Rest is a basic human need, yet most of us don’t get enough of it. This lack is not as obvious as thirst or hunger. Without sleep, the damage to our brain function is enormous and makes everyday activities more difficult. Without enough rest, we can gain weight, experience confused thinking, suffer from depression and anxiety. Rest lets us form and maintain new neurological pathways that help us concentrate, create new memories, and respond more quickly in our everyday life. Sleep builds inner organs like our hearts and lungs, it regulates our hormones (yes, that includes our sex drive!) and metabolism, it protects our immune systems and our moods.

Is it any wonder that without rest, we become irritable with our families?

Kim and Gabriel in  Wrestling Ghosts

Kim and Gabriel in Wrestling Ghosts

We know how difficult it is to prioritize sleep when we have so much to do and so little time. Maybe we stay up a little too late in order to grab some “me” time? And yet, getting rest is key to allowing us to be so much more effective in our work and in relationships, especially with our children. And sleep is free!

Perhaps we can’t sleep at all. The Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School offers some great tips to improve the quality and quantity of our sleep. These tips apply to our kids too. Establishing a nighttime routine of relaxing activities such as trading screens for books, avoiding stimulants like sugar, and exercising during the day, can help our kids get better rest. Making sure our kids understand how important sleep is to their health can go a long way to building good habits in self-care for them, too.