Lack of sleep is an accepted part of parenting. If you’ve got kids, you’re going to be tired.
With a new baby in the house, you’re likely to experience sleep deprivation.
According to one survey, parents have missed out on six months’ worth of sleep by their child’s second birthday.
The sleep debt is real and it explains why you still feel tired on the rare occasions you do manage to bag eight uninterrupted hours of blissful shut-eye.
A leading sleep expert (yes, that’s a real job) recently spoke out about the ‘catastrophic sleep-loss epidemic’ plaguing modern society. In an interview with The Guardian, Matthew Walker addressed some of his concerns about modern sleep habits.
According to the NHS, sleep deprivation is associated with an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and mental health problems. It has also been linked to Alzheimer’s disease and a number of cancers, including breast and bowel cancers.
As a parent, you probably know only too well how lack of sleep can affect your mood. The days you snap at your partner and fail to be patient with your kids usually follow a sleepless night.
It can also be difficult to get back on track when you have small children (aka ‘night owls’) in the house. One study found that being awake for 17 hours reduces your cognitive ability to a level similar to that of a person who is drunk.
We now realise how important food is to our health. Should we be paying the same attention to how much sleep we’re having?
It makes sense that sleep deprivation will take its toll on the body. The science is pretty clear: people who sleep more, live longer.
The lack of sleep many of us accept as normal could, in fact, be shortening our lives.
Lack of sleep affects your energy levels. That’s painfully obvious when you spend your days chasing after a toddler. It can also affect concentration, which could be one reason why you’re suffering from so-called ‘baby brain’.
Simply put, if you’re not getting enough sleep, you’re probably not at your best.
You might feel groggy and lethargic when you’re awake, too.
It’s frustrating for parents of young children, but there’s no magical ‘quick fix’ to help your kids sleep better at night. But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do.
How To Improve Your Sleep Even When You Have Young Children
Here are 4 ways to improve your chances of a good sleep:
#1: Keep Regular Hours
Sleep experts believe this is key to getting enough sleep.
Try going to bed at the same time each night.
Parents are particularly guilty of staying up past their bedtime. When you’ve spent most of the evening trying to convince your children to go to bed, it can be tempting to stay up late to carve out some adult time, but it’s not worth the exhaustion that follows.
Obviously, it’s hard to keep regular hours when you’re at the mercy of small children. If you aim to be in bed at the same time each night, however, you should be able to rack up a few extra hours sleep each week.
#2: Ban Electronics From The Bedroom
There’s nothing worse than going to bed tired and then finding yourself unable to resist the lure of social media. You end up keeping yourself awake doing pointless things on your phone. It’s a bad habit so many of us have fallen into.
Be strict with yourself. Make a rule that you can’t look at your phone once you’re in bed. This will give you time for your mind to switch off, and your body to relax, while you prepare for sleep.
At night, put your phone in flight mode and turn your wifi off. Some routers have scheduled settings; check to see if yours can switch off at night and on again in the morning.
If you need extra help getting off the phone at night, you could try an app like Flipd. It lets you schedule times when you can’t use your phone (except for calls).
#3: Schedule Some ‘Worry Time’
Many mamas struggle with busy minds at night. As soon as your head touches the pillow you suddenly remember a million things you need to do the next day. You start worrying about how your child is getting on at school, whether you’re about to run out of toothpaste, and obsessing about looming work deadlines.
If you suffer from a busy mind at night, you might benefit from some scheduled ‘planning time’. Schedule in 15 or 30 minutes each day so you can plan (and worry) to your heart’s content. Don’t do it just before bedtime, but earlier in the day when your mind is fresh.
And, once that worry time is over, there can be no more worrying until the next day.
If you're a chronic worrier, meditation can change your life. Just 20 minutes, once or twice a day, will help your mind unwind. A good app like Smiling Mind can help you get started.
You could try regular sessions in a sensory deprivation tank. It can force you to give your mind some ‘time out’, and afterwards you’ll feel like you’ve had a big sleep.
#4: Try Taking Some Molecular Hydrogen
“Try taking some what?” you ask.
If you'd like to regain some lost energy and undo some of the damage from lack of sleep, hope is not lost!
Scientists have been discovering some exciting potential benefits of drinking hydrogen saturated water (H2).
Based on more than 600 published studies, the findings show it provides more energy for those who take it. One of the biggest therapeutic benefits of H2 is its ability to reduce oxidative stress. This could be very beneficial for our tortured sleep-deprived bodies.
Find out more about molecular hydrogen.
For more ideas about how to improve your sleep, take a look at BellyBelly’s article 7 Sleep Habits To Improve Your Parenting.