Showing posts with label Sleep. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sleep. Show all posts

Jul 27, 2017

Sleep Deprivation is Not a Virtue

"It is in vain that you rise up early
    and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
    for he gives to his beloved sleep."

In 2009, when my youngest was a year old and I was still in a sleep-deprived daze, I blogged about the importance of sleep. Since that time, however, it seems more and more Christian books and blogs are turning sleep into the enemy. Don't give into "the flesh," many say. Instead, get up early and you'll be more holy, many imply. Only moms who rise before the rest of the household keep the house - and themselves - orderly. Somehow the idea of getting less sleep has been confused with being more godly.* Um...really?

While it's true the Bible speaks against laziness and sleeping late all the time, the idea that sleep deprivation is virtuous is not from the Bible - it's from the world. All around our nation, we see moms (and dads and children) who are sleep deprived. This has lead to a host of problems in the U.S., including obesity, depression, grumpiness, inability to respond well to life's difficulties, poor decision making, car crashes, and much more. This isn't a good way to care for the bodily temples God gave us. Even from a purely spiritual point of view, sleep deprivation has its consequences. When we haven't had enough rest, it's harder to behave in a loving, giving, Christ-like fashion. And getting even just an hour and a half less sleep each night reduces our alertness and ability to think clearly by 32%. How can we make right choices for the Lord when our thinking is so impaired? Even our joy can be sucked away when we're sleep deprived. This is not what God wants. Quite the opposite, in fact.

But, some moms say, how can I have time alone with the Lord if I don't rise early every morning? First, know this: The problem isn't necessarily rising early. The Proverbs 31 Woman gets "up while it is still dark," after all. The problem is rising early even though your body requires more sleep. The problem is making yourself sleep deprived because of the mistaken notion that doing so will make you more worthy. So if you can rise early, spend time with the Lord, and still get all the sleep you need, fantastic! But if rising early makes you feel dizzy, nauseated, wiped out, and/or impatient and grumpy, then you'll be a wiser woman if you sleep a little longer. There are lots of ways to spend time with the Lord, even when you're home with little children all day. (For a few ideas, go here; and think of Susanna Wesley - mother of John and Charles Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement - who, with 10 young children underfoot, maintained her prayer life by flipping her apron over her head to create a certain "calm" while she spoke with God.)

But, some moms say, how I can keep the house tidy, homeschool the kids, make myself look presentable, be active in the church, socialize with my friends, run the kids to their activities, do the shopping, have hobbies, and so on, if I don't get up early? There aren't enough hours in the day! You're right; there aren't enough hours to do all that. As Jesus told Martha, there are many good things to do, but a wise woman carefully chooses the most important activities.

We live in a society that worships busy-ness. Moms buzz around the house and to various activities, always busy, busy, busy. But this isn't the life the Bible recommends. Jesus, though he had an active ministry, found time to spend with his Father, to spend with his family and friends, and to rest.

Busy-ness has a way of putting a barrier between us and what's important. Moms (especially those with young children) have some tough choices to make. They can run around busily doing good things (perhaps fairly well, perhaps not), or they can focus on what's most important in their lives right now: God, husband, and children (in that order). It's no coincidence that in Titus Paul says, "...urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God." (2: 4-5; emphasis mine)

Being a wife and mother is a full time job. And because of the society in which we live, it's easy for mothers to get distracted from this job. That distraction costs families a great deal. And it costs many moms sleep - one of the things they most require in order to fulfill their Godly purpose.

So while some moms may wear their sleep deprivation as a badge of honor - and some may even look down their noses at moms who don't rise before dawn - a wise woman smiles and knows that busy-ness and sleep deprivation aren't what makes a Proverbs 31 woman.

* This post assumes you are a reasonably mature person and aren't staying up all hours of the night working or playing. This post also assumes you don't have an infant in the house - because sleep deprivation is a natural part of caring for an infant; however, moms of babies should do everything possible to take naps. 

This post was originally published in 2012.

Mar 12, 2015

Sleep Deprivation: The Childhood "Epidemic"

03/12/15: I am reposting this article with new information on two additional child-safe sleep helps.

Recently, I've seen a number of news articles stating sleep deprivation is the new children's "epidemic." I don't know if I'd go quite that far, but I certainly know lack of sleep is a growing problem for many kids. My 6 year old daughter has suffered with sleep issues for years, and now her 3 year old brother is having problems, too. I also see sleep difficulties occurring in other families around us.

