How to Get a Better Night’s Sleep

We all know sleep is important, however, we don’t often respect its impact on our overall health. A lack of sleep can increase the risk of heart attacks, strokes, arthritis, and other serious health problems. Between the demands of a full-time job, raising a family, enjoying social activities, or pursuing hobbies, it’s important to give your body the rest it needs. Yet, 35% of American adults report getting less than the recommended seven hours of sleep a night.

Getting longer and higher-quality sleep requires developing better sleep habits. The following tips will put you on a path to a good night of rest.

Stick to a Schedule

Our bodies have a natural circadian rhythm, meaning we tend to wake up around sunrise and get tired after sunset. Studies have shown that people who do not follow consistent bedtimes report poorer sleep quality. Creating and following a set seven or eight-hour sleep pattern will help you fall asleep faster.

Use the Bed for Sleep or Sex

Sleep experts recommend staying out of bed unless the purpose is to go to sleep or have sex. Your brain will associate your bed with wakefulness instead of rest if you spend hours laying down and watching TV, using your phone, or reading. This can make it harder to fall asleep.

Shut off the Screens

The blue light emitted by phones, laptops, and TVs will trick your body into staying awake because this light is like the natural daylight we experience when awake. Our bodies stop producing sleeping hormones when we scroll through our phones late at night. Doctors recommend putting your gadgets away at least a half hour before bedtime. So, resist the temptation to check your phone one more time before going to sleep.

Avoid Late-Night Snacks

Eating shortly before going to bed will keep you up and may result in worse sleep quality. It’s best to stop eating at least two hours before you plan to turn in. Limit portion size if you do get hungry and avoid snacks with added sugar.

Exercise, But Not at Night

Exercise is one of the best ways to prepare your body for a good night’s sleep. This is because physical activity can tire the body out, leading to an increase of hormones that help cause sleepiness. One study showed that older adults who exercised regularly fell asleep 55% faster and slept about 40 minutes longer. However, exercising too close to bedtime can keep your brain stimulated and overly alert, so try for morning or midday activity.

Limit Caffeine Intake

If you drink coffee every morning, be sure to limit yourself to one or two cups. Caffeine stimulates the body’s nervous system for up to 12 hours, meaning a 3 p.m. coffee break can lead to a restless night. Try a healthy snack like nuts or fruit if you need a boost of energy in the afternoon.

Environment Matters

Sleep experts recommend 70 degrees as the optimal temperature for sleeping. It’s harder to sleep when you’re hot. You also want to keep your room dark and quiet.

Wash Your Sheets

Washing your sheets once per week has been proven to increase sleep quality, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Over time, our beds collect dead skin, sweat, and other irritants, which can trigger our senses and keep us awake. Be sure to clean other bedding frequently as well.

Relax Your Mind

Stress makes it tougher to fall asleep. Making a to-do list of things to accomplish the next day is more productive than lying in bed and worrying about those same items. Organizing your thoughts will help your mind and body relax.


You won’t always fall straight to sleep. Occasionally it will take time to relax enough. This exercise will help with that:

  1. Close your eyes and inhale slowly through your nose for four seconds.
  2. Hold your breath for seven seconds.
  3. Exhale slowly through your mouth for eight seconds.
  4. Continue to do this until you fall asleep.

Sleep on It

These suggestions can help put you on the path to a better night’s sleep. Remember, sleep deprivation can sometimes be a symptom of more serious medical conditions. Talk to a doctor if you experience continued insomnia without relief. Get started by calling (888) 499-9303 or click here to find an AltaMed location near you. 

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How Much Sleep Do your Children Need?

Nearly every parent knows the struggle of getting their child to bed. They’re “not tired” or need “just five more minutes.”

It’s likely you tried to stay up late when you were a kid, too. Now, you probably wish naps and an early bedtime were mandatory.

Sleep is vital for the health and well-being of all of us, but especially for children. As they grow and develop, their sleep needs change, and it is important to ensure that they are getting enough rest at each stage of their development. Here’s how much sleep your family needs at every age, and more importantly, why:

Newborns (0-3 months)

Newborns require a lot of sleep to support their rapid growth and development. They need 14-17 hours of sleep per day, but they typically do not sleep for more than two to four hours at a time. It is important for parents to establish a consistent sleep routine for their newborns to help them learn the difference between day and night. Newborns and infants should sleep on their backs in their own bassinet or cribs on a firm mattress without pillows or heavy blankets. 

Infants (4-11 months)

Infants continue to require a lot of sleep to support their growth and development. They need 12-15 hours per day, but they typically start to sleep for longer stretches at night. It is important for parents to maintain a consistent sleep routine for their infants and to make sure they are not overtired, as this can lead to difficulty falling and staying asleep. Most infants should sleep through the night (6-8 hours) without waking by 6 months of age.

Toddlers (1-2 years)

Toddlers need 11-14 hours of sleep per day, including one nap. As they become more active and curious, toddlers may resist going to bed, but it is important for parents to enforce a regular bedtime routine to help them wind down and prepare for sleep. “Brush, Book, Bed” is a great way to structure your child’s bedtime routine.  This routine consists of brushing your child’s teeth, reading a book to your child, and then putting them to sleep.

