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The Healthy Mind Platter with Aspen's In-Home Family Support Team: Part 2

Thank you for joining us for our second blog post focusing on Dr. Dan Siegel’s Healthy Mind Platter. Today we are going to take a closer look at sleep time. We are focusing on sleep first because we know that without sleep everything is affected. Even though we know this, one in four Canadians are not getting enough sleep, one in two have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, one in five do not feel refreshed the next day and one in three have difficulty staying awake during the day. This is not a good trend for a healthy, yes brain mentality!

We Know That

  • Infants need 12-16 hours of sleep/night (infants and sleep is a blog post all on its own)
  • 1-2 year olds need 11-14 hours of sleep/night
  • 3-5 year olds need 10-13 hours of sleep/night
  • 5-13 year olds need 9-11 hours of sleep/night
  • 14-17 year olds need 8-10 hours of sleep/night (teens natural circadian rhythm is also different, meaning they tend to, naturally, stay up and get up later)
  • 18-64 year olds need 7-9 hours of sleep/night
  • 65+ need 7-8 hours of sleep/night

So now that we know what we need, how do we get it? These are our tried and tested tips for all ages!


  • Try to keep a general routine for bedtime and waking up. Avoid sleeping in.
  • Avoid technology at least one hour before bed.
  • Keep technology and work away from where you sleep.
  • If you must keep technology (phone, tablets, etc.) in the bedroom, ensure your blue light filter is on. Blue light from devices can suppress the production of melatonin; keeping the filter on will also reduce digital eye strain.
  • Try to include the other pieces of the Healthy Mind Platter in your daily routine to ensure you are ready for bed by the end of the day.
  • Spend more time outside in the daylight and let as much daylight inside as possible. The days may be getting longer but that doesn’t mean you are getting enough vitamin D. Light therapy has been shown to positively impact sleep and depression.
  • Keep your room cooler and as dark as possible when trying to sleep
  • Exercise more! Try to finish moderate to vigorous workouts at least three hours before bedtime.
  • Yoga, gentle stretches and meditation in the evening can help promote better sleep.
  • Limit caffeine and nicotine.
  • Try to eat your final meal earlier in the evening and avoid big meals within two hours of bed.

Okay, so you’ve tried all our tips but you’re saying you can’t seem to turn your brain off. We hear that!

  • RESIST watching TV or going on your phone.
  • Try a mundane activity that engages your brain but does not over stimulate it; if this does not work it may be that you are not sleepy rather than you cannot turn off your brain.
    • Eg. Think of a 4 letter word (desk), now think of as many words as possible that begin with each letter (diaper, drain, dingo, door, drink….eagle, elbow, estuary,…simple, simon, sam, sandwich,…kick, kayak, karate) I have yet to reach the forth letter when I try this task.
  • Try to do a word search, puzzle or light reading.
  • Try the 4-7-8 Breathing Exercise to alleviate Anxiety and Stress for Teens and Adults (4:39 min).
  • Five Mindful Exercises for Kids (but really, all ages).
  • Belly breathing. Fun fact, besides a natural release, belly breathing is the only way to absorb adrenaline and continued practice has shown to lower cortisol (that nasty stress hormone). Put one hand on your belly just below your ribs and the other on your chest. Take a deep breath through your nose, and let your belly push your hand out. Your chest should not move. Breathe out through pursed lips as if you were whistling. Feel the hand on your belly go in and use it to push all the air out. Repeat three to ten times, slowly.
  • Try the 5 Minutes Bodyscan Meditation for Kids and Adults (Classrooms and Educators) (4:36 min).
  • Journal: If you are having a hard time sleeping because you are worried about something or are thinking about a task you think you might forget, keep a journal by your bed. Write these thoughts down or give yourself reminders for the following day so you do not forget. Being able to activate your brain in a way that moves the worry from actively thinking about it to releasing it either out loud or written has shown to diminish the continued focus on it.
  • Try a weighted blanket.

REMEMBER: Teaching your kids these techniques means practicing and modeling ALONGSIDE your child.

We hope these tips will help you to get a good night sleep, not only during these heavy times, but always! Stay tuned for Part Three which will include our tips for getting your physical time in!

Love your friendly, neighbourhood In-Home Family Support team!