Sleep. Is there no more precious commodity? Worth its weight in gold, sleep is the most sought-after Holy Grail of parenthood.
But what happens if we don’t get enough of it? Humans need six to eight hours of sleep per night to be able to function normally. And when that number isn’t reached, it causes a sleep deficit, also known as a sleep debt.
And what parent hasn’t felt the trying effects of sleep debt?
Parents are tired—there’s no doubt about that. Getting up to feed the baby or care for a sick child in the wee hours or the night, or being awakened from a deep sleep by a child that wakes all contribute to this sleep debt. Hauling the kids around to various activities, then staying up late to try and catch a little time to ourselves also (or staying up late scrolling through your VarageSale feed), unfortunately, add to those dark under-eye circles.
A lack of sleep causes a variety of effects, often attributed simply to “mom brain.” But the effects of sleep debt are very real.
Sleep debt affects:
- Your ability to concentrate or fully focus on what’s in front of you;
- the strength of your immune system; and
- your attention span and reaction time.
Sleep deprivation symptoms include::
- Aching muscles and muscle fatigue
- Raised blood pressure and stress hormone levels
- Mood swings and irritability
Parents need sleep. We are the heads of our households, and it’s difficult to be a good leader if a lack of sleep is a factor in our lives.
We need the ability to focus clearly and be good examples to the little eyes that are always watching us. Yet their care is often the very thing that keeps us in the drive-thru lane of the local coffee shop. So what can we do?
The only way to cure sleep deprivation is to get more sleep and try to catch up. But so many parenting seasons don’t allow for much of that.
If you aren’t in a position where you can completely catch up, try these five things to help relieve the symptoms:
- Tag-team childcare
Share responsibilities with a spouse, grandparents, trusted neighbors or friends. You can also trade childcare with another mom in your neighborhood as an option. Your brain and your body need a break.
- Delegate housework
Ask for help performing chores around the house from a spouse, family or the older children. They can help you. You can also consider hiring a cleaning service (who doesn’t daydream about having a dedicated cleaner??).
- Simplify life
Meals can be simple, quick and easy—and served on paper plates. Items can be ordered online and delivered to your door. Save the energy you have for now and opt for convenience where it makes sense. You don’t have to be Superparent 24/7, so cut yourself some slack.
- Embrace the pauses
If a child falls asleep in the car on the way to an errand, or back from it, pause and enjoy the break, even if it only last a few minutes. In our busy lives, we often forget that we can slow down in short bursts to recharge our batteries.
- Mind your diet
There are food groups other than coffee! Coffee is a nice supplement, but too much caffeine can actually cause more wear and tear on your body. Good nutrition is key. And if you can throw in a walk or two, that’s even better.
Try these quick-and-easy snacks to help you power through the day:
- string cheese and almonds
- cottage cheese and cherry tomatoes
- blueberries and walnuts
- fresh cauliflower or carrots with ranch
- apple slices with peanut butter
- yogurt and a banana
- protein/veggie smoothies
When we are our best, we can give our kids our best—after all, you can’t pour from an empty cup. There are a lot of things we can do to alleviate the stress and a lack of sleep until that one glorious day comes that we can add a full night’s sleep back to the to-do list.
As a parent, how do you get enough rest? Share your advice for other weary parents in the comments below.