Getting sleep and feeling well rested is not a luxury I will be experiencing in the next couple months, being that I now have a newborn. Already, just a week later, I have noticed the irritability and slowness in my general functioning. Some of this can be the pospartum changes, but a lack of sleep does take its toll on a person.
When I was in undergrad, I was fascinated with the connection between a person’s emotional and physical health and spent a lot of time learning more about the mind-body connection. No matter what the health topic may be- cancer, heart disease, or stress- the body and psyche will likely be working hand-in-hand.
I recently read an article from Science Daily titled Nap Deprived Tots May Be Missing Out On More Than Sleep.
The study shows toddlers between 2 and a half and 3 years old who miss only a single daily nap show more anxiety, less joy and interest and a poorer understanding of how to solve problems, said CU-Boulder Assistant Professor Monique LeBourgeois, who led the study.
When my son was 14 months old, we went through some transitions and his schedule only allowed for one nap a day instead of two. This was a very difficult transition for him because he loves his sleep and was not getting as much as he wanted, or needed. When he missed that extra nap during the day, he was more irritable, easily frustrated, and his engagement with us was mostly to nestle his face in our lap out of fatigue, rather than his usual playful interaction.
Lack of Sleep Hurts
I previously posted an article on the importance of exercise and mental health, “Reasons to Get Moving!,” but sleep can be considered equally important. In fact, sleeping patterns and changes is something I discuss with clients in counseling. If someone is not getting adequate sleep there will be effects on their memory and learning, mood, concentration, reaction times, and even relationships.
Who Is Missing Out?
In my experience, teens and parents are the two major groups who report lacking sleep the most. Teenagers are almost always at a high risk of sleep deprivation. They stay up late, texting and talking on the phone, only to get up early for school. They often complain of fatigue and boredome during the day and parents report they are highly irritable and difficult to get along with, not to mention the grades suffer as well. I really believe a part of those complaints is due to lack of sleep.
Parents also report not getting enough sleep. In my own personal experience, as a mother of a toddler, I really don’t think I have truly felt rested in over two years. As a parent, your mind is never completely free from worry or things to get done. This fatigue can have a negative effect on a couple’s relationship, as well as our relationships with friends and co-workers.
So What Can You Do?
Most of these suggestions are common sense, so they are really just my way of bringing the issue to your attention and maybe give you that extra nudge to make some small changes in your life that can help.
- TRY to find more time in your schedule to sleep. I can hear many of you laughing at me already, but take a few moments to think about what you may be able to cut out of your morning or evening time to allow for more sleep. For example, maybe twice a week you and your spouse can alternate who wakes up with the kids to let the other sleep in, or who will do the dishes after dinner.
- Maintain a regular pre-sleep routine. Whether you take a bath or read a book, it’s important to give your body signals that it’s time to shut down for the day. Same goes for your kids and teens.
- Be aware of the effects of fatigue. You may not be able to add much more sleep into your schedule, so being aware of the effects that your lack of sleep can have on you will be important. If you feel grouchy and know you need more rest, be careful how you respond to others, especially your family. It’s easy to take it out on other people!
Here are some more articles you may find interesting. After you read these, get some rest!
National Center on Sleep Disorders Research article titled Sleep and Early Brain Development and Plasticity.
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