When my son was an infant (and not the greatest sleeper), we’d rock and listen to lullabies. We listened to one CD so many times that many of the songs are seared into my brain. I remember one song in particular. “Sleep, baby, sleep. It is time to close your eyes.” I’d sing along, willing the words to come true.
My son is now four and actually, knock on wood, a pretty darn good little sleeper. Now it’s me who’s not so great. I often stay up late, sometimes have trouble falling asleep, and fail to prioritize sleep. Earlier this year, I set an intention to do better. And, overall, I’d say that I have. But, over the last couple months I’ve been sliding back into old habits. The thing is, like many parents out there, the time between my son’s bedtime and my own is the only unscheduled time I have all day. After a long day at work and a couple fun (but busy) hours with my son, it feels luxurious to relax by reading a book, talking to my husband, writing a little, or (let’s be honest) watching Netflix. And, more and more, society is now setting up the expectation that we bring work home in the evenings, which often encroaches on sleep. But there are a lot of reasons that we’d do well to set a bedtime and stick to it every single night. We parents need our sleep too.
In terms of short-term effects, we know that insufficient sleep can impair memory, learning, judgment, and mood(!). All of this can potentially affect our safety at home and work, and definitely impairs our ability to drive safely. Over the long-term, sleep deprivation is now known to be correlated with higher rates of obesity and cardiovascular disease. Studies have shown a relationship between sleep and mood disorders, such as depression; and there is continued emerging evidence regarding the importance of adequate sleep for improved immune function.
Beyond all of this, the truth is that I’m a better parent when I’m well rested. I’m less cranky and more fun. I’m more active and willing to head out to the park. I’m more creative and a better partner in imaginary play. I’m more patient during bath and bedtime.
So, I’m reaffirming my intention and sticking to it. Those nine hours of sleep I got last night sure made today feel better. I’ll remember that feeling tonight when I turn out the light and will myself to Sleep, Mama, Sleep. We all deserve it.