I don’t know about yourself, but I’m exhausted a lot of the time. Being a mom is tough, but being a sleep-deprived mom is even worse. If your little one isn’t sleeping through the night – you’re not alone! In fact, I would say the majority of parents (young and old) have at least some type of sleep disturbance.
First of all, let’s understand Why it is so Crucial to Sleep and Rest?
Sleep provides regeneration and vitality as well as prevents disease and premature aging. During sleep, hormones are secreted for tissue regeneration, blood glucose regulation, breakdown of fats, and muscle building. Scientific research has shown that sleep deprivation can cause short-term and long-term deficits.
In the short-term, sleep deprivation can cause:
- Decreased alertness and mental performance
- Cognitive impairment
- Relationship problems
- Occupational injury
- Automobile injury
Long-term sleep deprivation is associated with:
- High blood pressure
- Heart attack
- Heart failure
- Psychiatric problems, including depression and anxiety
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Growth retardation in children
- Poor quality of life
- Increased risk of death
Okay!, so that’s the bad news. The good news is that the majority of parents can improve their sleep by just doing some “sleep hygiene strategies”.
Sleep Hygiene Strategies
1. Get rid of anything that Interfere with your Sleep
B-vitamins (including many multi-vitamins), large carbohydrate-containing meals, and exercise should be avoided for at least two hours before bedtime. In fact, B-vitamins and some herbal formulas (“adrenal” or “energy” herbs like ginseng or licorice) should not be taken after 3 pm for people who are sensitive to them.
Avoid caffeine (preferably altogether, but definitely after 3 pm). Some people are also sensitive to electromagnetic radiation; these folks should not have any electronics in their bedroom and need to unplug their TVs, clock radios, and computers. Some people even need to turn off their WiFi.
2. Set up the Bedroom as a Refuge for Sleep
Get rid of distractions in the bedroom – TVs, iPhones, computers, clutter, etc. The bedroom should be reserved for sleep and love-making only – this helps the brain form good “sleepy” associations with your bed.
Absolutely no working or doing stressful activities in bed. Avoid bright red or yellow paint in the bedroom, which can have a stimulating effect on the brain. Pick dimmed, neutral colors, or dark blue instead. The bedroom temperature should be cool and comfortable, as overheating is a common cause for nighttime waking.
3. Utilize Light and Dark to reset your body clock
This is huge! The pineal gland is responsible for producing melatonin – the “sleepy” hormone that has also been shown to fight cancer and inflammation. When bright light hits the retina in the back of our eyes, it transmits that information to the hypothalamus, which sets our body clock. At the onset of darkness, the hypothalamus tells the pineal gland to secrete melatonin.
In order for proper melatonin production to occur, several things need to happen. First, the body must have some source of bright, blue light (from the sky or from a full-spectrum light, one designed to prevent seasonal affective disorder). The bright light in the morning basically tells the brain, “Okay, now it’s time to be awake.” Several hormones are secreted to increase your energy and stimulate digestion, getting you ready for breakfast and a full productive day.
Next, for melatonin to be produced, the eyes must perceive darkness. To maximally produce melatonin, we need to sleep in the pitch black – you should not be able to see your hand in front of your face. Nightlights are a no-no, and even clock radios can produce enough light to inhibit the pineal gland.
Finally, we must have a smooth transition from light to dark. Here’s the kicker: computers, TVs and smartphones emit blue light which disturb melatonin secretion. This blue light isn’t strong enough to reset the body clock in the morning, but it is enough to disturb our sleep at night. No screen time at least an hour before bed. None. I mean it.
The light/dark problem is the biggest thing I see affecting our kid’s sleep (and general health). With so many artificial lights and computer screens, many children have a disordered body clock. The brain has no idea what time of day it is and produces hormones at inappropriate times.
So get your kids plenty of sunshine during the day. Before bed, make sure to dim the lights at least 20 minutes before “lights out.” Make your child’s bed or crib super cozy with a soft blanket, and reinforce their place of sleep as a happy, stress-free place.
No loose sheets or pillows in the bed of infants, of course. But you can still make them feel cozy with a good swaddle or comfy PJs.
That’s all for now! Please practice good sleep hygiene for you and your family.