Sadly, we haven't found much help for our children. Pediatricians tend to offer little or no help. Or, they are aware of only a handful of techniques to help kids sleep better. Specialists are virtually non-existent. In our area (which is the second largest city in our state) there is just one sleep specialist who will see children as patients.

It's precisely because there isn't much information available on this topic that I want to cover it here at Proverbs 31 Woman. I hope some of my knowledge can help other children and their parents; however, do understand: I'm not a doctor, and you should always discuss medical treatments with your child's pediatrician before trying them out on your kid.

Sleep Disorders in Children

Common sleep disorders in kids include:

* Frequent nightmares.

* Night terrors (sometimes called sleep terrors), where the child is seemingly awake and screaming, but can't communicate. This is especially common in children 4 to 12.

* Sleepwalking and sleep talking. Like night terrors, these often runs in families. They are most likely to affect kids 4 to 12.

* Frequent waking or inability to fall to sleep.

Sleep walking is considered the most serious of all these disorders, because it can result in physical harm to the child. Not surprisingly, it's the disorder pediatricians most eagerly offer support for. There is little to do for nightmares and night terrors, except limit a child's exposure to scary media, and offering comforting images near bedtime. There are some things that can be done for kids who just have trouble sleeping - and those are the focus of this post.

Is Your Child Sleep Deprived?

While there are medical guidelines for how much sleep children should get, a child may get less sleep than the guidelines recommend and still be considered healthy. But if your child is constantly fatigued, sleep deprivation is a possibility. The University of Michigan Health System website puts it this way, "If your child can go to bed, fall asleep easily, wake up easily, and not be tired during the day, then they're probably getting enough sleep."

Consequences of Sleep Deprivation

Sleep deprivation always has side effects. Some of them affect quality of life, some affect health and safety, and some affect school performance. In children, sleep deprivation can be far more pronounced than it is in adults; if you get grumpy when you haven't had enough sleep, imagine how much more grumpy your 4 year old will be. She simply doesn't have the experience or self control to handle her sleep deprivation with grace.

Side effects from sleep deprivation, according to Web MD, include:

* Lack of alertness. ("Reducing your nighttime sleep by as little as one and a half hours for just one night could result in a reduction of daytime alertness by as much as 32%.")

* Difficulties with memory.

* Decreased cognitive ability.

* Increased risk of injury.

* Increased risk of high blood pressure and heart problems.

* Increased risk of obesity.

* Increased risk of depression and mood disorders.

* Increased risk of ADD.

I would add to this:
* Increased disobedience, defiance, and "acting out."

* Increased temper tantrums or crying fits.

* Difficulty with school work.

* Difficulties with friends and classmates.

Behavioral problems, in particular, tend to affect everyone in the family, lowering the quality of life for parents and siblings, as well as the sleep deprived child. In addition, parents of children who don't sleep well often don't sleep themselves, which leads to an even grumpier household, which can affect marriages, friendships, health, and jobs.

When a child is sleep deprived, it's a very serious matter for the whole family.

Getting Help

If you feel your child isn't getting enough sleep, first read my general recommendations for helping your kids to get more sleep. If these steps don't help, talk to your child's pediatrician. If the doctor offers suggestions, try them. If they don't work, let the pediatrician know. She may offer more suggestions, or she may refer you to a specialist. If she doesn't do either or these things, seek a specialist on your own. The specialist may focus on sleep, or he might be a behavioral specialist.

Keeping a Sleep Log

Before you approach a doctor, however, it's vital to keep a sleep log for your child. On a calendar or in a notebook, keep a record of when your child goes to bed, when she falls asleep (approximately), when she wakes during the night, and when she wakes in the morning.

I realize this is sometimes easier said than done. Children who are older - and especially children who are used to being up a lot at night - tend to learn to not disturb the rest of the family. Be sure to let your child know that, for a limited time, you want her to wake you so you can create a sleep log. You might also consider teaching preschool and early grade students to read the clock, if they don't already know how. I put a digital clock in my preschooler's room and told her to make a note of the first number on the clock whenever she woke up; this worked pretty well for us.

It can also be helpful to note what your child ate during the day, how active your child was, and what your child's bedtime routine was.

