Getting Enough Sleep?
Date: February 1, 2010
As parents, we make sure everyone in our family is well taken care of. The little kids are to bed at an early time and get a nap in every day, as much as possible. The teenagers have a bedtime as well, thanks to all the news lately about how teens need 9-10 hours of sleep to function well at school, and it helps their mental health as well. But what about you? Do you find yourself dependent on caffeine in the morning to get you going, thanks to staying up until the wee hours of the morning trying to get the laundry folded and the lunches made, or just enjoying those quiet minutes when you can sit down and read an entire magazine article?
Sleep is an interesting topic. And according to the folks at Salon.com and the editors at Glamour magazine, it's going to be the next big issue in feminism. Why? Because women more than men have sleep deficit problems. And have you ever been in a group of women talking about how much sleep they got the night before? People brag about getting by with 5 hours of sleep, stating how much they were able to accomplish and wearing their short nights as a badge of honor.
While it might sound like a good idea to stay up late and get more done, in reality it's not that good for your health. Too little sleep can lead to memory problems, a decreased ability to pay attention, a weakened immune system and even depression. On a less scientific note, not getting a good night's sleep can just make you be in a bad mood, and as parents trying to navigate through the day with demanding children and high-pitched voices, this is something you want to avoid at all costs.
The Magic Number
So how much sleep do healthy adults need? That's a tricky question. Official reports say adults should get between 8-9 hours of sleep every night. But sleep is a funny entity, and everyone's body thrives on a different amount. Some people might really only need 5 hours of sleep. But there are others whose bodies need up to 10 to function at their best. And for women, that magic number is constantly changing. Your body craves more sleep during pregnancy, but sleep patterns change again during menopause.
The important thing is to figure out what works for you, and then try to reach that goal every night. How do you make sure you get the right amount of sleep? Make sleep a priority. Here are a few tips:
* Keep a consistent sleep schedule. You'll find you sleep better when you go to bed and wake up at about the same time every night. Even on weekends. This isn't too hard for parents, when those days of sleeping late on Saturday have disappeared thanks to the pitter patter of little feet that are up at the crack of dawn.
* Have a bedtime routine. Wind down, take a shower, do something relaxing and help ease into the sleep time.
* Avoid watching TV in the bedroom. This is a hard one, but it's been found that television actually keeps those brain waves going, rather than taking your mind off things like you hoped.
* Avoid caffeine and alcohol close to bedtime.
More Feminist Influences on Sleep
It's interesting to find that insomnia is twice as common in women as men. And why is that? There are probably plenty of medical reasons having to do with hormones and all that stuff, but there's also another factor that comes into play, especially for young moms. What do you do from 5 p.m. until you go to bed? Take care of everyone else. Get dinner ready, wash dishes, get the kids' baths, help with homework, put everyone to bed, make lunches for the next day, fold laundry, balance the checkbook ... the list is never ending.
One way to help make sure you take care of yourself, stay healthy and maintain a good level of sanity for the next day's challenges is to enlist the help of your spouse with the nighttime duties. Many husbands already help out a lot around the house. I know a few who make dinner and do the dishes, and sometimes dads like being the ones to give baths. But do they do it every night? Sit down with your husband, make a list of the things that have to get done every night and divvy them up. Not just folding a load of laundry once in a while or taking on the chore of putting the kids to bed once a week. Split it up, as much as possible, every night. Then you might actually find you have time to start a bedtime routine. Or maybe you can jump on Facebook and email your friends in the early evening, rather than the wee hours of the morning.
It's hard to find time to do everything we want to, and have to, as a parent. But making sleep a priority will help you be a better parent, and when mom's happy, everyone is happy.
Karen Alley is Web Editor at Piedmont Parent Magazine, a sister publication of Carolina Parent.