Sleepless nights are somewhat inevitable for parents. Most veteran parents have plenty of stories to tell of long nights spent walking with a teething infant grumbling on their shoulder, staggering zombie-eyed down the hall in countless trips to the restroom during potty training, tending a teary child struck down in the middle of the night by a stomach bug or waiting anxiously for a wandering teen to return home from their adventures. While the occasional sleepless night is part of being a parent, regular sleep is a vital component of a healthy lifestyle for both children and adults. Why is sleep so important for the entire family? What can parents do to protect their own sleep schedule?
Although many people make the mistake of undervaluing their sleep time, getting sufficient high-quality sleep protects your physical and mental health. Lack of sleep hinders your immune system and increases your risk for obesity, heart disease, kidney disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes and other serious health conditions. It can also interfere with your judgement and reflexes, a situation that can leave you more vulnerable to accidents and injuries. Trying to function on too little sleep also impedes your brain function, making it more difficult for you to concentrate, make decisions and learn. Even your emotions are impacted. People suffering from sleep deprivation tend to be more impatient, impulsive and irritable.
Anyone who has dealt with a cranky, overtired toddler knows that a lack of sleep doesn’t only affect the individual in need of a nap. Getting enough sleep is vital if you want to be at your best as a parent. For starters, it protects your health and helps you to be patient, thoughtful and ready to respond to your child. In addition, it helps your child sleep. In fact, a 2017 research studyfrom researchers at the University of Warwick and the University of Basel found that the children of moms battling insomnia fell asleep later, got less deep sleep and less overall sleep. It seems that modeling good sleep habits encourages children to develop healthy sleeping habits of their own, a lesson that they can benefit from for a lifetime.
Making sound sleep for the entire family a priority benefits both parents and children, but with everything that life throws at you, it’s often easier said than done. What can you do? These five tips can help.
It’s tough to sleep when your child isn’t. Establishing a regular nightly bedtime routine that signals to your child that the time for sleep is approaching helps them learn to fall asleep on their own and sleep through the night.
Adults can also benefit from a consistent bedtime routine. When crafting your routine, try to avoid stimulating or stressful activities. Instead, make it a point to unwind and relax as you prepare to sleep.
Physical discomforts can hamper your ability to sleep soundly. Make your bedroom an inviting place with a quality mattress, cozy pillows and comfortable bedding. Keep the room tidy and uncluttered, wash your sheets and pillowcases regularly, and limit the intrusion of light and other distractions that might interfere with slumber.
Sometimes, a health issue makes getting the sleep that you need more difficult. Experts have identified more than 80 different sleep disorders. They’re a common problem among both men and women, and many go undiagnosed. However, various treatments are available, so if you suspect a sleep disorder, it’s a good idea to speak with your doctor.
Worry and stress are notorious for chasing sleep away. To keep them in check, be kind to yourself. Be realistic about what you can accomplish, and make time for exercise, healthy meals and activities that you enjoy.
When parents make good, restful nights a priority, it can lead to happier, healthier days for the entire family. What are you doing to set the stage for sweet dreams and bright tomorrows in your home?