Keep the log for at least 2 weeks. When you see a doctor, be sure to bring the log with you.

Common Fixes

I strongly believe that with children, especially, the safest and most natural remedies should be explored first. Once people know your child doesn't sleep well, you'll probably be deluged with recommended remedies. You can also do Internet searches to find common remedies. Just be sure that before you try any herb or supplement, you first discuss it with your child's doctor. Herbs may be natural, but they can be unhealthy if taken in the wrong doses.

Resetting the Sleep Cycle

The first thing our sleep specialist recommended was keeping our daughter up a half hour later every night until she no longer woke up at night. This surprised me, since I'd repeatedly read that over-tired children don't sleep well. Nonetheless, this physician says his method works for many children by helping parents and kids find the child's "natural bedtime." Of course, if you have young children, this method may not be practical since you can't go to bed before your young child.

UPDATE 9/15/15: Experts are currently rethinking Melatonin use, especially in children. Apparently, it may adversely affect children's physiological systems, including cardiovascular, immune and metabolic systems, and reproductive system. Learn more here.

Melatonin is a hormone made in the brain. Melatonin levels typically get higher in the evening, remain high at night, then drop in the morning. That's why many doctors recommend trying to regulate children's melatonin levels when they are having trouble sleeping.

There are two ways to do this. One is to have your child eat foods rich in tryptophan - an amino acid that helps create serotonin, which in turn helps create melatonin. But the mistake many people make is to eat tryptophan-rich foods only in the evening. To work properly, your child should consume foods with tryptophan throughout the day: Morning, noon, and evening.
If this method doesn't work after several weeks, you can purchase melatonin drops at a pharmacy (without a prescription). The typical recommendation is to give melatonin drops to children for only a few days; this is supposed to "reset" your child's sleeping patterns. But children with more serious sleep problems may need to take melatonin every night.

Melatonin drops are not without side effects, however. The most negative side effect for children is increased risk of vivid dreams and nightmares. Also, talk to your child's doctor about dosages; I've discovered that higher doses than what are recommended on the packaging work better - but you also don't want to over dose your child.

Cherry Juice

According to a small study, no-sugar-added, pure cherry juice may help people suffering from insomnia. Look for it in health food stores or at

Clove Tea
Herbalist have long considered clove an excellent but gentle sleep inducer. Make the tea by boiling some water, then placing 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon of the freshest whole cloves you can find in the water. Cover for 10 - 15 minutes. Strain. The tea may be flavored with honey or a little milk. According to Lalitha Thomas in her book 10 Essential Herbs, infants to children 10 years of age can have 1 or 2 teaspoons of this tea; children 11 and up, 1/4 cup of this tea. It should be taken within an hour of bedtime.

A magnesium deficiency can cause insomnia. Many children do not eat magnesium rich foods (including nuts, whole grains, beans, and leafy green), but magnesium supplements are readily available. A good magnesium complex should do the trick, but some people find that a lotion or oil works better for them. See this University of Maryland Medical Center article for dosing information. (Magnesium can make us feel quite relaxed; I recommend taking it just before bed.)

Valerian and Lemon Balm

Numerous studies
show this combination of herbs can increase sleep in children. You can buy the correct mixture in Nature's Way Valerian Nighttime. Talk to your child's physician about appropriate doses.


This is an amino acid found naturally in tea (Camellia sinensis) - mostly green tea. At least one study shows it is effective in helping children sleep, even when ADHD is the supposed cause of their insomnia. My daughter has had excellent results taking just 100 mg a half hour before bed, but doses can go higher, so talk to your child's doctor for a recommendation.

California Poppy

Unlike the Oriental poppy, California poppy is not an opiate. In fact, it's been used as a child-safe sleep remedy for a long, long time. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about appropriate dosing.


The sleep specialist in our area says prescription Rozerem is as safe as melatonin; it's apparently made from a molecule found in melatonin. The pill is tiny, too, which makes it easier for kids to swallow. Like melatonin, however, Rozerem can lead to nightmares and similar side effects. Personal experience tells me Rozerem doesn't work at all if your child doesn't feel at all tired, but it can be helpful if your child is tired but can't sleep.

