What if I told you that you could make a SIMPLE lifestyle change this year and see gigantic results. What if those “results” came as noticeable improvements in every segment of your life, including (and not limited to) work product, parenting, nutrition, fitness, appearance, and physical and mental health? You wouldn’t believe me. NOPE, I haven’t started selling anything. This totally FREE and amazing thing is called SLEEP, and it’s something most of us are not getting enough of.
Anyone who knows me well will tell you: 1. I’m certifiably crazy about my children’s sleep habits and bedtimes. 2. I turn into a pumpkin at 10 (I may not be up for after-hours but I’m great fun during happy hour)!
Ever since I became a parent, I value a good night’s sleep more than just about anything. David and I have always been “regimented” (a.k.a. Type A) and knew if we had kids we’d want a (somewhat) predicable, scheduled day to fit in what WE wanted too (a jog and a glass of wine in peace). However, when my oldest son began having major behavioral issues as the result of a spectrum disorder, I needed ALL the patience I could muster. Most days, that wasn’t even enough. With three little ones back then, sleep was absolutely non-negotiable… and it still is. (I will write a future piece on sleep training / habits if readers express interest.)
This holiday season absolutely kicked my butt, and it was a great reminder of how incredibly important sleep is to both me and us as a family. The aspects of my life (and everyone’s lives!) that are so quickly negatively impacted from lack of sleep include:
Parenting. I am so incredibly impatient with my kids when I’ve been out too late or didn’t get a good sleep. Frankly, I’m just a bad parent. I’ll raise my voice, snap over minor things, and give them more screen time than I normally would because I CAN’T DEAL. And then I feel guilty. I bet I’m not alone here.
Relationship with Spouse. Remember how short you were with each other during those months with a new baby? When no one was getting sleep? Oh, I remember it vividly. A good, continuous night’s sleep helps everyone to be less defensive and emotional. (Let’s face it, the spouse usually gets the brunt of it!)
Nutrition and Fitness. We have MUCH better impulse control and make better choices after a good night’s sleep. And, I’m SO much more likely to get up and go!
Mental Health and Clarity. When I’m feeling great, this truly overflows to all other personal connections. I’m so much more likely to approach people with an open mind and heart. Also, tasks that may seem overwhelming when exhausted become do-able after a good night’s sleep. Poor sleeping habits can spin you into depression. Studies show that children with good sleep habits perform better and have an easier time attending to classroom assignments than their overtired peers.
Physical Health. Have you ever felt yourself coming down with something? Then you go to bed at 8 and sleep for 12 hours, waking up feeling perfect? Good sleep is amazing in helping the body’s immunity and staying healthy. I see what happens to my kids’ health when I “give a little” on sleep (doesn’t happen often). It spirals downhill, and quickly.
Now I am NO sleep expert, but I’ve read plenty of health-focused articles and lived long enough to identify three common obstacles that, in 2019, are interrupting our sleep. These three things include:
- Children’s Poor Sleep Habits. Whenever I am asked to give advice to a mom-to-be, this is my mantra: Get that child sleeping through the night ASAP. When parents get a good night sleep, they are better parents. Start early and stay firm. YOU are the boss here. Good sleep habits from the start create children who are able to self-soothe through colds and nightmares and are able to fall asleep much quicker when feeling “less than perfect.”
- Alcohol. It’s like clock-work. If I have more than 2 drinks on a given night, I wake up in the middle of the night and have difficulty getting back to sleep. The nights that I have nothing to drink, I usually sleep SO soundly and through the night. If you’re waking, try cutting back on the booze.
- Technology. Whether it’s late night social media scrolling, responding to unimportant text dings, or simply watching a mindless reality show, we’re all guilty of using a screen in bed. Pediatricians recommend turning devices off hours before bed to encourage the mind to “wind down”. This goes for adults as well. Still feel like you “need” that device close-by? Try listening (instead of watching) to a calming audiobook or doing a short sleep-focused guided meditation. I promise you it helps.
A tiny change that results in SO many benefits? Go for it! And you never know, it could also give you the strength and motivation to keep that resolution that you’ve never ONCE successfully kept.
Besides, NOTHING looks good on the outside when you’re feeling bad on the inside.
Happy New Year!