The Importance of Sleep and How Parents Can Get More of It. If you ask almost anyone whether or not they’re getting enough sleep, their answer will almost certainly be, “no.” This is especially true for parents. Some people lament their lack of sleep, while others wear it as a badge of honor. Whatever camp you fall into, it’s important to understand that getting insufficient sleep is setting you up for a wide range of health problems.
Parents, in particular, need to make sure they’re getting enough sleep, both for themselves and for their kids.Read on to learn more about the importance of sleep for parents and what they can do to make sure they’re getting enough of it.
Importance of Sleep for Parents
Why Does Sleep Matter?
Many people, especially parents, convince themselves that sleep isn’t very important. They assume that, as long as they’re functioning and handling their basic responsibilities, they’re good to go.
What they don’t realize, though, is that sufficient sleep is necessary for a healthy body and mind. Some of the main health benefits that stem from getting enough sleep include:
Better heart health
Poor sleep has been linked to high blood pressure and cholesterol, both of which are associated with an increased risk of experience heart disease and strokes.
Reduced risk of cancer
People who get poor sleep also have a greater risk of developing certain types of cancer, specifically breast and colon cancer. Some researchers believe this is because melatonin — the hormone that regulates sleep and wakefulness — can help shield the body from tumor growth.
People who get sufficient amounts of sleep are more resilient to stress than those who don’t. Whether your stress comes primarily from work or the everyday joys of parenting, if you find yourself snapping or feeling frazzled more than you’d like, your sleep (or lack thereof) might be to blame.
Because you’re less stressed when you get sufficient amounts of sleep, your inflammation levels also decrease as a result. Reduced inflammation reduces your risk of developing a variety of diseases, including heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.
When you get a good night’s sleep, you’re more alert as you go about your day-to-day activities. Not only will you be able to enjoy the present moment more, but you’ll also be able to keep yourself and your family safe. Remember, sleep deprivation slows your reaction times.
Sufficient sleep has also been linked to better memory consolidation. If you’re extra forgetful or feel less “sharp”, getting some extra sleep could make all the difference.
Reduced risk of depression
Sleep also affects your body’s serotonin production. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter associated with positive mood. If you’ve been struggling with depression, poor sleep could be to blame. This is especially important for new parents to take note of, as a lack of sleep could be making their postpartum depression worse.
How does poor sleep affect your parenting?
As if all the information listed above isn’t enough to convince you to take your sleep more seriously, remember that poor sleep doesn’t just affect your health. It also affects your ability to parent your children.
Some of the ways that poor sleep affects your parenting include:
Hinders memory and cognition, so you may have a harder time remembering appointments and other things related to caring for your child
Hinders your decision-making skills, so you may have a harder time making the best choices for your child’s health and well-being
It hinders your ability to focus, so you may be less responsive when your child needs you
Negatively affects your mood, so you may be more prone to snapping or getting frustrated with your child
Keeps you from being engaged with your children, which can cause them to feel alone or neglected
As you can see, there are tons of reasons why parents need to prioritize sleep quantity and quality. But, how do you make sure you’re getting sufficient sleep, especially if you’re caring for a newborn?
Listed below are some tips that can help you get a good amount of good quality sleep so you can be healthier and more present with your kids:
Try to nap for a full sleep cycle (about 90 minutes) — this will do you more good than just taking a 15-minute power nap
Teach your partner to handle feedings so you don’t always have to get up in the middle of the night
Don’t be afraid to ask for help so you can get more rest
Practice good sleep hygiene. This includes implementing the following strategies:
Make your bedroom cool and comfortable — turn down the temperature, get a comfortable blanket, and invest in a special pillow for individuals with neck problems if you struggle with neck pain while you sleep
Avoid caffeine after 12 p.m. — caffeine has a half-life of 5-6 hours, so you’ll still feel some of its effects into the evening
Don’t use electronics before bed — the blue light messes with your body’s natural rhythms
Stick to a consistent sleep and waking schedule as much as you can