Whose oxygen mask first?
There is so much in the media about sleep, but we tend to think of poor sleep as an inevitable feature of parenting. If you have been ‘in the trenches’ of bad sleep for a long time you will feel it taking it’s toll then it’s time to change things.
For some a pattern of poor sleep turns into a resigned sense of helplessness and sometimes those who seek help are told that sleep problems are normal. It doesn’t have to be this way because many sleep problems related to unhealthy sleep habits can be resolved quite quickly.
In fact, remember what we are told to do getting ready for a flight? In the event of an emergency put on your own oxygen mask first so you are able to look after your child. Getting good sleep for yourself is the same. For you to be the lifeguard of your child’s sleep, you need to be at your brain and body best and take your own sleep needs seriously.
It doesn’t need to be this way
Parenting is, without a doubt, one of the most challenging roles in life. Even when children are pretty near perfect, they have good and bad days (just like parents do). On bad days, it can sometimes be too much to bear. This is why, if you are going to be your child’s lifeguard, you need your sleep just as much as your child needs theirs.
Many adults don’t prioritise their own sleep. In Australia, the National Sleep Foundation’s 2016 survey discovered that up to forty-five per cent of Australian adults get an inadequate quality or quantity of sleep every night – and suffer the daytime consequences. So getting to the bottom of your sleep troubles and making some adjustments can make the world of difference.
Night-time shenanigans: not just the children!
It’s not just kids who engage in night-time shenanigans. Adults tend to have a bit of a ‘tough it out’ approach to sleep. With burgeoning workloads, a desire to cram everything into one day, twenty-four-hour media and permanent access to the internet, people are sleeping less and less, with well over thirty per cent of adults in Western societies getting less sleep than they need.
When you are sleep deprived, not only will you suffer from many symptoms like: fatigue, inability to focus, erratic moods, memory deficits physical aches and pains and more. Sleep problems will leak into every nook and cranny of your work, social and family life – you will find it difficult to play your essential lifeguard role in your child’s life. You will have low energy or willpower to stick to the bedtime routine, deal with your kids’ night-time shenanigans or even properly observe and support your child’s progress.
Moods and relationships fray
Not only that when parents are having sleepless nights, there can be increased parental tensions around everything from what to feed the kids to how to discipline them. On top of that, if both parents are in full-time, high-powered jobs requiring travel, there is the added challenge of maintaining essential sleep routines, further contributing to poor sleep and short tempers for everyone.
– sleeping environment (is it quiet dark and electronics free?)
– bedtime routine (same time to go to sleep and wake up daily?) physical health
– if you have a diagnosed sleep disorder, seek medical help as a top priority
– if you’re not much of a morning person, look at ways to nurture yourself so you are waking happy and calm and ready for the day.
Minimising your own crankiness will have a flow-on effect for everyone around you, including your kids. Not only will better sleep mean you can be the parent, partner and lifeguard you need to be, a secondary benefit is that you will act as a model for your child. Kids are constantly learning from those around them, and you are one of their biggest influences. They learn by watching what you do rather than listening to what you say. By becoming a good sleep role-model you can help your child sleep better too. Stay vigilant
7 Tips for improving your sleep
Why not prioritise your own sleep own sleep as well as your child’s?
- The magic number: make sure you can get 7-9 hours every night
- The sacred temple: create a beautiful sleeping environment (is it quiet? cool? dark? electronics free?)
- The clock: go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time every day
- The oxygen mask: Take care of your health before it takes care of you! look after your physical health (nutrition, hydration, exercise, stress management)
- Expert help: if you have a diagnosed sleep disorder, seek medical advice and follow the recommendations as a top priority
- Your ‘inner bird’: if you are a natural owl rather than a lark, look at ways to ensure you get enough sleep so you are waking happy and calm and ready for the day. Can you negotiate a later work start time
- Forever lost: Remember you can’t catch up on sleep so make sure you get the great sleep you need every single night
A lifeguard and a good sleep role model (2 for the price of one!)
Maximising sleep will minimise your crankiness and have a flow-on effect for everyone around you, including your kids. Not only will better sleep mean you can be the parent, partner and lifeguard you need to be, a secondary benefit is that you will act as a model for your child. Kids are constantly learning from those around them, and you are one of their biggest influences. They learn by watching what you do rather than listening to what you say. By becoming a good sleep role-model you can help your child sleep better too. Stay vigilant
Sleep problems can be resolved quickly
Once sleep improves, parents can quickly forget the pain, frustration and despair caused by sleep problems. It’s just like ‘pain amnesia’ following childbirth, where a mother is so in love and so completely immersed with the new baby that she forgets the pain very quickly.
Once you are getting your sleep again, you will very quickly forget existing in a sleep fog haze or the frayed nerves from living with a tired-wired child. You will quickly return to enjoying your child, watching them grow well and learn to their full IQ potential. And so you should!
But as you know, your job is not really finished. You will always be the lifeguard of sleep (and many other things) for yourself and your child. Therefore, it’s helpful to do a regular check with yourself and your children, to ensure that everything is still going smoothly for their sleep.
Check out if you are all getting your sleep formula with 4 key questions:
- the right number of hours of sleep per day?
- Silent uninterrupted sleep through the night?
- Wake refreshed?
- Manage your energy through the day without excessive tiredness?
Revisiting these questions on a semi-regular basis can help everyone stay on track. Transforming you & your family’s future starts at home, getting the sleep you need every single night to be healthy and happy.
To truly make a difference, take every opportunity tell others your story: how getting great sleep has transformed your life.