Our health is our wealth. We are bombarded daily by social media, TV, and magazines about getting fit, losing 10 lbs, and how the most delicious shake ever will give you back your pre-pregnancy body. At the end of each year most of us gain a few pounds, after all, it’s like a natural extra layer of warmth during the colder months (that’s my reasoning anyway!) Then, we begin our new year with a new attitude, new energy, and maybe even a new fitness wardrobe. We are motivated and decked out like Richard Simmons. We are pumped and ready to make all sorts of lifestyle changes.
If you’re like me, you’ve been saying the same phrases each year, ”This year will be the one!!!”
You never see advertisements saying that you need more sleep. Nobody ever says that they are going to sleep more. In fact, we may hear the opposite. “This year, I will begin each day at 4 am with yoga, a juice cleanse, and a 5 k run!” or some other crazy (and short-lived) plan like that. Nobody ever told a big mama bear that she needs to wake up and lose a few pounds. If they did, they didn’t live to tell the tale.
If you want to be healthy, consider your sleep needs. Never underestimate the power of sleep. In today’s language, think of your bed as a charging dock. You need to recharge for the right amount of time, daily. Most people, myself included, start to feel uneasy when they see the phone battery going down. We get that phone charged back up as soon as we can. Why don’t we do the same for ourselves with sleep? Why do some people think of sleep as a waste of time? Why do some people not think of sleep as productive time?
Guilty as charged: When I went into the hospital at 30 weeks gestation with my twins, I was told that I would not be going home. It was uncertain whether my twins were going to arrive early or were going into distress. I’m sure that there were a lot of appropriate reasons given to me, but to be honest I didn’t hear them. All I remember hearing were the words: “you, bedrest, hospital, 6 weeks, call your husband.” I pleaded my case that going home was the best option. I would go on bed rest and not move for 6 weeks. My doctor obviously thought that was BS, and to be honest, I wouldn’t have been able to do that, I didn’t mean a word of it. Also, my facial expressions usually give me away.
I, too, have underestimated sleep. I, too, have lots on my plate. I, too, cannot get a minute. I, too, cannot stand the “sleep when your baby sleeps” phrase.
However, my thoughts on just about everything else have changed in recent years.
You may think of sleep as being idle until you see a newborn sleeping. When a newborn is in light sleep, there is so much activity happening. Their brains are making millions and millions of connections for creating memories. As they transition into a deep sleep, their bodies go limp. This is when their body does the important work of restoration, waste management, and growth.
When we are sick, we slow down. Our bodies have amazing immune systems that concentrate on fighting illness. Everything else takes a back seat. Routine and schedules are not as important when we finally listen to our bodies.
Our babies communicate to us what they feel at every moment. We are just not always correct in decoding their cries. Nature is fascinating as it helps a baby when they are feeling overwhelmed. Did you ever see a baby sleeping peacefully at a large crowded event? Did you ever see a baby fall asleep just as they were about to begin feeding? What we see is not sleep. We see a baby that is completely overwhelmed and overstimulated. Their brains shut down to conserve energy and block out stress. When they feel calm, safe, and secure they will “wake up” again. This is the most amazing life hack ever, nature’s finest “time out!”
As we grow up, we lose that auto time-out ability. Call it social pressures or our brain thinking it now knows better, but we get to a point where we feel guilty about sleeping as if it is some sort of moral failing to rest and recharge.
This is a chance for us to learn from our babies. Listen to your body. Let it rest. Slowing down is not just helpful, it is natural and helpful. Has your body ever slowed down when you had a 3 day weekend, or when you went on vacation? Your mind and body slow down as you are now on “airplane mode” When you are rested, you can actually enjoy what is going on, and your ability to create and make memories will be better.
Remember, Sleep is Valuable. You are worth it.
A lack of sleep can be detrimental to our health. At the very least, sleep can help our kids behave more appropriately. Those periods of restoration can help with school, societal pressures, and interpersonal relationships. Getting enough sleep will allow us to be a bit more energetic and have more patience. In my world, it’s worth it as there are fewer owies.
This is a busy month for everyone… but as you rush about make sure you give yourself permission and time to rest and recover. Then, think about making your New Year’s Resolution be more focused on self-care and self-love … resolve to let yourself sleep!