With a newborn, after the hormone high has gone, the perils of sleep deprivation can be a huge shock to the system; Physically, Mentally & Emotionally. Days fly by quickly and you get to the end of another week, and think where has that time gone? Long term Sleep Deprivation can lead to a Sleep Debt and the good news is there’s something you can do about it.
Sleep Bank & Sleep Debt
One of the pieces of advice given to me by a health professional whilst pregnant was to “build up your sleep bank”. I’d never heard of a sleep bank or thought that there was a concept of gaining sleep hours in advance.
My story was, previously an excellent sleeper, meeting sleep deprivation started taking its toll on my partner and I, our relationship and tolerance and patience towards other people in general. Its a horrible feeling being that tired, even when you begin to be snappy towards almost everyone. Which is why its a significant reason to value sleep and opportunities to sleep when you can.
Unfortunately, you can’t build up or ‘bank’ Sleep in advance in preparation for sleep deprivation, but you can successfully catch it up, according to the latest research studies.Harvard Medical School discusses this concept further as Repaying your Sleep Debt.
So what is sleep debt?
Because Adults function best on 7-9 hours of sleep daily, anything less than that can start to accumulate over the days and weeks into real sleep deprivation.
Professor David Hillman from the ……, says that the first 4 hours of your nights sleep are the most crucial. This is when the brain waves are the slowest and the sleep is the deepest. This is where most of the recovery and restorative processes happen in the body. The following 4 hours are not AS crucial as those first 4hrs, so day napping is a completely acceptable and proven way to catch up sleep lost at night.
Just make sure Power naps are 20-30 mins, any longer and you can be getting into deeper sleep, which can lead to Sleep Inertia or a disruption of your established sleep cycle.
Repay your sleep debt, day by day, hour by hour. If you think it won’t make a difference, studies show it does.
The effect of sleep deprivation can show up as :
Physical: Tired & aching muscles, lethargy, lack of strength, shaking or trembling, craving empty carbs and sugar, back, neck and shoulder pain, muscle cramps
Mental: Confusion, Brainfog or vague thought patterns, poor concentration & memory. Many joke about this being ‘Baby Brain’ but you can just be tired!
Emotional: Teariness, easily frustrated, short tempered, snappy, irritable, highly sensitive.
Strategies to start repaying your sleep debt:
1. Sleep when your child does – Easy to say and sometimes hard to do when there’s a household or other children to manage. Even if its just for one hour, that’s one hour more than you had before.
2. Set a bedtime for each night and stick to it – Be realistic with other children to put to bed and any improtant chores. So if its 9pm, try going to bed every night for a week at 9pm.
3. Transition to sleep – Be realistic to give yourself some wind down time after other children go to bed for a relaxing cup of tea or ten minute mediation. Sometimes bedtimes can be stressful for parents as they wrestle, or hold the line with sleep routines. Going to bed straight away after the kids might mean for some people they’re lying there awake with a busy mind, rather than making the most of a peaceful transition to bedtime and fully restful sleep.
4. Roster nights on and off with your partner – my partner and I successfully used a Sleep Pass system. We could each pick two nights of the week where one of us could sleep uninterrupted in the spare room before big work days, to catch up.The other was responsible for any night wakings and resettling with bub. We found this helped with at least one parent being positive and happy to encourage and support the other after a full night’s sleep. If we all didn’t sleep we were a much grumpier household!
5. Bub has a sleepover at Grandma’s or Grandpa’s house for one night – This worked a treat when my partner and I were badly in sleep debt! Just having a night off, knowing bub was safe with the grandparents, gave us a good 8hr gain on any sleep debt. The other plus was that grandparents were willing to take one night of bad sleep, because they weren’t sleep deprived and could recover again quickly.
6. If you can’t sleep, meditate – If sleeping during the day doesn’t work for you, take the next best thing, some shut down time for your brain via meditation. This can be a good alternative for the time poor as it can feel like you’ve had a power nap from a good meditation session of 15-25 min. This also helps if you are wired at night and can’t relax to go to sleep at night.
For those that are looking for tips in more detail, try The 7 Day Sleep Challenge. Its a FREE e-course, with an email landing in your inbox each day to set you up for that night’s challenge. All in the name of a good night’s rest. Retrain your brain and body clock with the helpful tips inside. Click here to start your challenge and improve your sleep.