“Get your sleep now!” Soon-to-be parents hear this phrase often before they have their first child, and they learn it immediately soon after their baby is born. We know that newborn sleep is definitely affected, but new studies have shown that this extreme sleep deprivation can actually last until your child starts kindergarten. Indeed, this poor sleep patterns can have a detrimental effect for years to come. Let’s learn why it’s so important for parents to get proper sleep!
The study, published in the journal Sleep, found that women lost approximately one hour of sleep after their baby was born while men lost about 15 minutes. The study also found that sleep thresholds don’t return to normal levels for up to six years after birth. According to a National Sleep Foundation survey, 74% of stay-at- home moms attested to suffering from some form of insomnia.
Why are parents deprived of sleep? A number of factors contribute, including busy lives and complicated schedules where parents are required to be “on” at all times, balancing work and family demands. This usually translates to parents not fully winding down when it’s time for sleep. To add to these running worries in parents’ minds, kids waking parents up with sickness, bad dreams or any other number of needs, also contributes to a lack of sleep.
Sleep plays an important role in our health, said the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Getting adequate sleep at the proper time is necessary for our mental, physical and emotional health as well as overall quality of life. Not getting the correct amount of sleep can also contribute to chronic health conditions later on in life.
Parents worry so much about their children’s sleep that it may be easy to forget about their own quality of slumber. But experts at the University of Washington advise that parents need to role model good sleep habits to kids of all ages, especially adolescents and teens who fight sleep as they get older.
Establish good regular bedtime habits for yourself and the whole family. That includes banning electronics an hour before bed (the light and the mental load of email/social media/online news can actually harm your ability to fall asleep). Instead, use that hour for a calm and soothing bedtime routine, which should ideally occur at around the same time each night. This can include a warm bath, soothing music or reading a relaxing book. Refrain from eating or snacking around bedtime, especially sugary or spicy foods, or drinking caffeine or alcohol, the University of Washington advises. A healthy life also enhances better sleep. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute recommends that people be physically active and get outside as much as possible.
There are many positive psychological benefits for parents to get proper sleep. A study in Sleep journal found that sleep deprived people appear sadder and more fatigued. Another study in Behavioral Sleep Medicine founds that sleep deprived parents had a difficult time expressing joy and happiness. So, you might say that more sleep equals happier parents!
Tips for GETTING MORE SLEEP
- Avoid phones, TVs, tablets, computers for an hour before bedtime.
- Have a regular, relaxing bedtime routine and create a calm atmosphere (ex. bathing, reading, playing calm music, turning the lights down)
- Get enough exercise—in the morning or late afternoon.
- Avoid heavy, spicy or sugary foods 4-6 hours before bedtime.
- Make the bedroom a quiet, dark and relaxing environment.
- Model good sleep hygiene for your children.