Most parents know that their children need an adequate amount of sleep each night, yet they fail to give the same attention to their own sleep. Why is that? One popular answer is that they’re too busy to make sleep a priority for themselves. Unfortunately, they don’t realize what that lack of sleep is actually doing to them…and their families. Here are 5 reasons why parents desperately need to start working on their sleep too.
1 – You will be a better parent – It’s no secret that sleep deprivation leads to mood changes like crankiness, irritability, having a short fuse, etc. This means that you will have less patience for your toddler’s meltdowns or your preschooler’s sassiness. You’ll also be more likely to yell at your kids (and then feel guilty about it later). We’ve all been there before and it’s not the best feeling.
Personally, I know that I’m not the best parent when I haven’t slept well. I’m definitely more snappy, more tired and lethargic, have less patience with them, and have less energy in all. This is why I try hard to be consistent with my sleep, getting at least 8hrs of sleep each night. I know my children deserve a mom who’s patient, happy, and wants to spend time with them.
2 – You’ll feel better physically – When we don’t sleep well, we often aren’t in the mood to do any type of exercise or physical activity. We have every excuse in the book why we aren’t going to be doing anything that day, but it’s really just because we’re too tired to care. But the ironic thing is that when you do something physical, it actually helps your mood, fatigue, and sleep for the next night.
As tough as it is to do after a poor night’s sleep, I encourage you to get up and get moving! You don’t need to hit the gym in order to get the physical and sleep benefits. There’s plenty you can do at home to stay active and keep fit. For example, walking, running, swimming, hiking, yoga, housework, dancing, biking, playing sports outside with the kids, playing with the dog, grocery shopping, mowing the lawn, and shoveling snow are all ways in which parents can stay active without paying for a gym membership!
3 – You’ll eat more nutritious meals – Another thing sleep deprived parents do is avoid eating healthy meals. The excuses come out in full force about how they’re too tired to think about cooking a meal from scratch. They often say their too busy, but a lot of it has to do with being too tired to think clearly about new or healthy recipes.
On top of that you will actually crave more junk food when you’re sleep deprived and moody. Emotional or stress eating is a real thing! There is science that tells us that stress causes us to crave foods high in fat and sugar. According to one Harvard article, “Once ingested, fat- and sugar-filled foods seem to have a feedback effect that dampens stress related responses and emotions. These foods really are “comfort” foods in that they seem to counteract stress — and this may contribute to people’s stress-induced craving for those foods.” So if you sleep better, you’ll have less stress, and you’ll eat better foods!
4 – You’ll look better – This is literally a no-brainer. When you wake up after a terrible night’s sleep, do you look your best? Of course not! People will often ask you if you’re okay or if you didn’t sleep well because clearly you look like you didn’t! Reversely, when you’ve had a good night sleep, you will usually look brighter and happier…eyes wide open, no bags under the eyes, skin looks tighter, posture is better, skin looks brighter, and the overall demeanor is better. I don’t know about you, but as I get older I could certainly use all the help I can get in this department!
5 – You’ll feel better mentally/emotionally – Mental health is very much tied to the effects of sleep deprivation. According to a Harvard research article, “Chronic sleep problems affect 50% to 80% of patients in a typical psychiatric practice, compared with 10% to 18% of adults in the general U.S. population. Sleep problems are particularly common in patients with anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).”
They went on to say that “Insomnia and other sleep problems also increase the risk of developing depression. A longitudinal study of about 1,000 adults ages 21 to 30 enrolled in a Michigan health maintenance organization found that, compared with normal sleepers, those who reported a history of insomnia during an interview in 1989 were four times as likely to develop major depression by the time of a second interview three years later. And two longitudinal studies in young people — one involving 300 pairs of young twins, and another including 1,014 teenagers — found that sleep problems developed before major depression did.” This is clearly an issue not just for adults but for children as well!
So what can you do to get some better sleep and lower your risk of depression and other mental health issues?
1 ~ Work on your sleep hygiene – It’s important that the building blocks of getting good sleep are in place. For instance, you want to try to go to bed around the same time each night (including the weekends), turn off your electronic devices 30-60 minutes before bed each night, keep your bedroom on the cooler side (65 degrees is ideal), and try to keep the room neat, tidy, and stress-free. Make sure your room is an inviting place to be!
2~ Watch what and when you eat/drink – Eating big meals before bed can lead to a restless night of sleep. Drinking caffeine and alcohol can also do the same. Eating heavy meals and drinking alcohol can make you super sleepy initially, and you might fall asleep very quickly because of it, however they’re more likely to have you tossing and turning all night. And caffeine is a stimulant that might keep you up for hours, unable to fall asleep until the wee hours of the morning. You want to stop drinking coffee by about 3pm, so that the main effects have time to wear off before you’re ready to go to bed.
3 ~ Keep active – Having regular activities or exercises 30 minutes or so a day can help you sleep better! Exercising any time during the day will help you to sleep better, though be careful that you don’t exercise too close to bedtime. Doing so can keep you awake longer at night, because you’re heart is still racing and your body temperature and blood pressure is still raised. But the physicality of your day will put the body through a certain level of stress. This increased stress will help you to fall asleep easier, sleep deeper, and have less night wakings in order to recover.
4 ~ Learn how to relax – Stress is one of the main factors of why people don’t often sleep well. They might be too stressed before bed, unable to “turn off their brains”, or they might wake in the middle of the night worrying about work, kids, or other issues they have going on. These days it’s inevitable that you’re going to have stress in your life, but how you deal with that stress can make all the difference in the world. Invest time in self-care, learning how to do deep breathing, journaling, or even meditation.
5 ~ Think about therapies or other ways to deal with your insomnia – One of the techniques I use when I work with clients on their sleep is cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I). Similar to other therapy methods, we use this to not only get a better handle on what’s currently happening, but also to understand how to change it. We really work on the person’s perception of their issues vs the reality. Oftentimes those two things are very different!
For instance, you could have 2 people with the exact same job, number of kids, and similar lifestyles. Depending on the personality of each person, each could have pretty different viewpoint of their life. One person could feel completely overwhelmed and stressed-out every day, causing them to not sleep well at night; while the other person could be perfectly content each evening, and therefore sleep great at night. Each person processes the daily information differently; each person decides whether they want to mentally take their work home with them each night; each person decides if they are going to let the little things bother them so much that they can’t relax and sleep at night.
The best part about not sleeping well is that we often have the ability to fix it! For most people, not sleeping well is a symptom of other things going on in their life. If you can figure out what those causes are, and then fix them, you should see a big improvement in your sleep! It’s worth it not just for yourself but for your whole family!
If you’re having trouble getting the proper rest you need, let’s chat! I can help you learn how to “shut your brain off” and work on the root causes that are creating your sleep issues. As a holistic adult sleep coach (also utilizing CBT techniques) and health/lifestyle coach, I help parents look, feel, and be the best they can be! Click here to set up your free initial consult!