Making sleep a priority is one of the best ways that you can care for yourself and support your mental health.
Getting enough sleep can be really difficult when you’re a mum. Waking up multiple times during the night to tend to our little ones, and going to bed later in order to get more things done, often leaves us sleep deprived.
Sleep deprivation happens when we are consistently getting less than 7 or 8 hours of sleep a night, or when our sleep is so disrupted, that we don’t get enough deep, restful sleep.
Apart from leaving you exhausted, struggling to concentrate and remember things, sleep deprivation can have a detrimental effect on your emotional wellbeing, which is why looking at sleep is so important when we talk about self-care.
THE EFFECT OF SLEEP DEPRIVATION ON YOUR EMOTIONAL HEALTH
It makes you anxious.
Research has found that brain activity after a period of sleep deprivation looks similar to the brain activity of people with anxiety disorders. When you haven’t slept well, your amygdala – the seat of your brain’s fight or flight response – is activated, making you feel anxious and on edge.
You are more likely to feel angry and have emotional outbursts
When you’re sleep deprived, your prefrontal cortex - the part of your brain dealing with emotional regulation and preventing impulsive behaviour – is unable to function optimally. This makes you irritable, short tempered and emotionally volatile, explaining why you snap at your kids, argue with your partner and feel like an emotional mess when you haven’t slept well.
Your mindset becomes negative
Studies have found that people who are sleep-deprived are more likely to experience repetitive negative thinking – a thinking pattern where you tend to rehash the same negative, frustrating thoughts over and over. This way of thinking is difficult to control, and has been linked to developing mood and anxiety disorders.
Sleep deprivation – especially when it is chronic – can be damaging to your emotional wellbeing, your mental health, your mindset, and your relationships.
A FEW THINGS TO REFLECT ON TO HELP YOU MAKE SLEEP A PRIORITY:
How you have been doing emotionally during the last week. Have you felt anxious, irritable, impatient? Can you see a link to how you’ve been sleeping?
What is causing you to lose sleep? Is it because you need to get up at night to feed you baby, or are you staying up too late to watch Netflix?
What are some things that you can do to help you get more sleep? Could you ask a friend to watch your baby while you are getting a few hours of uninterrupted sleep? Or could you commit to an earlier bedtime?
Challenge yourself to make sleep a priority for ONE WEEK. Once you’ve experience the effects it had on your mental wellbeing, you will naturally feel more motivated to prioritise sleep.
* If you find yourself struggling to fall asleep or stay asleep (not due to being woken by your baby or child at night), do speak to your doctor about it. At best, it might just mean implementing some good sleep hygiene, but it could also possibly indicate a mood or anxiety disorder.