Prescription Clonidine is a blood pressure medication - but it's also used to treat ADHD, anxiety, and migraines, among many other things. It's sometimes used to help those with sleep difficulties because a common side effect is sleepiness. The dosage for kids is very small - not enough to affect their blood pressure.

Other Medications

In very serious cases of sleep deprivation, more serious prescription drugs may be in order.

Life Tips

Do your best to teach your child to recognize his own fatigue, then act accordingly. This may mean more limited play dates and more quiet time, for example. It might also mean making sure school days (and the day before the first school day of the week) are as relaxing as possible. It might even mean homeschooling, so you can schedule schooling around your child's sleep patterns. Only with experimentation can you discover what will make the days easier for your child while you try to find solutions for your child's sleep deprivation.

Jan 18, 2013

Quiet Time: It's Not Just for Toddlers

My children stopped napping at very young ages, and like most moms, I mourned a little when it happened. The kids still needed naps - and even if some days they didn't, I needed the quiet time naps offered. As time has gone by and I've found myself increasingly stressed at the end of most afternoons, I've learned a little  trick: Quiet time.

Now you may think quiet time is just for toddlers. Not so! Quiet time is actually a blessing for children of all ages - as well as for mothers. Here's how ours works:

1. First, I chose a time of day. My children tend to start getting really cranky around 2 or 2:30 in the afternoon, so this was the obvious choice for our quiet time.

2. Next, when my children were fresh and in a good mood, I explained that from now on we were going to have quiet time each weekday. (You can do it on weekends, too, if you like.) I explained that in the afternoons we all tended to get cranky and that quiet time would make ours days happier. The children weren't thrilled...until I explained what quiet time was.

3. I explained the simple rules of quiet time: "During quiet time, we will all go into our own rooms. You may take a nap" (expect protests here), "OR you may read a book/look at picture books, OR you may listen to an Adventures in Odyssey or Jonathan Parks CD, OR you may play quietly in bed." Admittedly, the kids still weren't thrilled, but they weren't complaining, either. In fact, my 7 year old was slightly excited to have quiet time away from her little brother.

It's important for there to be no screen time (television, computers, electronic games, cell phones, etc.) during quiet time. Studies show these things are very stimulating. On the other hand, reading a book or listening to a story on a CD has a quieting and restful effect. Also note that while I told the children they could play quietly in bed, I've had trouble enforcing this rule with my 4 year old, so I allow him to play quietly alone in his room during quiet time. This works just fine for us.

4. Mom must follow the rules, too. THIS IS IMPORTANT! I know how tempting it is to use quiet time to do housework, pay bills, or do other work. But for quiet time to truly be effective, mom must follow the rules, too! Nap, pray, read the Bible, pick up a

How long quiet time lasts is up to you. My 4 year old can tolerate about 45 minutes, so that's how long ours is. Sometimes I can stretch it to an hour. I wouldn't go beyond an hour. If 45 minutes doesn't work for you, aim to have at least 30 minutes of quiet time. And don't be discouraged if quiet time isn't all that quiet - especially at first. You an introducing a new routine, so expect it to take some time before the children adjust.

If you stick with it, though, quiet time will be very rewarding. It's amazing how even a short quiet time refreshes and encourages all of us!

Jan 3, 2011

When You're Overwhelmed

"...I will cry to you when my heart is overwhelmed."
Psalm 61:2

I think every mom feels overwhelmed at least some of the time. But if you're going through a prolonged period of feeling stressed and overwheled, it's time to take action:

1. Worship God. Nothing gets things in perspective quicker than dropping everything and worshiping the Lord. While you're at it, make sure you're finding time to read the Bible and pray. When we're busy, these things can all too easily fall by the wayside - yet they are often the very cause of our stressed out feelings. We need to spend time with God.

2. Go to church. It sets the mood for the entire week. Go by yourself, if you have to.

3. Sleep. I've argued before that sleep is one of the main things every mom truly needs. Get more rest and you may be surprised how your perspective changes.

4. Do only essentials. There are many good things we can do here on earth, but if those good things are interfering with our mental health or our ability to do a good job at the first task God's given us (to be great wives and mothers), then we need to stop and focus on essentials. Sometimes the essentials are easy to spot...sometimes they are not. For example, while it's probably a good thing to try to organize and de-clutter the house, if it's making you feel overwhelmed, stop. Come back to it another time, when your responsibilities aren't so overwhelming.

