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How to Sleep Train an Adult

Photograph by Getty Images

Fatigue and motherhood go hand in hand. After awhile, even after the kids are finally, gloriously, sleeping through the night, we moms tend to have trouble doing so.

Moms are light sleepers for lots of evolutionary reasons. But our poor sleep can also be traced our habits for how—and when—we go to bed.

No judgment, but sleep wise we're doing ourselves a disservice when we drink wine and live-tweeting "Real Housewives of New York" until 11 p.m. (Sound familiar, sleepyhead?) There are two things at play in this scenario: the wine and the TV.

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Wine may get you to shut your eyes faster—especially after that second glass. But even just a little alcohol in your system can disturb your sleep. Even more disruptive is the blue light emanating from your TV (or tablet or smartphone).

Not getting enough sleep can kill you.

The New Yorker explained recently what's going on with sleep in a 3-part series by Maria Konnikova:

"Increasingly, we are surrounded by light on the short-wave, or 'blue light,' spectrum—light which our circadian systems interpret as daylight. Blue light emanates from our computers, our televisions, our phones, and our e-readers; 90 percent of Americans use electronic devices that emit it. When we spend time with a blue-light-emitting device, we are, in essence, postponing the signal to our brain that tells it that it's time to go to sleep. ('What have we done with our dusk?' Charles Czeisler asks.) When 'dusk' gets pushed progressively later because of these false light cues, we get a surge of energy rather than the intended melatonin release."

What's the easy solution? Turn off your electronics at least an hour before you go to bed—two hours if you can.

Take a bath, read a book, take melatonin every once in awhile and drink herbal tea. That's my routine on nights when I really want to have a good night's sleep.

Of course, it's hard to give up the wine-and-TV routine, such a pleasant way to just check out. But the benefits of sleep are plenty and have health consequences to boot:

Getting enough sleep can make your heart happier, boost your immune system and make your face look good (think: no bags).

Not getting enough sleep can kill you. Well, it can contribute to things that kill you.

Lena H. Sun wrote about the connection between sleep and avoiding illness for the Washington Post: "[N]ew evidence suggests that skipping sleep does a number on your health. People who sleep six hours a night or less are four times more likely to catch a cold than those who snooze for more than seven hours. Poor sleep has long been linked to chronic illness and even premature death. The new study provides the first evidence connecting less sleep and the risk of infectious sickness."

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There is a certain amount of pride in running on fumes in our culture, but protecting your sleep is investing in your health so that you can hopefully be around for a longer time for your kids.

You can rest well on that.

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