Being patient and gentle with others, including yourself should include taking good care of your health. And sleep is one thing we moms have the greatest difficulty in getting and keeping: good, restorative, regular sleep.
There are so many things that can make mothering/parenting difficult: sick children, too many obligations, life stressers, work; any and all of these can cause us to have burn out and find mothering to be more difficult than we would like. I can relate to this on a personal level and tell you that not getting enough sleep will do a number on you spiritually, physically, and emotionally.
I am by nature a morning lark, and my hubby a night owl. When we were dating the idea of going to bed when I needed to was no problem, it's when we got married that it became one. My thought was I couldn't go to sleep while my hubby was still up it didn't feel right. What this speaks to is a lack of communication on my part. What would have happened if I told my husband that I really loved him but I needed good sleep to function in the morning; nothing he would have understood. By not saying something I put myself into a huge Catch 22, can you relate?
I was starting to affect my circadian rhythm which is so important in helping us maintain a good balance of restorative sleep, good eating habits and maintaining good mood. I didn't know it then but I know it now that my changing my sleep habits, forcing myself, and here the important words to know: forcing myself, that I was beginning a cycle of disturbance that would create overweight issues, mood swings, general health issues. I was functioning under a misconceived notion that I had to change my basic self to be a good wife. Is that true?
God is calling us to understand our needs and to have them met. Being married and a parent does not mean that moms must change unrealistically. I love this quote from Rabbi Sofer: "No woman is required to build the world by destroying herself." But it's difficult isn't it to follow those wise words especially as moms because we feel our calling so deeply, we feel it is our duty to do everything, in other words to destroy ourselves with all we have to do.
Sleep will change through our married and parenting life. Some stages will see great opportunities to get good sleep than others. Each stage of mothering presents new problems and challenges: newborns. Their demands are relentless, but there are ways to get the sleep you need. My hubby and I knew I would be no good if I tried being supermom, so he took the first night feeding. Now getting good sleep with a baby is difficult, please don't hope that you can create a pattern that will get the same sleep you had before children, that is not going to happen, but it is possible to get a fairly good sleep with some planning.
- Have bottles of breast milk or formula ready for the night feedings your husband can take.
- Some babies do really well with full tummies, you can catch some extra sleep time
- Have the cradle in the room with you, saves on getting baby up time and can cut, I say can, you have to understand if this will make you more prone to wake to see if the baby is OK then don't do it, and can reduce worry.
- Our babies did well sleeping on hubby's chest for a while and with the twins I took a baby on the chest as well, then put them in the cradle by the bed. Or do any other sleep trick you finds works for you and your family.
- Try to sleep when baby does. This isn't always realistic and works very well if this is your only or first baby, but sleep or at least rest when baby does, it will help. A daytime nap of twenty even is wonderful!
- I know I am sooooo guilty of this! Don't check the clock, the only thing that will do is make you worried that you are not getting sleep, concerned that you only have so many hours before you are at it again and just wakes you right up!
I knew that if I was up my son was not going to do something, well frankly, stupid. My hubby could always sleep, but me I knew it wasn't right. I know that staying up with our son didn't solve all our troubles but it did stop some, and major, troubles! I won't go into detail but to say some "plans" were changed when friends sneaked into the house and find mommy up! Or my favorite waiting in the car to see the expression on sonny's face as he tries to take the car out when he was 14!
Now, my hubby and I did a great deal to get this boy on the straight and narrow and thank God from good counselors, but there are times when we must sacrifice to get what we want. These sleep disturbances are huge signals something is up and as a parent we must be aware of what is God is calling us to do, what does the child need, what do we need, what does the family need!
In fact in all parenting related sleep issues it is best to ask yourself those questions: What is needed here?
- Is your sleep being disturbed by prophetic dreams? Like Joseph dreams our dreams can alert to us certain issues. Keep a journal of your dreams and review them regularly; what images, situations, conversations are coming up in the dreams? Do they point to something in real life.
- Don't disregard the mommy instinct. Are you awaken at night by a feeling that "something is not right, said Miss Clavel in the middle of the night." Mommy instinct is there for a reason, a good one! It won't hurt to investigate, gain knowledge of the situation.
- Are you sensing changes in your child's sleep habits? Do you notice your child up for no "good" reason. Do you notice things being done at night that are not done during the day?
When sleep disturbances came from parenting issues they can have a tendency to hang around a lot longer than we want. What was once diligence can quickly become control issues; the thinking here goes something like this: If it helped during the time when I had to stay up maybe my staying up will help prevent other troubles. Or our bodies have become so attuned to sleeplessness that it is difficult, habitual for us to give it up. There are three important chemical in our brains that are greatly affected by prolonged sleep distribution: melatonin, cortisol, and serotonin. When we put ourselves into a prolonged sleep disturbed state we have in effect putting ourselves in the same state we find with our newborns. In newborns these chemicals/hormones that regulate their bodily needs, are some at their lowest, some at their highest. Melatonin, the chemical in our bodies which helps with skin pigment is also used by our bodies as part of the light/dark recognition. Infants only have about a 1/3 of melatonin in their bodies and that is why we see such fluctuation in sleep times.
Cortisol is called the stress hormone, and it is the one that prompts us to eat, when it is high in our bodies as it is when we are sleep deprived we eat. Cortisol, the stress hormone, is higher in babies than adults, it's in fact stressful to be hungry. And finally serotonin which is a very important hormone/chemical.
Its functions the regulation of mood, appetite, sleep, as well as muscle contraction. Serotonin also helps with some cognitive functions, including memory and learning. Serotonin in adults go down when we are sleep deprived that is why we are so moody, irritable, and can't think. Look at teens whose sleep patterns are changing as their brain goes through another growth spurt: they are not fun to be around.
So how do we regain our sleep. One thing is to leave worries at God's door before you go to bed. Prayer is effective at reducing worry and stress; think of this as training your brain to sleep. Just like our children we should have a good routine. Look at your live and see what the triggers are that keep you up.
- Do you have wine or anything with caffeine before bed? Just three hours can affect people and keep them up.
- Are there distraction in your room a TV or computer, anything that calls out to you to do something instead of gaining peace?
- Is your room peaceful, cool and a sanctuary. Its been proven that clutter and mess keep us, subconsciously we are worrying and affected by the mess.
- Keep a prayer journal. Writing out answers and insights from prayer is helpful to us in forming a "game plan."
- Send time doing something enjoyable. Going to bed with good thoughts and good feelings heightens serotonin levels and makes sleep more restful.
- Most of all be gentle with yourself as you try to regain sleep. If you are still having troubles talk to your doctor and see what he suggests.