This article was originally published on KSL.com in Motherhood Matters.
It’s 3 something in the morning. My husband and I are sleeping on the outer slivers of our queen-sized mattress while our 5-year-old sprawls out in the middle of the bed.
He’s never been a good sleeper. Thankfully, his 2-year-old brothers are — most of the time. I’m not even sure a king-size bed could hold five of us.
A moment later I hear crying coming from the toddlers’ bedroom. I remove my covers and groggily walk across the hall. It turns out my little one was awakened by a nightmare. I console him and tuck him back under his covers.
Finally I’m back under my own sheets. I flip my pillow, roll over and do my best to get back to sleep quickly. My attempt to get some decent sleep may seem insignificant, but it’s not.
It is because of my children that I value sleep as much as I do — and because of my children that I fight for it. How well I sleep on that sliver of a bed can determine so very much of the next day.
In fact, with a good night’s sleep, I often feel like I can conquer the world — or at least the chaos of breakfast, and for good reason.
When a person suffers from lack of sleep, some of the first side effects they have are irritability and moodiness. Dr. David F. Dignes, psychologist and sleep expert of the Division of Sleep and Chronobiology and Department of Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, says if a sleep-deprived person doesn’t get sleep after the first signs of sleep deprivation, the person may then start to experience apathy, slowed speech, flattened emotional responses, impaired memory and an inability to be novel or multitask.
Many moms I talk to rely on these traits to excel in their role as a mother. I know I sure do. Where would we be at the end of the day if we were always moody, irritable and lost the ability to multitask? What kind of a parent could we be if we got the sleep we needed?
In the world of a parent, sleep is a treasure. Of course we have phases in life where getting enough sleep is out of the question, but there are some things we can do to make sure we get the sleep we need when we have the chance.
Make sleep a priority.
Let’s be honest, the to-do list is never complete. Often we choose to burn the midnight oil to get just a few more things done. But if we make this a habit, we are putting the most important thing last — ourself. Before we commit to another project, we must make sure we decide our sleep is important to us (and the well-being of our family).
Set a bedtime.
How do we keep sleep a priority? Create a bedtime, and then do your darndest each night to keep it. You will thank yourself in the morning.
Make sure your bedtime is realistic. My bedtime is 11 p.m. Though I’m often awake past 11, I try really hard to be in bed. This was much easier to do when my kids went to bed early. Lately they are up late, and then in turn, I am up late. But we try.
Wake up early.
In my life, and in the lives of many of the moms I coach, the No. 1 thing that positively changes everything is waking up early — before your children — and using that time for self care: things like exercise, meditation or even just a shower.
If we wake up for our children rather than to our children, we take ownership of our day. We take the good sleep we got the night before and add it to a few minutes of time “just for us” in the morning and we have a formula for success, a real-life mommy superpower.
And, with a real-life superpower, we really can conquer the world.