Carol’s Parenting Hack: Get More Sleep

animal-931355_1280I can’t write here with any authenticity about an organizational parenting hack to help you get through the year. For this, you should listen to Nathalie or Beth-Anne, because those women have their act together, and you could learn a thing or two from them. But I do have a tip that I think would really improve the lives of almost everyone (and certainly every parent) I know, and that’s simply this:  Get. More. Sleep.

Simple, but not easy to do. I know, because I believe it, and often don’t do it either. And I have my reasons, same as you: chief among these being that I want to have a bit of time to myself, after the kids and house are finally tucked in for the night. Also, I’m usually not noticeably tired at my proper bedtime. I can easily stay up for a couple more hours, and I’ve often thought that what I really need is a 26 or 28 hour day.

Which is all dandy to muse about, but since the 24 hour day doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, I’m trying to adapt to getting closer to 8 hours a night. That this assertion is seen by many people to be luxurious, unrealistic, or even slothful, speaks to a strange culture that prizes more what we can “do” rather than how we feel or how we can “be”. Because I don’t know about you, but I am a lot nicer after a good night’s sleep, and I’m pretty sure the universe and everyone I know in it prefers that me to the red-eyed crab me who managed to steal time to read/write/craft/plan/watch-mindlessly-something the night before. And of course, I prefer that me a whole lot more too.

But waking time is precious, and we all need reminders of the reasons why we should not compromise on getting enough sleep.

  1. Enjoy Better Physical Health. While sleeping, your body repairs itself and works toward healthy brain function. Sleep also helps to maintain hormone balance and sustain a healthy immune system. Skimping on sleep means slowing down your body in all kinds of ways, and makes you more vulnerable to illness. Basically: you’re stressing your body out. And if you keep at it, you can burn your body out.
  2. Think Smarter. As in, you’ll be better able to problem-solve, multi-task and prioritize. The brain fog you’ve gotten used to may actually lift if you get enough shut-eye.
  3. Remember Things. There is a direct correlation between lack of sleep and impaired memory. Remember what you could remember before you had kids?  I can’t either. But if I get enough sleep, I might.
  4. Eat Less. Sleep helps balance your hormones, and when you don’t get enough of it, you secrete more of the hormone that makes you feel hungry. I don’t know all the details, but I do know that I absolutely eat more when I’m sleepy. It’s like I’m trying to get energy from somewhere, and food’s all I have, and I’m not usually reaching for the kale. Not helpful.
  5. Live Safer. I’m suspicious that in the parent set, there are quite a few of us who have driven when really quite sleepy, and when we really shouldn’t have been. Some studies liken driving while sleep-deprived to driving while drinking. I have made the former mistake before, and I committed a long time ago to not making it again. If I’m sleepy, I don’t drive.
  6. Improve Your Mood. If you are even a little prone to depressed moods, or even if you aren’t, you are much more likely to experience the blues if you are sleep-deprived.
  7. Increase Patience and Compassion. It is very difficult to have give positive energy to the vagaries of the people around you (unpredictable children, for example) if you scarcely have any for yourself. One sure way to lower my patience as a mother of young kids is to eat into my sleep. It’s almost never worth it. Tame the lunatic within with some zzz’s.
  8. Have More Sex! Of course this one gets an exclamation mark! How are you supposed to channel your inner goddess when all she wants to do is nap? A sure libido killer is fatigue. There are many complex reasons why your sex drive may wax and wane over time, but go for the low-hanging fruit first and see if getting adequate sleep does the trick.

Seriously, do yourself (and your spouse, children, parents, siblings, friends, boss, employees, fellow drivers and general strangers everywhere) a favour, and go to sleep. It could change everything.