Are You Getting Enough Sleep?

I love my sleep and admit that I get rather grumpy if I am routinely deprived of it! Fortunately, other than during kidding season, it doesn’t happen often because I make it a priority to get the sleep that I need so that I can take care of my family without being grumpy.

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I believe, unfortunately, that too many Moms are chronically sleep deprived.  It starts when their children are newborns and require care throughout the night.  But instead of that being a temporary time period, most moms find that because of the constant busyness and stress of their lives, there are never enough hours in the day to get everything done.  And because they don’t feel like they can not get it done, they sacrifice sleep.

But it is very difficult for most of us to maintain our joy and treat our families the way we want to treat them, if we’re exhausted from a continued lack of sleep.

Many women have been sleep deprived for so long, they no longer realize that is the issue. Most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep at night, but this is going to vary based on the individual. Some general signs that you aren’t getting enough sleep are:

  • you get sleepy at the wrong time of the day
  • you regularly have trouble paying attention
  • you fall asleep extremely quickly or at inappropriate places or times
  • you can’t get through the day without caffeine
  • you require an alarm clock to wake you up

If you regularly experience all or some of those symptoms, then you probably need to increase how much sleep you’re getting.  

But when it comes to sleep, it’s not just a matter of quantity, it’s a matter of quality as well.  And the quality of your sleep depends on when you’re sleeping.  Remember the saying – “early to bed, early to rise…?”

As with most old sayings, there is a lot of truth to them.  Your body is actually designed to work best when you’re getting to bed early and waking up early.  When the sun goes down, your melatonin (a chemical your body produces to help you sleep) levels start to rise and your core temperature starts to drop.   This makes it easier to sleep.  And if you fall asleep at this time instead of putting it off 4 or 5 hours, you get better quality sleep.

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But most Moms don’t go to sleep then (especially during winter months when it gets dark so early). Instead we use artificial lights. And while artificial light is convenient, it’s not very good for us when it comes to sleep.

According to Charles Czeisler, PhD, “Artificial light exposure between dusk and the time we go to bed at night suppresses release of the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin, enhances alertness and shifts circadian rhythms to a later hour – making it more difficult to fall asleep.”

Did you catch that? Artificial light = more trouble falling asleep.

When we expose ourselves to artificial lights in the evening, whether it is from lamps, over-head lights, television screens, computer screens, iPad screens, phone screens, nooks, or kindles, our bodies get confused. That artificial light causes photons to bounce onto your face.  This hinders the natural production of melatonin and confuses your body into not realizing that it is night-time.  The end result is that it becomes harder for your body to get the sleep it needs.

To me there is (almost) nothing more frustrating, than lying in bed at night, exhausted, and unable to sleep because of all the thoughts running through my head.  When I’ve analyzed it, these nights often occur on the evenings I work late on my computer.  Decreasing the amount of my screen time in the eventing definitely helps me fall asleep faster.

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And I know that I am a lot happier and a better mom when I’ve had sufficient sleep.  In fact, study after study has shown that insufficient quality sleep can lead to:

  • memory problems 
  • depression
  • increased stress levels
  • weakened immune systems
  • increased pain perception
  • high blood pressure
  • diabetes
  • obesity

But is 8 hours of quality sleep a night really possible with our modern, stress-filled lives?

Yes, I believe it is.  If we make it a priority.

I have eight children and a growing business.  I know how easy it is to sacrifice sleep. But I also know that I am twice as productive, twice as patient, and twice as happy if I get sufficient sleep.  

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So even though you may “lose” some of your work hours to sleep, you can often get them back because you are feeling better and have more energy throughout the day.

And if you can’t make sleep a priority for yourself, try to do it for your family. Because teaching good sleep habits to your children by modeling good sleep habits, will give your children a major boost in life.

 PJ

For more information, listen to the Busy Mom’s Survival Guide podcast episode on The Importance of Sleep or read the transcript

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