5. Cut back work. If you have a job besides your chief position as wife and mother, consider quitting. Analyze your family budget and cut non-essentials; reconsider your lifestyle. Although not ever woman can quit her job, a relaxed, loving Proverbs 31 Woman is a lot more important than having a big house, dinners out, or a subscription to Netflix.

6. Find time for yourself. How long has it been since you took a walk? Read a novel? Went to the gym? Took a soak in the tub? Finding even just a little time for yourself is essential. And if you can combine it with exercise, you'll feel all the better.

7. Focus on one thing at a time. Often when I feel overwhelmed I find I'm trying to juggle too many things. Stop. Breathe. Choose one thing. You'll enjoy life more and you'll do a better job at whatever you're doing.

"For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control."

2 Tim. 1:7

Aug 30, 2010

Even Jesus Needed Rest

It's been a hectic month. I finished writing a book that was due today, I've been trying to implement The House That Cleans Itself in our household, I've been getting my 5 year old ready for kindergarten, and I've been canning and freezing up a storm.

In the past couple of weeks I've canned:

21 quarts of peaches

9 pints of cucumber pickles

12 quarts of tomatoes

6 pints of apricots

64 quarts of blueberry syrup

48 quarts of blueberry butter

18 quarts of apple sauce

I also froze a ton of summer squash and cabbage; I've lost track of how much.

I'm tired. Really, really tired. And while a Proverbs 31 Woman is productive, she should never be bone tired. Because a bone tired woman cannot be an effective wife and mother. If she neglects her own basic spiritual or physical needs, she's bound to start neglecting her family's, too. Even Jesus, during a ministry with such limited time, rested.

So as I take a day or two to recuperate, I hope you'll remember to rest now and then, too.

Feb 15, 2010

Marriage Bed Trouble?

At my house, we used to have marriage bed trouble. My hubby constantly stole all but one corner of my covers - except when I managed to cocoon myself in them so he had none at all. Other nights, he'd be hot and fold back the quilts - leaving me shivering. If this sounds familiar, I have a solution for you: Buy smaller bedding. Really!

For example, if you have a king sized bed, instead of purchasing a king sized blanket, purchase a pair of full sized blankets: One for you and one for your hubby. If you buy matching blankets or quilts, your bed will still look nice, but you'll never have to fight over covers again. If you like, keep one king sized comforter or quilt to place on top of everything else, making the bed prettier when its all made up. Just be sure to remove it before bed time to avoid cover fights!

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Oct 23, 2009

Help Your Kids Sleep Better

I've already blogged about how important sleep is to moms, how most Americans don't recognize they are sleep deprived, and how adults can improve their chances of getting enough rest. But what about your children?

According to WebMD, seven out of 10 kids aren't getting enough sleep. Sleep deprivation drives down a child's ability to think and do well in school, is linked to ADD, can lead to poor childhood growth, increases the risk of childhood obesity, and lowers your child's immune system. And, as all parents know, tired kids are often cranky and disobedient.

Even one hour less sleep can make a remarkable difference in how your child functions during the day. In one study, researchers at Brown University Medical School found teens who were getting Cs, Ds, or Fs in school went to bed about 40 minutes later than kids getting As and Bs. In another study, grade school teachers reported about 10% of their students fell asleep in class.

How Much Sleep Do Kids Need?
According to WebMD, babies under the age of 12 months need around 15 hours of sleep each day/night. Children 1 to 3 years old require 12 to 14 hours of sleep; kids 3 to 6 years old need 10 3/4 to 12 hours; 7 to 12 year olds need 10 or 11 hours; and kids 12 to 18 need at least 8 1/4 to 9 1/2 hours.

How to Help Kids Sleep
If your child isn't getting enough sleep, first explain to him (repeatedly, if necessary) how important sleep is. For the youngest kids, you can simply say "Sleep makes you grow big and strong, and makes you feel better during the day." For older kids, you can read summaries of medical studies together and relate your own stories about how sleep deprivation has affected your life. Next, review the tips I've already posted for adults; many work for kids, too. In addition, try these tips:

* Stick to quiet activities a few hours before bed, like reading, coloring, or board games.

