Have you ever gone to bed, fallen asleep and then an hour or so later you wake up to your baby’s cry or your child’s voice asking for something?
It was late in the evening and I finally decided it was time to head to bed. After turning out the lights and getting comfortable and prepared for sleep, I wake up an hour later to : “MOMMY can you come here?”My daughter wanted a glass of water. So I got out of bed, headed to the kitchen and brought one for her.
I understand that on some days she’s busy playing and forgets to drink enough water, or that she just wants to say something and go back to sleep knowing I’m nearby. I also remember times when as a kid I would do the same, whether I was thirsty or woke up to thunder and lightning, I would wake up my parents.
However, the fact that I had gone to bed quite late, meant I was exhausted the next day.
Sleep deprivation is quite common for both new parents and parents of older kids. Understanding sleep patterns, what impact sleep deprivation has, and developing healthy sleep habits is something that’s beneficial for both kids and their parents.
The Impacts of Sleep Deprivation
The thing is, sleep deprivation has a myriad of negative impacts on the health of our bodies and minds. It can also increase a persons reactivity to negative stimuli and decrease our levels of happiness and joy that can affect the way we parent and how our kids feel too.1
Not only that, exhaustion can cause impaired driving and motor vehicle accidents. In fact, studies have shown that having six hours or less of sleep, significantly increases the risk of motor vehicle crashes. 2,3,4
While many parents wouldn’t think of driving under the influence of alcohol, not as much thought is given to driving while sleep deprived.5
Mothers are especially vulnerable to sleep deprivation and exhaustion. Mothers and parents of newborns in general, can expect several months of evenings where interrupted sleep is the norm, as newborns need to wake and feed frequently in the evening.
Sleep deprivation can even occur way after that, if healthy sleep habits aren’t adopted, by both parents and their kids.5
After many tired nights, I decided I wanted to make sleep a priority. I found that when I’m well rested I feel good, I feel happier and I can get a lot more done in the day… So I made some changes.
While I don’t always get 7-8 hours of sleep every single night, I’ve been able to consistently make sleep a priority and hit those targets more often than not. And it certainly has made a significant difference in how much energy I have.
Below I share some tips on how you can get more sleep too.
How to get more sleep
Below I’ve included a list of things you can do to make sure you catch enough Zzzs:
Go to bed earlier
Seems simple enough right? But it ain’t so easy when you can easily get distracted and stuck in the rabbit hole of social media, scrolling as the minutes and even hours pass. Or perhaps going from one video online to the next and then the next…or what about that show you’ve bee binge watching or those movies you just have to see. I get it…I was there, but I also noticed that when you make a conscious choice to make sleep your priority, those things don’t matter as much anymore…when you literally feel and realize the benefits of getting a good nights sleep, it far outweighs the satisfaction you get from scrolling through social media or finishing a series of shows or movies.
Create an environment conducive to sleep
Avoid leaving lights on when sleeping, for you and your kids, if possible. Having lights on while you sleep suppresses melatonin production in the body and disrupts the body’s circadian rhythm.6 If you wake up because your baby is crying or your kid is calling you, turn the lights on then, rather than leaving them on the entire night.
Are there lights outside that light up the bedroom? You could try using curtains or shades that block them. Are there any other things that make it difficult for you to sleep, try to figure out what they are and try to make your environment work for you and your family, so you can get more shut-eye.
Schedule your sleep time
To prioritize your sleep it needs to be just as important as any other event or appointment you have scheduled in your calendar. If you have an Apple phone you could use the clock app to set your bedtime to get a notification. Or you can set a gentle recurring alarm on your Android or other timer, to remind you when to go to bed. Make sure you use an app or program that allows you to set it and forget it so you don’t have to re-enter the time each night. Some apps allow you to enter a different weekend and weekday schedule, say if you want to go to bed a bit later and try to sleep in on the weekends.
Schedule your entertainment time
Instead of watching shows every night, how about scheduling one or two nights a week? Perhaps you can schedule a movie or show night during the weekend.
Ask for a break
Were you up last night with the kids? Ask your partner to be on duty the following night so you can get more sleep….switch responsibilities so each of you can get a few nights of sleep per week. Did your partner get to sleep in one weekend morning, while you grabbed breakfast for the kids? Ask your partner to get breakfast for the kids the next morning so you can sleep in.
Invest in a fitness tracker
One that can track how many hours you sleep. The cool thing about a fitness tracker is that many log your sleep hours so you can see if you’re getting an average of 7-8 hours of sleep per week. Just make sure you get one that doesn’t constantly emit a bright light, displaying the time as this can bother both you or your partner, and can perhaps disrupt your sleep.
Rest or Sleep when you can during the day
If you’ve got a newborn at home, utilize Penny Simkin’s Sleep Recipe. If you’ve missed hours of sleep, try to make up some of them during the day. If you are at home, sleep when your baby sleeps. Can’t sleep? Just stay comfortable in bed and rest, perhaps reading or doing an activity that allows you to rest, rather than getting up and running errands and tending to household tasks.
Back at work? Rest during break periods. Take coffee or tea naps at a desk where you don’t sleep longer than 15-20 minutes at a time. This can allow you to become refreshed without becoming groggy or drowsy.
Learn about infant and child sleep patterns
If you have a newborn, it can be totally natural for them to wake up several times a night, especially in the first few weeks and months after birth. Being prepared for this and learning about infant sleep means you can develop a greater understanding of your little one’s needs rather than expecting them to have the sleep pattern of an adult.
Understand that while kids sleep better than infants, they have periods of wakefulness and might just be thirsty, want to be close to a parent or they might just want to be reassured that a monster isn’t hiding in their closet.
(Note: If you notice anything out of the ordinary in your baby or child’s sleep pattern, make sure to talk to your paediatrician.)
Use an alternative method of transportation
Going to work the next morning? If you feel exhausted, take public transportation, carpool or use a ride sharing app or service.
Does your house or apartment need to look spotless all the time? Does the laundry absolutely need to be done on a day where you’ve been exhausted due to a lack of sleep? Sometimes giving ourselves a break can help us get more sleep.
These are just a few ways you can prioritize sleep. So often we prioritize getting things done during the day and in the evenings, when what our bodies really need is to sleep. It might not always be easy to get enough shut-eye, but when you really, truly make it something worth paying attention to, you’ll find you’ll be able to get more of it.
Though it should be said, during different stages or parenthood there may be times when it’s really difficult to get as much sleep as we want to. Being understanding with ourselves and asking for help from others when we can, makes a difference too.
If you’d like to check out more ways to incorporate healthy habits into your daily life so you feel more energized, check out the post:The One Thing You Need To Save More Time.
Are you getting as much rest and sleep as you can? What are some ways you try to get more sleep?
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