourself. You’ll appreciate it. I promise.
  5. Try setting two bedtimes. 1.Time to get into bed and 2. Time to turn the lights off and go to sleep. What you do in between is your choice …
  6. Lights out early enough to get 7-8 hours of sleep. In my house, that means before 11 p.m. I am not happy about it, because my inner 6-year-old wants to stay up with the big people and have fun (or work) until I can’t keep my eyes open but I have learned the hard way. Early bed is a real game changer.

Now that you’ve gone to bed at a decent hour, established a reasonable and comforting nighttime routine and are doing your best to get eight hours of sleep, the next hurdle is waking up.

Make sure you get to the light right away. Head for a bright window and get outside as soon as possible — even if it’s just an open window or the kitchen door. This will slow down your body’s production of melatonin and you’ll feel more alert quicker. And drink water. Always hydrate before you caffeinate!

Bernadette Smith is an organic gardener, life-long tree hugger and certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach living in Patchogue, N.Y. She offers free 30-minute Health Discovery Sessions and can reached through Facebook or by emailing