Navigating Sleep as a Parent

March 23, 2021
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An unhappy toddler who just woke up from a nap, twenty unanswered emails about a work project, a seemingly endless pile of laundry that needs to be washed. Ah, the joys of being a busy, working parent. It goes without saying that parenthood is tough, but dealing with inadequate sleep on top of work and all other parental duties, can take a serious toll on a person’s health and wellbeing. Numerous articles remind us that most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep. The concept is so widespread that it rolls off most people’s tongues with ease. But what happens when it feels nearly impossible to sleep through even half of those hours? Parents of young children know this all too well, and can probably attest that navigating it all can feel like being a walking zombie at times. Although difficult, finding a healthy balance is necessary.

Quick Stats

  • Research suggests that new parents face up to 6 years of sleep deprivation
  • A study from Sleep Junkie concluded that only 10% of parents are hitting the recommended 7+ hours of sleep

How does sleep deprivation affect parents?

From preparing meals to cleaning up after the kids, parents juggle plenty of tasks that require a lot of energy. These duties often feel like a double shift after a long, taxing day of work and running errands. The fatigue begins to build up during the day, but when the kids are finally in bed, mundane thoughts like what to make for dinner the next day, and more serious concerns about the children’s safety begin to swirl around in the head all at once. Next thing you know, you’re more alert than you were all day. Sounds familiar? You’re not alone. A National Sleep Foundation poll concluded that only 10% of parents are getting the recommended 7+ hours of sleep at nighttime. While fluctuating hormones have a role to play in this, stress is noted to be one of the main culprits. In fact, the stress from putting pressure on yourself to get sleep (especially when your child is sleeping) can also lead to further sleep disturbances.

Sleep deprivation shows up in many ways, including making a parent more prone to irritability. Poor sleep over a few nights often makes for a not-so-great mood, but when a parent deals with long-term sleep deprivation, they may increase their risk of developing more serious mood disorders like anxiety. Multi-tasking, often considered to come naturally to parents, is also put at risk when dealing with insomnia. Lack of sleep impairs your judgement, and ability to think clearly. This means that the cognitive flexibility that allows you to easily switch from a work task to dealing with a potty incident, can take a serious blow, as your reaction time may be reduced.

Re-paying Sleep Debt

The concept of accumulating sleep debt, and whether or not it can be repaid is a controversial one. Some research supports the concept and suggests that it can, in fact, eventually be settled. But what exactly does this mean, and how can you pay it back? Well, when you miss out on the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep on a consistent basis, you are building up a “sleep debt” that can take a hit on your long-term health. As intimidating as this may seem, there are some actionable ways to chip away at that debt. First of all, moms and dads can look forward to more restful sleep when the baby begins to consistently sleep through the night. According to research from Stanford Children’s Health, this consistent sleep pattern is more likely to become a reality once a newborn reaches 3 months of age. Napping is also encouraged to help refresh exhausted parents, with 45 minutes being considered the sweet spot for improved alertness.

How Parents can get the sleep they need

Welcoming a child into this world is a beautiful and fulfilling experience for most. The exhaustion that comes with parenting, however, is not so thrilling. You love your little one and want to give them the world, but it’s important to prioritize your health, and take care of yourself too! Leaning into the power of the nap, asking for support from your partner or friends and family, can help you make time for the sleep you need.

For parents who are navigating irregular sleep patterns, introducing a natural sleep aid can be a life-saver. The best over the counter sleep aid is Zenbev Drink Mix. Not only is it clinically proven and created by a doctor, Zenbev demonstrated the best efficacy in the middle of the night in peer-reviewed, published studies. By preserving sleep architecture it will allow you to respond appropriately to a child’s needs in the middle of the night and then get right back to sleep. Heaven! Zenbev acts as a powerful, natural remedy that not only helps you fall asleep, but stay asleep.