Why is Sleep So Important?

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When you have a newborn, a sick child, or you just can’t sleep because your brain won’t turn off, it can be hard getting enough sleep.  But, how much sleep is really enough sleep?  And, how important is sleep really?  Why do we need sleep?  And, what happens when we don’t get enough sleep?

Sleep has been a struggle for me since my first child was born over 9 years ago.  Even after each of my babies started sleeping through the night, it was still hard getting to bed and falling asleep at a decent hour.  So, I’ve been through the effects of sleep deprivation, and it’s really no joke.

Sleep is important.  Not getting the sleep your body needs each night to refresh itself can lead to some serious side-effects.  These are just a few that I’ve experienced.

  1. Loss of Energy:  This, of course, is a given.  If you’re not getting sleep, you’re going to be tired and lack energy.  Depending on the severity of sleep deprivation, it may be difficult to keep moving throughout the day.  Your eyes may feel heavy, as well as the rest of your body at times.
  2. Irritability:  To put it plainly, you’re going to be crabby.  Just like a two year-old who misses a nap, it’s going to be tough keeping your emotions in check.  This can lead to a strain on relationships in addition to feelings of self-hatred and guilt.
  3. Depression:  When you feel tired and crabby all the time, it can be easy to slip into a state of depression.  When you feel depressed, you lose the desire to be social and can isolate yourself from others.  Again, not a good thing for relationships and even worse for your mental health.  This can also lead to a vitamin D deficiency if you’re not getting out of the house.
  4. Weakened Immune System:  That’s right!  Not getting enough sleep can make you sick!  And, everyone knows that being sick can disrupt whatever precious amount of sleep you do get.  So, this can get serious pretty fast if you don’t fix the problem.  No amount of vitamins and/or medicine, as great as those are, will help you out here if you’re not getting that much needed rest.
  5. Loss of Concentration:  Since your body hasn’t been given enough time to rework the wiring in your brain during sleep, you can suffer from what I call a fuzzy brain.  It can be hard concentrating on important tasks when you feel like your head was just stuffed with cotton or you have a few screws loose in there.

The Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Your Body

 

 

So, how do we combat against sleep deprivation?  First, I think we need to look at the underlying causes.  The reason for my sleep deprivation may be different from yours and everyone else, but here are a few of the main ones.

crying_baby

  1. Stress/Anxiety:  This is a big one and it can come in all different forms.  What it really comes down to, though, is how your mind/body is handling life and everything it throws at you.  This was the main one for me this past year, since there are many things in my life I have little or no control over right now.
  2. Responsibilities:  Sometimes it’s a sick child that needs tending to, or maybe it’s a project that needs to be completed.  Whatever it is, you’re responsible for it/them and you’re losing sleep as a result of that responsibility.
  3. Caffeine/Sugar:  How’s your diet?  When you’re feeling tired, it’s easy to reach for that extra cup of coffee and eat whatever is quick and easy.  This is another one I struggle with.  I love a hot cup of coffee with flavored creamer in the morning and I’m not very good at preparing healthy meals in advance.  Still working on this one.
  4. Disorder/Sickness:  Maybe it’s just a stuffy nose keeping you up or maybe it’s a little more complicated than that.  Getting uninterrupted sleep when there’s a battle going on in your body can seem impossible at times.

Now, think about what is keeping you up at night.  Is there anything you can do about it?

Yes!  There is hope! Take Your Pick.

  1. Take a vacation to relieve stress
  2. Write in a journal or pray to empty your brain before going to sleep
  3. Drink soothing tea like chamomile
  4. Cut back on caffeine and sugar and eat a well balanced diet
  5. Sticking to a routine can help everyone in your household sleep better
  6. The No-Cry Sleep Solution: Gentle Ways to Help Your Baby Sleep Through the Night
  7. Cut back on screen time by limiting T.V and computer usage
  8. Get your heart rate up every day and make it fun!
  9. Get out of the house and into the sunshine
  10. See your doctor for more options

 

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Getting Baby Timmy to Sleep Through the Night

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My other three children slept through the night (6-8 hours) by the time they were 8 weeks old.  So, I’ve been expecting to make a breakthrough with Timmy this month.  Since he was born, he has slept 3-4 hours at a time during the night.  So, he has been going to sleep around 10pm, waking up at 2am to nurse and again around 6am.  I’ve been looking forward to the night that he drops the 2am feeding and sleeps from 10pm to 6am.

With all of my children, I’ve used the sleep strategies found in Babywise, a book written by Gary Ezzo M.A and Robert Bucknam M.D.  The main strategy found in the book is simply keeping your baby on a consistent cycle every 2-4 hours.  So, every time Timmy wakes up (if it’s at least 2 hours after the last feeding) I nurse him for 10 min, change his diaper and nurse him for another 10 min.  After that, he normally stays awake for a little bit.  I try not to let him fall asleep while he’s nursing.  Since he is still a newborn, he doesn’t stay awake for long before getting fussy.  So, he goes to sleep after being awake for 30-60 minutes.  This nurse, wake, sleep cycle continues throughout the day until he goes to bed at 10pm.  During the night, when he wakes up around 2am, I just nurse him and put him back to bed right away.

Now that I’ve cut out chocolate from my diet, Timmy is a bit more comfortable because he’s not so gassy.  This has helped with his naps during the day and I’ve also started to see a change in his nighttime sleep routine.  He now goes to bed around 9pm and sleeps until about 3am.  That’s 6 hours!  Hurray!  We’re making progress!  That was about a week ago.  Then, Saturday night, he surprised me.  I put him to bed around 9pm and he slept until 6am!  That’s 9 hours!  What a surprise that was.  Especially since only two weeks ago, he was a colicky baby that wouldn’t sleep more than 3 hours at a time.  Now, he is sleeping 6-9 hours a night!  Praise the Lord!  I sure hope this continues.

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