* Don't overschedule your child's day. If your child spends her day running from one activity to another, she'll be too hyped up to sleep. According to Jodi A. Mindell, Ph.D., coauthor of Take Charge of Your Child's Sleep and associate director of the Sleep Center at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, "If your kid never says, 'I'm bored,' he's overscheduled."

* Make sure your kids get outside to play every day for at least a few hours. According to one study, it takes kids around 26 minutes to fall asleep. But for every inactive hour a child spends during the day, it takes three minutes longer for her to fall asleep. However, the more active kids are during the day, the fewer minutes it takes them to fall asleep.

* Avoid caffeine and simple carbs. Remember caffeine doesn't just come in coffee and sodas; you'll also find it in chocolate, teas, and some ice creams. Even some over the counter medications contain caffeine.

* Set up a regular bedtime, and make sure your child is in bed every night at that hour. This takes some planning, since children are experts at prolonging activities to avoid going to bed.

* Try an earlier bedtime. If your child turns bedtime into a battle, or is fussy or grumpy when you try to put her to bed, she may just be overtired and need to turn in earlier.

* Give one "free pass." If your child repeatedly asks for "one more drink of water," "one more trip to the potty," or something similar, give him a slip of paper that can be turned in for one of these things. Once the pass has been used, there's no more getting up from bed or turning on the light.

* Some kids need time alone before going to sleep. Try setting up alone time a half hour or so before bed.

* Be firm. From the time your children are babies, be gentle but firm about bedtime.

* Don't start with bad habits. For example, if you rock your baby to sleep every night, you'll just have to break her of this habit later. Why prolong the agony? If your baby cries when you put him down, give him around 15 minutes. Really, it won't hurt him. If, after 15 minutes, he's still crying, walk into his room, talk to him soothingly and pat his back. Then leave. Repeat as necessary. (This isn't to say that rocking can't be part of the bedtime routine. Just put your child to bed before he falls asleep.) Naturally, if your baby is colicky, that medical problem will have to be addressed before you can begin instilling good sleep habits.

* Allow your child a nightlight if she asks for one, or if she's afraid of the dark.

* With your pediatrician, identify underlying problems, like apnea, bed-wetting, nightmares, night terrors and seek treatment.

* Although it's better to help your child learn to sleep well without medication, if sleep deprivation is hurting your child, medication may be useful. If your child has persistent sleep problems, be sure to discuss them with your pediatrician and consider either prescription or over the counter treatment.

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Oct 15, 2009

Getting More Rest

As I posted earlier in the week, sleep deprivation is a serious issue in the United States, leading not only to numerous physical problems (from weight gain to heart problems), but also marital issues and an inability to nurture our children. Most Americans don't realize they are sleep deprived, but if we don't get a full, undisturbed eight hours each night, we can suffer serious consequences, doctors say.

But how exactly is a busy mom to find time for more sleep? From a woman who has long struggled with sleep deprivation, here are some ideas:

* Once a week, sleep in. Ideally, you should go to bed and get up at the same time every day. But when you're sleep deprived, sleeping in can be helpful. So once a week, have your husband get up with the kids. I know; your husband probably wants to sleep in, too. But perhaps he can do that on one weekend day and you can do it on another. (This may mean finding a later church service.)

* Go to bed earlier. This sounds too simple, doesn't it? But many people find that by the time they've brushed their teeth, changed clothes, and so on, they end up falling asleep later than anticipated. So time the things you do each night before bed, and begin your routine earlier.

* Put the children to bed earlier. If you find yourself staying up later so you have time alone with your husband (or so you can "recover" once the kids are in bed), put the children to bed earlier. This will benefit them (more on this in a coming post), and it will be better for your marriage. If you're concerned you or your husband won't get enough time with the kids this way, cut out after school activities and dedicate weekends to family time. Sleep and family time are both far more important than so many other things we fill our time with.

* Use a sleeping mask, so you'll sleep more soundly through the mornings.

* Turn off the baby monitor. This was tough for me. Up until recently, I had two monitors: one in my preschooler's room and one in the baby's room. Well, my preschooler is old enough she can call out or come get us if she needs us, and the baby is now a year old and in the room immediately next to ours. It's silly to keep them on monitors (which, incidentally, meant I woke up every time a child rolled over in his or her sleep). Unless your kids' rooms are quite far away from yours, trust me. You'll hear them if they need you.

* Reprogram your brain. If you go to bed late because you've always been a night owl, science says routinely going to bed earlier will convert you.