Preschoolers (3-5 years)

Preschoolers need 10-13 hours of sleep per day, including one nap. Like toddlers, preschoolers may resist going to bed, but it’s still important they adhere to a regular schedule. Some children may drop their nap around 4 years of age, but their total sleep should remain the same.

School-aged children (6-12 years)

School-aged children need 9-12 hours of sleep. As they become more involved in school and extracurricular activities, it can become harder to balance sleep with new responsibilities. Parents can allow for some flexibility but should still set cut offs where electronics, schoolwork, etc. are put away.

Teenagers (13-18 years)

Teenagers need 8-10 hours of sleep per day. As their bodies go through puberty, their sleep patterns may shift, and they may have difficulty falling asleep and waking up early for school. At this age, it becomes hardest to monitor your children’s sleep patterns. Encourage them to prioritize a healthy schedule and to not overcommit to extracurriculars, work, or social obligations. 

Why do children need so much sleep?

During sleep, the body produces growth hormones, which helps children grow and repair tissues. Sleep also plays a critical role in brain development and learning. Children who get enough sleep are more alert, attentive, and have better cognitive function, memory, and mood.

Not getting enough sleep can have serious consequences for children, including:

  • Poor academic performance
  • Behavioral problems
  • Mood disorders
  • Obesity
  • Increased risk of accidents
  • Weakened immune system

It is important to observe your child for signs and symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea such as snoring, gasping for air, extreme restless sleep, or extreme daytime sleepiness. If you observe these symptoms, please let you provider know. 

Your parenting partner

AltaMed provides a complete host of pediatric services including age-appropriate immunizations and screenings, as well and information on developmental milestones. For information or to make an appointment call (888) 499-9303.

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Cut Back on Screen Time to Boost Mental Health

We have access to more information than any generation before us. Nearly all of human knowledge is at our fingertips, twenty-four hours a day. But whether you want to find a new recipe, watch a viral video, or stay informed about current events, you need a screen.

For many people, screens have become an essential part of how we do things. We’re surrounded by them – in our pockets, our offices, our living rooms, bedrooms, and even on our wrists. We can decide, however, how much time we spend on them. Limiting screen time has been shown to improve our mood and help us engage with the people and activities that matter most.

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Ways to Manage Screen Time

We’ve made a habit at looking at our phones. Anytime we’re not having conversations, we’re gaming or scrolling through social media. Sometimes we need a little quiet time. That’s when we’re at our most creative.

Here are some tips for reducing the amount of time you spend on your device.

  • Manage news consumption — We are constantly bombarded with news. While it’s important to stay informed, we don’t need to know everything every second. It’s OK to pause the 24-hour news cycle.
  • Turn off notifications — Do you really need to know that someone posted a vacation photo or a picture of their meal? Keep track of appointments, but the social media updates can go.
  • Stay focused — If you’re looking at your phone while watching TV or worse, spending time with someone, what does that say about what you’re doing? Maybe you need to find another activity or reexamine how you conduct relationships.
  • Just eat — Mealtime should be for meals. You should savor your food. Pay attention to the conversations you’re having and notice when you’re getting full. When eating at home, make it a rule to put away your screens.
  • Set screen-free times and zones at home — It’s a good idea not to look at screens right before bed. It makes it hard to fall asleep because of the light given off by your devices. So, don’t look for at least half an hour before bedtime. See if you can make that last longer. Also designate certain parts of the house or apartment as screen-free.
  • Find screen alternatives — Go for a walk, meditate, read a book, sit outside, or find another activity that doesn’t involve looking at your device. Sitting in silence with your thoughts gives you an opportunity to process and reflect on your day.
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Benefits of Less Screen Time

Prying yourself free of your device gives you the opportunity to do different things. Here are five benefits to less screen time.

  1. Improve physical health — Putting down the phone and turning off the TV give you a chance to move. Movement can help prevent obesity and conditions related to excess weight. You’ll have more time to exercise and play. You can also get better sleep with less screen time.
  2. Discover new things — You live in Southern California where there’s always something to do. Get out and explore what’s around you. It also gives you the opportunity to try new hobbies.
  3. Connect socially — Face-to-face connections are vital to making ourselves and others feel cared for. We show our children and loved ones what’s truly important when we put our phones down and spend time with them.
  4. Boost your mood — Time spent on a screen makes it easier to withdraw and become depressed. Once you’re off the phone, you’re more inclined to engage socially with others. It can also help to eliminate feelings of anxiety and depression.
  5. Build community — With the phone out of your hand you can build stronger connections with:
  • Family
  • Friends
  • Neighbors
  • Coworkers

Mental Health Is Part of Your Health

AltaMed is here for you, and we’re committed to your mental and physical well-being. To learn more about AltaMed behavioral health services, call 855-425-1777.

How to Get a Better Night’s Sleep