Sleep Deprivation by Mumma Snooze
We have all heard the phrase “if you are a mum, you know what tired means.”
Previous to having kids, I would say that people were unfair, and that I felt tired too, I worked 45 + hours per week and I felt knackered. Then my little boy arrived in 2014 and I truly experienced sleep deprivation and I finally understood what they really meant…
My son would not sleep for the first 13 months of his life and after that he would wake up 5am every day. This lasted for 2 years! I still find myself wondering how I survived with that little sleep. Then finally, I thought we were entering a new life with sleep, but sadly, with the arrival of my daughter, my son’s sleep went out of the window again ….Then, having had a lovely sleep consultant help us, I took the decision to help others and give the same gift: Sleep. So I started my new career as a sleep consultant.
Only when I started studying, did I realise how sleep deprivation affected our daily lives. Sleep deprivation affects our mode , immune system ,safety, marriage, to name a few. The strain on the family is huge and our work can be affected. Sleep is so important, not only for our children’s development but also for our families wellbeing .
I had felt tired, I was experiencing significant mood swing and believed I was experiencing post-natal depression - my skin was also being affected, with bad outbreaks had developed due to hormones and stress. I had developed a skin condition called Rosacea, as a result of y sleep depreciation (this is now permamment but controllable provided I am well rested). We see society displaying happy mums and happy babies, with babies sitting in their buggies while the mums drinks hot drinks and chat with their friends. Personal, this was far from my reality.
I felt useless and embraced to admit how I was actually feeling. The worry of not fitting into this stereotype of society and the guilt I felt toward my child for not be able give him 100% put so much stress into my old life.
So what does sleep deprivation do to our body and mind?
Sleep deprivation affects our body and mind and is very concerning.
A person that sleep less than 7 to 9 hours at night is likely to have memory issues. During our sleep, our brain forms connections that help us process and remember new information. Lack of sleep is likely to affect long and short term memory. Problem solving skills and concentration are affected too. I remember that I wasn’t able to execute the simple task I set for myself and I would write notes and forget where they were. It was hugely frustrating.
High blood pressure will rise if you sleep less than 5 hours per night putting you at risk of heart attack and other vascular problems.
In addition, The chemicals that give the signal to your brain that you are full are off balance, so you are likely to overeat too.
Balance and coordination are affected making you more prone to falls and have other accidents.
The immune system is affected and you are more likely to catch flu and viruses , your body can’t cope with the stress and no sleep.
What about the sex drive? The same concept applies to both men and women. For men, testosterone drops and their libido goes out of the window - and many women feel a lack of libido too.
These are just some of the impacts we see on adults.
What actually happens to a child that doesn’t sleep?
Did you know, toddlers and pre schoolers require an average of 13 hours sleep between night time sleep and day time naps.
Tantrums may be on the cards for you because your child is likely to use their limbic brain. The limbic brain controls our emotions and behaviour. This will likely lead to tantrums and irrational behaviour. This happens in adults too but we know how to express our frustration.
Children that don’t sleep enough have difficult to concentrating and focusing. They might appear hyperactive with defiant or contrary behaviour . They can become accident prone.
More importantly, they need sleep in order to grow and develop.
What we could do to help you and your child to sleep.
Routine is the first step that will help you. It’s been shown that routine helps children to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer
It is important to do the same process in the same order every night. For example bath, feed, book and bed. If you cannot bath the child every night then do things like change nappy or wash face but something that will remind your child of their the bath routine. After bath, a nice little massage can help you and baby bond and help them relax before bed time. It doesn’t need to be long, but the touch is very important, especially in the early days when they miss the warm comfort of their mother wombs.
If they have a feed before bed, include another step between feeding and going down like a small story, in the early days even just showing a picture or singing a small story this will help to avoid any association with feeding and bed and will avoid feeding becoming a sleep crutch.
A nap routine is important too. A good tip is to feed after your child waking.
Keep the room around 16 to 18 degrees as this is an ideal temperature to aid their sleep.
The room has to be dark , the light affects our circadian rhythms. Red or amber light are the best and inducive to sleep. In a scale of 1 being light and 10 be dark you want to have about an 8.
TVs and tablets and every electronics will need to be avoid at least 30 min to 1 hour before bed time too.
Watch out for the children’s wakeful windows. This is the period of time that your child can remain awake without needing sleep. Infants will have shorter wakeful windows than toddlers.
You know your child best, make a judgment and with time, you will be able to tell his ideal time to nap and duration of sleep at night. Make sure you look out for sleeping cues, rubbing eyes, getting cranky and having tantrums are signs that you may have missed the wakeful window and settling will became harder and their sleep might became disturbed or short.
Bear in mind the wakeful windows are always evolving with your child . Always remember your child is an individual and what applies for one baby doesn’t always apply for another one.
White noise is very good for helping little one settling. This doesnt mean you have to go out and buy a white nose machine, put on your tumble dryer or fan on, they will love it. If you are in the position of buying one gadget, I will recommend my Hummy or Ewan the sheep .
Children learn from our behaviour, they are sponges love imitating us. Show your child that you are consistent. Giving them mixed messages is confusing and very frustrating .
Sleep is so important not only for your little one but for the benefit of every family member.