How sleep affects your health
Sleep deprivation can have a profound impact on your health and weight loss –and frequently plagues women with children at home, regardless of their age.
In fact, a recent survey showed that women with children at home reported feeling tired for 14 days out of the month, nearly half of the month!
Sleep deprivation is considered the norm. Listen to Moms in line at Starbucks, standing around the coffee machine at work, or posting memes on social media, and you’ll get a sense, very quickly, that motherhood and sleep deprivation go hand-in-hand.
Ignoring your body’s cues for more sleep, however, may come at a price.
Sleep deficits and deprivation aren’t just about feeling tired. There are serious effects of poor sleep including:
Memory loss (a scientific explanation for “mom brain”)
- Elevated cortisol levels
Greater risk of accidents
- Increased caloric intake and hunger
Increased risk of heart disease
- Decreased satiety
Increased risk of diabetes
- Inability to lose weight
How to Get More Sleep
Getting enough sleep is critical for functioning at your best, but it’s not always easy to get the sleep you need each night.
While experts recommend at least seven hours of sleep each night, it’s not enough just to know that. Taking steps to improve your sleep quality is just as important.
Use these strategies to make the most of your time to rest.
Prioritize sleep. You may have a lot of demands on your time, which can push resting down to the bottom of your to-do list. But everything else you need to do is so much easier when you’re well-rested. Schedule your life around your rest and not the other way around.
Focus on stress relief. Even when you have enough time to sleep, stress can keep you up at night, or you may lie awake with anxious thoughts. Make sure you’re appropriately managing stress throughout the day. Practice relaxation exercises, including meditation, yoga, journaling, and talking out your concerns with a good listener. Meditation, breathing techniques, and prayer are helpful in relaxing the mind and body, as well as reducing stress and anxiety, and even reducing blood pressure–all which help the body prepare for sleep.
Get exercise. Physical activity during the day can help you feel more energized and refreshed, and it offers stress relief. Staying active is also good for sleep, making it easier for you to drift off at night.
Be careful with what you eat and drink. Caffeine, alcohol, even fatty food can reduce your sleep quality. Avoid coffee and other caffeinated beverages after 3 p.m., and don’t be fooled into thinking a nightcap will help you sleep better (it actually disturbs REM sleep later in the night, which is one of the reasons you feel exhausted after waking). Also, avoid eating fatty foods or heavy meals late at night, as doing so can shift your body’s focus from sleep to digestion.
Ask for help. If you’re overwhelmed by your to-do list, ask for help. Talk to your partner and family about what they can do to share duties and lighten your load. Talk out how you can streamline processes so you can be more efficient as you go about your day.
Improve your sleep environment. Sleeping in a healthy environment can improve the quality of your sleep. The best setup for sleep is quiet without distractions, cool enough that you can sleep comfortably under your covers, and dark so you’re not exposed to light that can confuse your circadian rhythm. Your mattress should be well suited to your needs, offering support and comfort.
Create Sleep Rituals. Sleep behaviors can be taught at any age and creating “sleep rituals” is one way to incorporate healthy habits into your routine. At least one hour before bedtime, turn off all electronic devices, including televisions and computers. Use your time to relax by taking a warm bath, or prepare your mind and body for sleep by dimming the lights and reading before bedtime. Performing the same pattern of behavior each night provides powerful reinforcement, creating long-lasting sleep rituals.
Get treatment for sleep disorders. Sometimes, sleep issues can be serious. If you’re chronically short on sleep and small lifestyle changes aren’t making a difference, talk to your doctor about sleep disorders. There are treatments available for sleep disorders including insomnia and sleep apnea.
Founder and Creator of Fitness MOMents® LLC