Lack of sleep is an epidemic, with the American Sleep Association reporting that 35.3% of adults in the US get less than 7 hours of sleep.
Parents make up a fair share of sleep-deprived adults in the US, and they are no doubt familiar with the struggles of getting less sleep. These struggles can make it hard to be a good parent. The following are some of the effects of insufficient sleep and the different ways they make parenting more challenging.
Inadequate sleep saps your energy
When you routinely get less sleep, your energy levels will likely wane as chronic sleep deprivation disrupts glucose metabolism, an integral process that helps supply the body with energy. Anyone who has ever chased a two-year-old or played with a five year old in the back yard knows, parenting requires a lot of energy.
If you lack energy, you will be unable to keep up with your child! Playing with your child and attending to her actives are often the most important and memorable bonding moments between parents and their children. (Read more about the importance of play at all ages).
It’s essential you get enough quality sleep to keep your energy stores well stocked to keep up with the energy level of your child.
Less sleep means more health issues
An MD Health article on the effects of sleep deprivation notes that lack of sleep leads to a host of health issues notably diabetes, stroke, heart disease, and high blood pressure. Looking after children is hard enough, but doing so while managing a chronic illness like diabetes or high blood pressure at the same time raises the difficulty level even more. Getting enough sleep ensures that you keep your health in check and are able to spend more quality time with your children.
Sleep deprivation makes you moody and emotional
A sleep study conducted by Tel Aviv University researchers explains that sleep deprivation adversely affects the neurological mechanisms that help the brain regulate emotions. This neurological disruption compromises the brain’s ability to distinguish things that are important from those that are not, which in turn makes everything seem significant even when they are actually trivial. This is the reason why sleep deprived people are prone to mood swings and emotional outbursts that are sometimes triggered by the most inconsequential of things. This is also the reason why sleep deprived parents and brooding unpredictable teenagers are almost always a combustible mix. If you are getting sufficient sleep, dealing with a hormonal teenager will be much easier, especially if you apply the tips shared in our previous post Parenting a Stressed Out Teenager. One of our top tips, “practice laughter medicine,” is much harder if you are tired from lack of sleep.
Lack of sleep might actually be compromising your overall perception of the world. Sharon Nichols Keith wrote an article entitled ‘Slanger Management’ on Leesa which discusses how sleep deprived people are twice as likely to form strong negative memories, with a distinct possibility that such memories are remembered negatively simply because of the neurological impairments brought about by inadequate sleep. A study showed that people with sleep deprivation were twice as likely to form negative memories. As a parent this can have an affect on how you remember time spent with your children. Rather than always looking for the positive memories, you may focus on the negative which could have a knock-on effect on how you respond to your children in the present.
Less sleep impairs your judgment
Lack of sleep impairs your ability to make reasonable judgments. If this ability is compromised, chances are you will be prone to making unreasonable and irrational decisions, which can negatively affect your relationship with your child, especially if they are teenagers or young adults. The tips parenting and holistic wellness expert Lynn Louise Wonders previously outlined in Parenting Young Adult Children are quite useful, although applying them requires an open, reasonable, and accepting mind rather one that is sleep deprived.
Be sure to follow some important practices to get a good night’s sleep on a consistent basis! Here are some tips:
- Be sure you have a quality mattress!
- Turn off all electronics an hour before you turn in to give your brain a chance to un-wind.
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time every night to establish proper sleep rhythms.
- Make sure the room is cool and dark to allow your body and brain to relax.
- Wear comfortable sleep-wear at night.
- Avoid caffeine or alcohol for 4 hours prior to bed time.
- Exercise daily – but not right before you turn in!
Parenting is challenging in itself. Don’t make it harder by depriving yourself of a good night’s sleep.