When I was pregnant with my son, I used to hear all the warnings about ‘get ready to have no sleep’ from strangers to coworkers to friends and family. You never realize the true meaning of “to have no sleep”, unless you are in the middle of it. When you are going on day 10 of less than 2 hours of consolidated sleep, you realize what it really means to be sleep deprived because of a newborn.
Another one of the things that I wasn’t prepared for was the resentment that I felt towards my husband. How dare he get 7 to 8 hours of continuous sleep at night while I got 3 at the most if I was lucky? Since he had to go to work and I was on maternity leave, there were no questions about who would do the middle of the night feedings. As the sun went down for the day, dread would fill me, knowing that I was going to be alone at night, facing endless hours of feeding and rocking and not sleeping. In fact I resented everyone around me who I knew was sleeping, which included my parents (who were here from England to help me!).
I was under the impression that I was crazy for having such feelings, but it turns out, that I am not. A recent study by the University of California, Berkeley suggests that “poor sleep may contribute to a lack of appreciation between romantic partners”. What was even more interesting was that if one person in the relationship was getting more sleep than the other (like my husband and I), then there was a greater chance of “diminished feelings of appreciation by both partners”. Without appreciation and gratitude for one another, the long term success of a relationship is put under risk.
If you have just had a baby, then lack of sleep is inevitable, especially for the first few weeks of the baby’s life, until they develop their circadian rhythm (which happens between 8-12 weeks of birth). But if your baby doesn’t naturally start sleeping longer stretches at night, then you are looking at a few months of interrupted sleep. If this continues beyond the first year of your child’s life and you are not sleeping well, because your child has never slept well, it affects the entire family’s emotional well-being. Happy parents make for a happy child. So re-focus your attention on getting a good night’s sleep so that you have the time and energy, to appreciate one another and tune in to what your partner wants, needs and desires.
How do you do this – the following list applies to both adults and children alike!
- Start putting your children to bed early. Depending on the child’s age and the last nap of the day, a good bedtime is anywhere between 6 and 8pm. Children need 11-13 hours of consolidated sleep to be well rested and ready to go for the next day. So enjoy the few hours you have to yourself in the evening and re-connect with your loved one, or treat yourself to a glass of wine and a warm, relaxing bath. Having time to yourself will automatically make you appreciate the things that you have in your life!
- Make sleep a priority! Don’t do that last load of laundry or the pile of dishes. Try to go to bed at the same time every night (weekdays and weekends) and get up around the same time every morning. This conditions your body clock to settle into sleep quicker and wake up naturally; without an alarm clock. Same goes for your children! They love routines as it makes them feel secure and safe, because it’s predictable.
- Wind down before bed time by reading or listening to music, rather than watching something on a screen. Electronic gadgets emit blue light which stimulate your brain and suppresses the hormone melatonin that promotes sleep.
- Get help – if your child has not learnt to sleep through the night, talk to your pediatrician on whether they are healthy enough to be able to do that. There is a wealth of information on child’s sleep, sleep training and certified sleep consultants to help you through the process.
- Don’t feel guilty of wanting more sleep. Sleep is a natural thing that your body desires and needs. Sleep is restorative and vital to leading a healthy lifestyle just like diet and exercise.
Most people under-estimate the importance of a good night’s sleep. It is usually the first thing that gets sacrificed when you have too many things to do and not enough time to do it.