Ahh sleep! It seems like being a new mom and having a goodnight sleep is quite of a tricky combination. Or is it just me?
These past few nights have been quite of a challenge as my baby is currently going through a developmental leap, and it seems she’s very eager to practice her new skills during the night. Party time in the crib for her, but not so much fun for mama. And so I have seen first hand how lack of sleep can affect us. And you guessed it – it makes a tremendous difference when we have good quality sleep. So let’s talk about the importance of a goodnight sleep today, and how we can make sure we get it. I will share with you what I do to get a few good hours of sleep even during these challenging days as well.
What happens in your body when you don’t sleep enough?
Apart from the obvious effects lack of sleep has on us, such as tiredness, grumpiness and lack of concentration, there are other even more surprising effects it can cause us. Lack of sleep can lead to a series of health problems such as heart issues and increased blood pressure. Lack of sleep can also alter our glucose tolerance. This means the body will have more trouble recognising the glucose floating around in the blood, and instead of putting it in the cells of the body, where it can be used to fuel activity, it will be left in the blood, thus rising our blood sugar level. This can increase the risk of diabetes. The impaired glucose tolerance coming from lack of sleep can also make us feel more tired and hungry (remember the body is not properly fuelling our cells), which will make us eat more. And as we eat more, but the body is not making proper use of the excess of calories, you guessed it – we gain weight. I hear many people saying “Oh well, I don’t sleep much, but at least it helps me lose weight”. Now you know how untrue this statement is!
As we tend to get more agitated and stressed, our heart rate goes up. Sleep deprivation tends to impair the proper secretion of cortisol. Going on a few nights without proper sleep will increase your cortisol levels especially in the evening and it will take the body longer to bring them down. This on the other hand will make it harder for you to relax and drift into a peaceful sleep. And so a vicious circle can begin. The higher level of cortisol on the other hand increases our risk of diabetes and weight gain. Not nice. Cortisol levels are linked especially to retaining belly fat. So if you are having trouble losing the weight around your waste, maybe it would be a good idea to check the stress levels in your life!
Just as important is the effect lack of sleep has on our immune system too. During the night the inflammation rate in our body increases to support our body to form an initial response to bugs and invaders. This enhances the immune function in our body. But when our sleep is disrupted this inflammatory state gets imbalanced, which disrupts the proper functioning of our immune system and can lead to chronic illness.
No need to mention the other aspects of sleep deprivation and how it impacts our entire life – because of tiredness we will be more prone to skip a workout or a social gathering. Because we will feel more foggy we will become clumsy and our performance level will decrease as well. And lastly, lack of sleep will result in puffy eyes and skin that is more prone to aging.
While I am not trying to depress you with all of this, I simply want to make you aware of just how important it is to sleep. 🙂
How to make sure you get a good quality sleep?
I have mentioned this already a few times in my recent posts. And there is a reason why – this is the little secret that helps me get a few good hours of sleep every night! It’s called establishing a good evening routine. This is really important as it will signal your body that it’s time to relax and to get into a sleepy mode. So what I do is I start with a warm self-massage before I take a shower (read more about this here). I then take a nice shower, put on soft cotton pyjamas and make myself a hot tea. I normally read a book or have a conversation with my husband while I’m drinking my tea. Then I go to bed – lights out and I’m out too. It has taken me a while to stop a very unhealthy habit of always checking my phone or to watch a show before bed. But since I have stopped I noticed how my sleep got better. I fall asleep quicker and deeper. So try to stay away from electronics in the evening. They can really contribute to sleep trouble.
Another thing I try to do as much as I can is to sleep when baby sleeps. I know, this is easier said than done. But if I haven’t had a good night sleep, I always sleep during one of her daily naps. Mostly it is her second nap. So while she is having her first nap I can do other things (like writing this blog post :)).
The third thing is that I have learned to go to bed early. This one is tricky because you might think – oh the baby just fell asleep so let’s just hang out. We surely do this when she is sleeping normally through the night, but when I know she is in a more difficult period, I go to bed within two hours after I put her down. This way I do get a good amount of sleep hours.
So if you take anything out of this post let it be this – recognise the importance sleep has on our health and wellbeing and make time for downtime every day. Establishing a good evening routine (just as you did for baby) is a guarantee you will improve the quality of your sleep as well.
What do you do to make sure you have a goodnight sleep? I’d love to hear your thoughts about it!