2018 became the year of “self-care”. We drank our daily celery juice, walked up and down the isles of Target, hot latte in hand, and face-masked our little hearts out, all in the name of “self-care”. All of this was good, but if you’ve already got your new planner in hand, vision board checked off, then you’re ready to make 2019 your best year yet!
After what seemed like the longest year…I mean month, ever, January is officially over, and we welcome February. If you’re anything like me, you might have a love-hate relationship with it because well…It’s little Eva’s birthday month, and the hubby and I get to celebrate over 10 years of our relationship which became official on Valentine’s Day (so cliché right?). But, it’s also the month where you realize that all those goals that you set yourself up for might not have gone planned the way you anticipated. You’ve cut back on carbs, but didn’t quite make it to the gym three times a week. You organized and de-cluttered all the drawers in your little one’s room, but didn’t get to fold all your own shirts with love (yup, that’s that Marie Kondo reference) because who has the energy for it? And you really haven’t been committed to putting your phone down because after all, when you’re super tired, it’s just the easy and comfortable thing to do. Even if it’s February, you still have time to make this year the best year yet, but you’re going to have to give yourself a little more self-love than just drinking that celery juice.
One of the top self-care priorities that is often, completely disregarded, is getting the right amount of sleep, for your body and brain to do what it’s meant to do for you. If it’s going to take some convincing, and real hard facts, for you to truly understand why our bodies, even after all these thousands of years, have held on to sleep as a biological need, well let’s dive right in because after all, most of your 2019 goals could probably be achieved if only you had the right amount of sleep.
1. Less sleep makes you easily irritable
This won’t come as a surprise because this is the benefit that you’re most aware of, because let’s face it, when you’ve had less sleep than your body needs, the third cup of coffee won’t be enough to give you the patience to take down your little mighty wrestler during diaper changes. Getting less sleep than your body needs can really take a toll on you.
A study from the University of Pennsylvania found that the lack of sleep stimulates the amygdala- the little almond-shaped part of your brain that’s responsible for feelings like anger and fear, leaving you sensitive to even the slightest mishaps in your day. This sets us up for a day filled with irritability, frustration, and just plain out misery. (If you’re currently as sleepless as I once was, you know that even misery can feel like an understatement). Getting the sleep you and your little one deserve can literally make you feel like a completely different person.
2. It affects your overall health
While it doesn’t’ take a sleep expert to tell you that sleep affects your mood, it definitely takes a doctor to tell you that it affects you on a molecular level. “Sleep services all aspects of our body in one way or another: molecular, energy balance, as well as intellectual function, alertness and mood,” says Dr. Merrill Mitler, a sleep expert and neuroscientist at the National Institutes of Health. “Sleep affects almost every tissue in our bodies,”
People who regularly get between 7-9 hours of sleep see significantly lower rates of obesity, high blood pressure, stroke, infections, depression, diabetes, inflammation, hypertension, heart disease, heart attacks, and heart failure.
So, if you’re looking to shed a few pounds, getting the right amount of sleep energizes you to exercise as well as puts your body in a position to thrive.
3. It Interrupts the Learning Process
We’re all familiar with the fact that we have a hard time focusing on information when we’re running on too little sleep. Absorbing information is only half the battle though.
Actually, if you really want to get technical, it’s only a third. Learning and memory are divided into three functions. Acquisition, consolidation, and recall. Put simply, you need to receive the info, then you need to stabilize the memory of it, and finally, you need to be able to access it.
Acquisition and recall really only take place while you’re awake. Consolidation, on the other hand, “takes place during sleep through the strengthening of the neural connections that form our memories. The overall evidence suggests that adequate sleep each day is very important for learning and memory.”1
Think of this as tiny little people going into your brain while you sleep, and categorizing all the events that you experienced into various tabs that are stored for you to recall at a later time.
So all of this may or may not have been information that you have previously come across, so then why wasn’t there some sort of biological energy that moms were given that prepared them for years of sleepless nights? Because we’re not meant to function on such little sleep, and neither is your baby.
So many moms I speak with live with the idea that you’ve brought a new life into this world, and you’re expected to sacrifice your sleep for a few months, at first, then go on for many years with out any adequate sleep. (I see you mama, hang in there).
This is, in my mind, the most problematic myth about parenthood that puts so many moms in a difficult place.
Because here’s the thing; your baby needs sleep even more than you do. Those little bodies may look like they’re just not doing much (other than being so stinkin’ cute, of course) when they sleep, but there’s an absolute frenzy of work going on behind the scenes.
Have you ever heard anyone say, “Your baby grew overnight?” That’s because they did. Growth hormones are being secreted to help baby gain weight and sprout up, cytokines are being produced to fight off infections and produce antibodies, all kinds of miraculous, intricate systems are at work laying the foundation for your baby’s growth and development, and they’ll continue to do so through adolescence, provided they’re given the opportunity to do so.
Nature set us up for this. All that’s required of your little one is to close their eyes and sleep (yup, I’m talking actually for more than 2 hours at a time ).
So, in the honor of self-care, self-love, and lots of love for your family, do yourself and everyone in your home a favor and help everyone get the sleep you all deserve. Chances are, this year, will be a year filled with joy, success, and great health if everyone can just get some SLEEP!