A Tongue-in-Cheek Guide to Getting Enough Sleep for Parents
Donna Bacon, M.Ed., LSC
Prevention Education Specialist
Tired out. Sick and tired. Bone tired. Dog tired. We have a lot of ways to say we’re not getting enough sleep. Feeling the urge to correct this situation (and also because my boss suggested it), I examined a great little article the CDC published called “Are you getting enough sleep?”
The answer? Obviously not. This is definitely a problem because lack of sleep can lead to any number of physical and mental health issues including diabetes, obesity and depression. Since I am a Prevention Specialist – this is of great concern. Health issues and depression can lead to alcohol and drug abuse – and avoiding this sort of thing is what prevention is all about. The CDC gives some good advice on how to get more quality sleep (they call it ‘Sleep Hygiene’) – but I felt that their suggestions needed a few modifications for today’s parents:
- Go to bed at the same time each night, and rise at the same time each morning.
Tricky, since we all know this depends what’s on TV that night and who has the remote. However, cutting down on the hours of television and media we are exposed to each day DOES have a significant improvement on sleep quality.
- Sleep in a quiet, dark, and relaxing environment, which is neither too hot nor too cold.
Whomever generated this list must not hear “Can I sleep with you?” at 2:30 am on the night the air conditioner stopped working. No crying babies around, either?
- Remove all TVs, computers, and other "gadgets" from the bedroom.
Difficult, I know. But a very possible sacrifice if you really want better sleep. Prevention-wise, the best thing to keep in your bedroom is a book (NOT a KINDLE, etc. but one made of actual paper). If you have trouble falling to sleep – make it a boring book.
- Avoid large meals before bedtime.
Easy enough for smaller children and tweens – parents have more influence with the wee ones. Late-night binging by teens is a common problem, although, like the Yeti, there is no actual documented proof – but how many parents constantly stock cupboards that are somehow always empty? A good bicycle chain on the fridge handles and/or pantry doors is a great preventive measure (but could lead to other issues requiring carpentry skills). As for parents, large meals before bedtime are often a complete accident – since eating usually involves sitting down, and lacking sleep in the first place, parents know sitting down leads to almost instant coma (often with head tipped back on the couch and intermittent snores/drooling). My advice, try EATING WITH your kids, not just FEEDING them. Sharing meals is known to prevent not only drug and alcohol abuse but also teen pregnancy and dropping out – major bonuses here.
Good luck to you one and all. I think I need a nap.