Diverse families and sleep… a new challenge together.. cutting social media digital technology

The piercing blue light of our mobile devices regularly beams through our home and even in Lockdown when I was sharing devices with the kids, there felt like there was even more blue light as it became our resource for education, connection and communication. But what impact does information overload have on our sleep and wellbeing? So as my children like many other returns to some form of normality, we have been setting some healthier boundaries as we have discovered the power of rest, limiting screen time and dimming our busy minds with mindfulness. It is an ongoing process as we have worked with mindfulness practitioners, who combine science and therapy, to declutter our heads and discover a way to navigate the online and offline world. Not to mention the profound impact on our sleep, spending more time in ‘recovery zones’ than using our energy online. 


So, as we happily replace online learning with the fresh air walk of the school run again, playtime and physical teachers leading the way, it has been easier to implement a better rest strategy after school and for me working from home, during the day, which relies on a good morning routine and most of all for us a night time ‘tech down’ zone where we have to dim the lights and go upstairs. To do a relaxing activity before a bedtime routine. At first, we were all reluctant as we had formed unhelpful habits with small screen time in Lockdown and blurred bedtimes as there was no clear definition. But now no matter what, we have had great guidance to ensure we protect the “neuro plasticity” of younger minds. “You’re training the mental kettlebell of strengthening your mind,” forming new habits explains Sleep and Mindfulness Coach Natalie Pennicotte-Collier. She said: “We make 35,000 decisions each day and it’s all really based on the now… asking yourself what serves us now?”

And whilst I appreciated the powerful impact it had on the kids, when I wasn’t with my children, I convinced myself that I couldn’t stop and I needed to work long hours into the night as I struggled with sleep. Natalie however explained that I can’t neglect the evolutionary needs of rest, “it’s the new mental fitness, no excuses and it’s non-negotiable.” 

I needed to see each 24 hours as a window of opportunity to have at least x5 90-minute cycles of sleep and mindful rest where I do a body scan meditation… and crucially for me I had to be still to do it. But as a single parent juggling home working and studying fitness and mental health, where would I find these opportunities? Especially with the short school days of varying school runs? But Natalie who has coached GB athletes her techniques explained: “No peak-performance state comes from a stress state.” So rather than doing work or exercise half-heartedly, I’d be better doing breath work or having a 20-minute power nap. “Again, people think they’re too busy to focus on the breath, but without breathing where would we be? The mind is like a snow globe, it’s not about clearing the mind, it’s about falling awake to yourself,” She said.  I was reluctant and on autopilot, but I accepted that I could create my own structure of choice, if I really followed her advice. Stubbornly I started having two restful breaks in my day and the more I wound down at night because I couldn’t physically go on social media or my phone, the less of a grip the online world had over me, especially social media which had previously felt like a vital source for my work, communication and even connection with people as a home worker, whilst I knew from my studies just what a negative impact the ‘social media scroll hole’ can have on our mental health opposed to creating content and better still if we’re not focused, having a brain break! 

“A 20-minute scroll overloads and dulls our busy brain further, whereas a brain nap has the opposite effect and clears our mind, boosting our brain cognition by 30 percent.” 

This new found focus on our mind and body recovery as a household has helped to transform our daily lives. I have read information on the power of sleep for our holistic health, wellbeing and productivity levels but I had never truly understood how seeing sleep and recovery as a ‘restful opportunity’ could take the pressure off ‘trying to sleep’ on a night and the more we have rested rather than “powered through” the day, the sleepier we have become at night! 

It’s World Sleep Day this week, you can read more on sleep tips and facts, here too: https://yorkshirefamilies.co.uk/2021/02/24/14-tips-on-how-to-get-better-sleep-world-sleep-day-2021/

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