On this blog I cover the three essential factors for raising healthy and happy eaters: providing children with good nutrition (the “what”), utilizing a positive feeding strategy (the “how”) and being a healthy role model (the example).
But no matter how much we know, intellectually, that we are role models for our kids, it’s still very tempting to put taking care of ourselves on the back burner.
I believe children are the best motivator. A parent’s love is so strong it can move mountains — and create change where it never seemed possible. So in order to help us all be better role models (yes, me too) I’m going to continually post time-saving health tip for parents.
The first one has to do with that precious resource many of us are lacking: a decent night’s sleep.
“Once you have kids your sleep is never the same,” a friend told me and my husband before we had children. And now I get it. It’s like as a parent you are always chasing sleep.
It’s amazing how easy it is for parents to become lured into the sleep-deprived cycle. After children get to bed, it’s finally “parent time” whether it’s watching a favorite show, doing work or even household chores. Unless you’re dealing with a newborn or sick child, you know you won’t be interrupted.
But what happens when that tired feeling takes over early in the evening? If you wait long enough your second wind comes thanks to adrenaline — allowing for more “parent time.” And if you go to be late for long enough you seem to need less sleep or might even have trouble falling– or staying — asleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, more than half of adults experience insomnia a few nights a week.
It seems the less sleep you get the less you need. But is this a good thing? Research shows that insufficient sleep increases the risk for chronic diseases, causes individuals to be less productive and poses safety risks.
Sleep and weight loss
There is quite a bit of research showing that insufficient sleep increases appetite and is linked to higher weights. Scientists believe that a lack of shut-eye causes the secretion of more hunger-inducing hormones, making people eat more than they would otherwise.
According to a recent study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, mothers who got less than 5 hours of sleep 6 months postpartum weighed more (ten pounds plus) at one year than the moms who got more sleep.
This is why I’m addressing sleep first. If you are not getting enough shut-eye, exercising and eating are going to be compromised as well.
What to do?
I could make this tip “get more sleep” and end it there. I know from experience that just telling people to do something rarely does the trick. It’s much better for people to focus on “why” they want to do something.
So I say pick one week and go to bed earlier than usual. Tell yourself you can always go back to the old way later. So instead of fighting that early night tiredness simply gives in and get some rest (unless you’re tired at 5 pm, that’s a little too early). Note how more sleep makes you feel all day long. Do you get more or less stuff done? How does it affect your disposition? Does it make your life better, worse or the same?
If you decide that getting more sleep is worth it, devise some strategies. For example, two nights a week I stay up later to get a post up, but I make sure the next day isn’t a workday. The other nights I make an effort to get quality “me time” in until 9 pm and start closing up shop then. On weekends I live dangerously and go to bed closer to 10 pm unless we go out.
As you make the change, old thoughts will come back telling you staying up later is your reward for parenting. But you can challenge those thoughts by reminding yourself how much more rewarding life is with more sleep.
How much sleep is enough? According to the National Sleep Foundation, somewhere between 7 and 9 hours should do the trick but everyone is different. If you wake up feeling rested and good during the day, you probably are getting enough. But it might take you a while to pay off your sleep debt from before so you might feel tired initially.
Now I know there are some of you that are getting plenty of good, solid sleep. What are you doing? Did you always get good sleep? Leave a comment and let us know.
Patel SR. Reduced sleep as an obesity risk factor. Obes Rev. 2009 Nov;10 Suppl 2:61-8.
Gunderson EP, Rifas-Shiman SL, Oken E, Rich-Edwards JW, Kleinman KP, Taveras EM, Gillman MW. Association of fewer hours of sleep at 6 months postpartum with substantial weight retention at 1 year postpartum. Am J Epidemiol. 2008 Jan 15;167(2):178-87.