Our house is teeming with excitement about the impending reality: it’s almost summer break. As the hard-core school, sports and carpool coordination chaos eases up, you wanna know one thing I’m really hoping for this summer break? A bit more sleep. I do a great job protecting my children’s sleep and a mediocre job protecting my own. I work on sleeping with my cell phone off and away from while getting 7 to 8 hours of sleep but reality is my phone has a tendency to creep back up next to the bed and I am often up early to start working. Clearly I’m not unusual in this way. Parenting and sleeping a lot don’t necessarily go hand in hand. Studies find 14% of grade school children are still getting their parents up. The news is grim when it comes to sleeping with our phones, even 4 out of 5 teens say they sleep with their phone (on or near the bed). It’s becoming clear that quality sleep is one of the most undervalued power solutions to preserving wellness in our families. The more data I review, the more I know we have to get the word out on the value of sleep and the way that we protect it as we raise our children. Culturally, this is a swim upstream; we’re bred to revere those who do so much during the day they are left with limited sleep at night. Some new data, a funky article ending, and a 4-minute TED talk lay the foundation for my 3 quick reminders:
1. Sleep Is irreplaceable And Good For Us
Sleep science is evolving but there is clear evidence that getting a good night sleep enhances wellness. Sleep improves mood, concentration, academic achievement, self-esteem, memory, and may even improve a child’s weight balance. Shortened sleep can increase risks of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and poor attention and distractibility. Further, repeated studies continue to find children who don’t get enough sleep are often more likely to be overweight or obese. A study published this past month followed over 1,000 babies from birth to age 7. Their parents reported typical amounts of sleep their children got each night annually to researchers who also ascertained body fat measurements and weight during infancy, preschool years and when they were 7. The findings won’t surprise you with what you’ve read: the children with shorter nights of sleep were more likely to be overweight and have more body fat. This was true during infancy, preschool, and early school age. From the very beginning the veil is being lifted on news that a good night’s sleep may be one protective factor against unhealthy body fat.
Here’s how much sleep your child needs. During the summer, even if you shift bedtime later because of the sunlight and/or your family’s schedule, don’t retreat from ensuring that your children get the 11+ hours they need!
2. Success For Those Who Sleep A Lot?
Working parents who sleep a lot should be exalted! It’s uncommon to celebrate our friends and co-workers for prioritizing their rest and space away from work during the labors of raising children. However, I think it should be exceedingly fashionable to sleep a lot. How totally gorgeous.
In all seriousness, the point is, culturally, we aren’t typically impressed with a working woman or man who’s raising a family, working outside the home and brags about getting 8 or 9 hours of sleep. Can you think of the last time you heard this? Have you ever heard someone say, “I just don’t know how you do it? You must get a ton of sleep.” Quite the opposite in my experience. Thing is, productivity and concentration increase with improved consistent sleep yet almost 1/3 of Americans report fatigue during their work day.
Sleep is just not where we go when we talk about success. Just this week I was reading through a TIME.com article about a renowned scientist, Mary Claire King, PhD. She’s the geneticist who discovered the BRCA1 gene related to some breast and ovarian cancers who has notably changed breast cancer detection and diagnosis in families who pass on risk for heritable cancers. The online article chronicled the arduous, remarkable work to her discovery and the contributions that Dr King has made to women’s lives. However, it then swiftly honed in on her family life, her motherhood, and her choices. I was loving it all, feeling like working like a dog while raising children really was doable even for giants like Dr King all until the last sentence. When she took it all (the possibility of a healthy, productive, working-mom life) away saying this about a big career while raising kids:
It’s possible. It’s not possible to do and get enough sleep, but it’s possible to do.
Argh! It’s possible is we deprive ourselves yet again, the recurrent message we tend to get as busy parents. Yet since we know sleep hones concentration and memory and enhances mood, decreases risks for cardiovascular disease, and increases our performance at work it sure would be nice to enjoy this life while raising-children-and-working and not feel like our choices are killing us or our chances for success in the office.
3. We Must Take On Sleep
It’s certainly in our control how many hours we sleep (assuming our children sleep well) and how we join the conversation around sleep and the value we place on it. If anything, spend the next 4 minutes on this TED talk from Arianna Huffington where she details that what we need to “get ahead” — just more sleep! A funny spin on feminism for all comers (men and women) and opportunities for us all, in and out of the home or office to do more, better. Ms Huffington believes we can “sleep our way to increased productivity, happiness, and smart decision-making.” Do you?
Craig Canapari MD says
I love the meditations that you put together here. Personally I find that I have my best weeks of work when I actually go to bed early (although I am by disposition a night owl). It is sad to reflect on our cultures glorification of sleep deprivation. Just about everyone I know could benefit from 30 more minutes of sleep a night. More patience for your kids, more focus at work, safer driving on the roads– all major positive effects.