My mom adventures in Fort Collins


I’m so predictable: A mom talks of sleep

About seven years ago, at my brother’s wedding, I remember talking to an old family friend named Todd. He and his wife (and his brother, sister, their spouses, their mom and dad) were at the wedding having a very fun time. We all were. It was a fabulous party! Somewhere, Todd mentioned that he and his wife were done having kids, and he looked at me and Cory and said something like, “You know, you just never sleep.” Chalk it up to me being drunk (I was) or me assuming he was drunk (and thus, blabbering incoherently), but at the time I never gave much thought to his comment.

Now, of course, I realize that Todd was a sage.

I’ve read so many posts on WordPress about parents, kids and sleep. Some informative. Some comical. Some controversial. Some that elicit sympathy and others that elicit envy. Some painfully real and relatable. Some of them, my own. Most of them anecdotal. Many of them, I’ve probably forgotten because I’ve never achieved the REM sleep necessary to commit them to memory.

Here’s the thing, though: The human race has survived. In fact, the survival of the human race depends on our sleeplessness not impacting our health and procreative abilities. Through this period of time where we go through pregnancy (horrible for sleep), nurse an infant (terrible for sleep), comfort a teething infant (awful), and occasionally care for a sick child (what sleep), we must keep calm and carry on (and if we’re lucky we get to do this for more than one child). No wonder there are baby-training books on how to get your infant to sleep through the night at 7-weeks-old. As parents, we are desperate for sleep.

Sleep restores us. Sleep impacts our immune system. Sleep grants us the proper hormones so that our metabolism works right. Occasionally, sleep gives us a steamy dream with noted fashion photographer Nigel Barker from “America’s Next Top Model.”  Sleep, for me at least, has a great influence on my mood.

So, what’s a parent to do when sleep is not to be had? (Besides amphetamines.)

Confront this energy deficit on both ends, I say. Work on sleep (that of my own and my kids), but also work on keeping energetic throughout the day.

Here’s some tips, as compiled from my illustrious sources at webmd and my own noggen.

Your own sleep:

Dim your lights at night. Create a sleep space that is dedicated to sleeping. Get rid of the TV and radio in your room. Invest in curtains or blinds which block the light. Adjust your thermostat, since most people sleep better when it’s cool. Create a bedtime routine. Don’t exercise within three hours of bedtime. Enjoy a cup of herbal tea at bedtime. If you find yourself regularly waking up due to noise, get a “white noise” machine or earplugs. If your bladder wakes you up, limit liquids at night. If you find yourself sensitive to caffeine, limit your intake.

Your kiddo’s sleep:

Create a bedtime routine. Go to bed at the same time every night. Try a soothing bath or shower before bed. Limit caffeine and sugar intake throughout the day (innocent as M & Ms and cola may be, they have caffeine in them). Limit artificial colors (several, including Red 40 Lake–which Ruby has had problems with–can cause symptoms like hyperactivity). Make sure your children get exercise and/or outside time during the day (exposure to sunlight during daytime hours helps keep a natural circadian rhythm). Limit TV and screen time, as these lights can affect the body the same way any artificial light can and sometimes storylines–especially scary or suspenseful ones–can stimulate energy. Make your child’s room and bed a comfortable place for sleep, and be mindful of the temperature. Watch out for naps–great as they can be, late afternoon naps can sometimes mess with bedtime. Be consistent and stay strong: We all know how hard it is not to give in to the last request for “one more book” or “just a little drink of water,” but delaying bedtime (my husband I call them “stall tactics”) is not going to do anyone any good.

I think Mighty Mouse can serve as an Energy Mentor for all of us, don’t you?

To improve your energy:

Keep a balanced diet. Magnesium especially helps with energy, so eat some almonds, cashews or hazelnuts. Exercise regularly. Take a power walk outside. Take a power nap in your bed. Don’t skip meals. Address your anger and other feelings, which can be draining to you physically as well as emotionally. Reduce your stress level. Make sure you’re not suffering from obvious energy-drainers, like hypothyroidism or anemia. Drink more water. Drink less alcohol. Eat less sugar and more whole grains. Eat a power snack packed with protein. Drink something caffeinated, like a delicious coffee or tea. And give yourself permission to do something fun and uplifting, rather than having a conversation with your frenemy that will only be exhausting.

This post is mostly to remind myself of the work I personally need to do in promoting sleep for myself and my family. I would love to hear how others fair on this front. Let me know if you have tips!

(Images from josiahblacksblog.wordpress.com, photobucket.com, and arstechnica.com)

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6 Comments so far
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I need to start heeding some of this advice. Mini B has been a challenging sleeper. I’d like to think that I’ve mastered the art of functioning under total sleep-deprivation but I think I’m just fooling myself. It gets better, though, right? RIGHT?!?!

Comment by bunchesofjoy

Oh many things get easier, yes–though I still have nothing mastered! Thanks for commenting!

Comment by jaymers

So important for kids. Once they get to high school it seems like the world conspires against their sleep. Good tips here so they at least start out with the right idea.

Comment by jbw0123

Why thank you for your comment! It’s interesting, I recently heard that they think that homeschooled kids definitely have the edge on kids that are traditionally schooled in this department–homeschoolers tend to get more sleep! Interesting, right? Makes sense, though. Thanks for finding me.

Comment by jaymers

WordPress just told me I would like this post by you, and I do. I don’t know how I missed it before. Maybe I was asleep? 😉

I think you should write a post about your steamy dream about the fashion photographer.

One thing I found that worked with my sister’s kids and with my nephews when we lived with them was what you said about exercise. Get them worn out. Make them run around–you don’t even have to do it yourself, if you’re sly about it–but if they get tired from exercise, they sleep much more soundly. I have heard parents say that getting their kids to run around at the airport terminals is a great idea so they are sleepy on flights.

Comment by indiaindiana

First off, the reason that WP tells everyone that this is a good one is because stats-wise it’s a hit. Wanna know why? Everyone searches WP for different images and apparently “Sleeping cartoon” is a popular one. Go figure. Anyway, I agree with you on premise. My oldest though, I would wear that girl out (right around the age of 18 months to 2 and 1/2), and it made no difference. I had her outside, we’d run errands together, I’d take her to the Y and put her in the childcare to play with buddies. In retrospect, it seemed there was nothing I could do to impact her “Going to sleep”–but the staying asleep part, she was pretty good at that… until her sister came along. Whoa! Not even subtle life changes go unnoticed by that girl, and imagine what having a new sib did. Well, I can’t even imagine it, I have PTSD from the experience.

Comment by jaymers




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