* Seize nap time. "Sleep when the baby sleeps" is advice as old as the hills...but it works. If you have children of napping age, don't spend nap time doing chores. Head to bed. The Mayo Clinic says this works best if you snooze for no more than 20 minutes or so (if you sleep longer, you may end up feeling drowsy when you wake up), so you'll still have time for other things after you rest.

* Develop a bedtime routine for yourself. You probably know your child's evening goes more smoothly if you develop a bedtime routine, but did you know the same is true for adults? Doing the same routine each night signals your brain it's nearly time to sleep. Try a warm bath, dimming house lights, drinking some warm decaf tea, listening to soothing music, and prayer.

* Avoid hot baths immediately before bed. Although you'll often see warm baths recommended as part of a bedtime routine, your body needs to cool down before you fall asleep. Therefore, taking too warm a bath can actually prevent you from sleeping. Experts recommend baths about 2 to 1 1/2 hours before bed.

* Keep your bedroom cool. If you're too hot, you won't sleep well. If you overheat your bedroom, you'll have to wake up and adjust the thermometer. If you overdress for bed, you'll have to get up and undress. Instead, use layers of blankets that can be kicked off or pulled on easily during the night.

* Avoid screen time at night. It's too stimulating.

* Avoid caffeine and simple carbs. Both lead to blood sugar issues that not only make you feel worse during the day, but can interfere with sleep.

* Use white noise. Many people can only fall asleep and stay that way if there's white noise in the background. Try turning on the radio (talk radio works best) and leaving it on, or use a white noise machine or CD.

* Use blackout curtains. If the morning light wakes you early in the morning, try this: Safety pin some black garbage bags to your curtains. If you sleep longer and better, strongly consider investing in blackout curtains, which keep your room dark while you sleep.

* Keep a pen and notebook nearby. I often keep myself awake thinking about stuff I want to do the next day. I also avoid getting up to write this stuff down because I'm afraid I'll stay up. Resolve these problems by keeping note-making material at your bedside.

* Try "snooze foods." According to Dr. Sears, author of over 40 medical books, some foods contain a substance that can actually help you sleep. These foods include dairy products, seafood, meats, poultry, whole grains, and eggs. As an added bonus, eating a small snack before bed also makes your blood sugar levels more even, which is an aid in controlling and loosing weight.

* If you have persistent bouts of insomnia, see your physician. Insomnia can be a symptom of something more serious. In addition, insomnia can lead to something more serious. There are many gentle sleeping aids available today. Your sleep is too valuable to not give them a try.

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Oct 12, 2009

What You Need Most: Sleep

Aside from a sound relationship with Christ and immersion in the Bible, what do you need most as a Proverbs 31 woman? I think the answer is...sleep. Yes, really. Sleep.

And before you click away from this article thinking, "I get enough sleep," consider that WebMD reports one of the symptoms of sleep deprivation is not realizing you're sleep deprived.

While some sleep deprivation is a normal part of being a parent to young children, you should do everything in your power to ensure that you get plenty of sleep.

According to Web MD, sleep deprivation leads to:

* increased risk of obesity and diabetes;
* depression;
* marital conflict;
* increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure;
* decreased thinking capacity and ability to perform ("Reducing your nighttime sleep by as little as one and a half hours for just one night could result in a reduction of daytime alertness by as much as 32%.");
* poor memory;
* and an estimated 100,000 car crashes each year.

Sleep deprivation also greatly reduces your level of patience and nurturing, as well as your ability to do the things you'd like to do with your family each day.

Experts say not getting a full, undisturbed eight hours every night for as little as two weeks is the same as not sleeping for at least two full nights. If you sleep only four hours a night for two weeks, your brain thinks you haven't slept at all for three nights in a row.

And perhaps you're one of those people who requires more than eight hours sleep. (I'm one of them.)

As moms, we have a lot to do each day. We often sacrifice our own needs for that of our children and husband. But don't fall into the trap of letting sleep drop low on your list of priorities. Not only will your health suffer, but your entire family will suffer because you are less able to be a loving, caring mother and wife.

During the course of the next week or two, I'll be posting tips on ensuring that you and your children get more rest. In the meantime, do your best to hit the hay a little earlier each night. Your body - and your family - will thank you for it.

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