Emmy-Nominated Reporter Shares Tips to Help Kids Sleep
Tracy Wolfson is an-Emmy nominated reporter for CBS Sports, where she is the lead reporter for the NFL on CBS for NCAA Men’s Basketball. She’s also one of the hosts of the groundbreaking all-women’s sports show “We Need to Talk,” which airs on the CBS Sports Network, and a mom to three boys, ages 8, 10, and 13. As someone who frequently talks to professional athletes and is frequently on the move herself, Tracy knows the importance of sleep and rest, and she’s especially passionate about helping kids and parents develop good sleep habits. She recently took a moment to chat with us by phone about her experiences with her own kids and how families can work together to make bedtime a breeze.
What’s your experience with your own family and creating a good sleep routine?
In the Fall, not only am I trying to get myself back to a good routine heading into the NFL season, but I’m also trying to get my kids back to school. Summer is tough—they don’t really have a bedtime or a wake-up time and they’re doing a million different things all in different directions. But as we head towards the school season, I try and start about a week out and get back into our routine. It’s the same thing we do every year, so there are no surprises, although it might change time-wise and get a little bit later because they’re a little older or they have after-school sports or more homework.
My youngest one is eight years old, and I like to get him down around eight o’clock—I get him into bed and then I sit and I read with him. It’s something he looks forward to and he knows it’s coming. And then I do the same thing with my ten-year-old—I sit down with him and he absolutely loves the time we spend reading together.
The teen is obviously more challenging, whether it’s the sports, the school, the work, the phone, the fear of missing out if you put your phone away. The biggest thing with him is to take the phone away and make sure he got all of his stuff done. And then an hour before bed, I make sure to take the phone away and he can read or do something in his room. I keep the phone in my room, so he has no access to it and he knows that’s part of the routine.
Are there any other things that parents can be doing to help their kids get better quality sleep?
Well, I think parents could do the same thing. First of all, they can set routines for themselves and lead by example. If they see you having a really good routine, well, they’re going to follow as well. Creating a really calm household an hour before everyone’s bedtime and making sure it’s not hectic and TVs aren’t blaring and the kids aren’t running around outside. It’s a team effort—you all do it together. My kids are really competitive. We all love to play games. So a lot of times, I turn the TV off an hour before bed and I say, let’s sit down and play games—it might be rummy cube or cards or poker—you name it. We spend some family time together for the last hour and then everyone knows that it’s time to go to bed.
There are lots of kids who don’t really prioritize sleep for one reason or another—they don’t think it’s important, or maybe as the school year goes on, they just feel like they don’t have time for a consistent bedtime. What’s your message for those kids who are inclined to brush off that routine or good sleep habits?
I think they have to look around and see the role models. I cover athletes and watch these football players week in and week out, and I know how important sleep is for them to be at their top performance. They need sleep to be at their top of their game, and you need to get sleep to be at the top of your game. Studies show when you sleep well, your stress level goes down. You can show them the difference in their grades between times when they don’t get enough sleep and they don’t focus, and times when they do make it a priority.
And, you know everyone’s different. Everyone has to handle it in their own way. It could be an incentive to spend together as a family and make it fun before bedtime, so they don’t find like it’s a chore. I always remind my kids, look, I need to get sleep and I know how important it is for my job and for being a mom—and I need you guys to go to bed before I can get sleep, too. It’s different for everyone but finding that right routine is really crucial.
You travel a lot for your work. Are there any smaller tips or tricks you’ve picked up along the way that might be useful for parents or kids?
I think the consistency is one of the most important things because when I travel, I need to make sure that my kids are on that routine when I’m not home. Everyone needs to be on the same page—not just the mother but also the father or a babysitter or grandparents, whoever’s with the kids. Sometimes the mother or the father may do it one way and a grandparent might do it another, the babysitter’s scared to speak up, whatever it might be. But everyone really needs to be on that same page.
Do you have any thoughts for parents who have younger kids and want to get them on a routine and set them up for healthy sleep habits in the long term?
Definitely. I think, right when they’re young, you all do the same thing: you lie them down and you give them their bottle and you set that routine so early in their life that it’s just about keeping it consistent. And reading a book to them or telling them a story can be done at any time. Kids love to hear stories or just snuggle in bed. But the key is limiting that time—there’s snuggle time, but then you also have to say, “Okay, this time is over” and get out of the room and turn out the light.
You can also set up a good sleep environment. Some kids might need a noise machine and some might like the bathroom light on or the door open. It’s about finding that right routine really early on and not making it a chore. Make it fun. And, again, turning the TV off and just doing something else to wind down is really important. Their minds are moving when they’re watching TV and so it’s hard to relax after that.
You’re partnering with Sleep Number to help spread the word about the importance of sleep. Why is that particular partnership important to you?
I know how important sleep is and I’ve tried to find a good routine and I’ve tried to find really a good bed that gives me the best chance to get a good night’s sleep. And I’ve found that with Sleep Number. I found my Sleep Number® setting at 65 (which is a medium firm) and I’m really comfortable. It allows me to get my routine going once I get into bed. It’s funny, a lot of times I do work in bed, because my kids are asleep, and I raise the head of my bed up and I can just sit there in a comfortable place.
Another thing is I love about my Sleep Number bed is the fact that it has two different sleep settings. My husband and I are very different. We sleep differently, we have different needs, so we love our bed. I also use the SleepIQ app. It’s interesting to see when you twist and turn in bed or how often your kid comes in, you got to get up out of bed. It’s a real added bonus to have this device that can tell me where I am and how I can improve my sleep habits.
I was also really passionate about Sleep Number and what they’re doing with kids and with teens and we’re really on the same page in terms of how important sleep is when it comes to our children.
Like nutrition and exercise, quality sleep is essential for optimal health and performance. To ensure kids and their families understand the impact of quality sleep and have the tools to achieve it, Sleep Number is committed to improving 1 million kids’ lives through better sleep by 2025. To learn more, visit the Sleep Number Social Impact page, and find your Sleep Number® setting for your best possible night’s sleep.