If you're pregnant for the first time, you've heard this advice, for sure: get as much sleep as you can before the baby arrives. That's because caring for a newborn takes a big chunk of a new parent's bedtime (nighttime feedings anyone?). No surprise there.
A new study that will be presented at the annual American Academy of Neurology this April is yet another confirmation of something we already know: Having kids is a major factor in the amount of sleep one gets. However, the new research also shows that while moms are losing major shut-eye during the early child-rearing years, dads' sleep cycles are not at all affected by having children in the house.
Researchers from Georgia Southern University surveyed more than 5,800 adults on the number of hours of sleep they get each night and how often they felt tired during the day. For purposes of the research, seven to nine hours of sleep was considered sufficient and less than six hours was seen as insufficient. They looked at age, marital status, exercise regimen and even snoring, to name a few, but only one factor contributed to having less than adequate sleep: having kids.
Among the 2,908 women aged 45 years and younger who participated in the study, only 48 of women with children reported having at least seven hours of sleep compared to 62 percent of women without kids. In fact, the study discovered that having a child increases the odds of insufficient sleep by nearly 50 percent. The odds of a mom having adequate sleep is slashed by half for every child she welcomes into the world. Ergo, more kids means less and less sleep.
"I think these findings may bolster those women who say they feel exhausted," said study author Kelly Sullivan, Ph.D., of Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, Georgia, and a member of the American Academy of Neurology, via a press release. "Our study found not only are they not sleeping long enough, they also report feeling tired throughout the day," she adds. According to the study, even younger women with kids feel tired most days in a month than younger women without children.
According to the National Sleep Foundation in the U.S., adults should aim to get around seven to nine hours of sleep each night. Dr. Sullivan urges women to address this gap. This is not to say, however, that all dads are slacking off when it comes to childcare, but maybe it's time they took a more active role in managing the home or in taking care of the babies so their wives could sleep more. "Getting enough sleep is a key component of overall health and can impact the heart, mind and weight," she says.
Philippine-US registered dietitian-nutritionist Cheshire Que, R.N.D., R.N., R.D.N., couldn’t agree more. "When we’re sleep deprived, our body gets stressed out and the level of stress hormone cortisol shoots up that leads to weight gain," she explains. Moms, it's time to put your health higher in your list of priorities. Aside from getting adequate sleep, here are more tips that could help keep your overall health in check.
1. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Keep the happy vibe alive by making sure every interaction -- yes, especially with your kids -- is positive. Don't freak out if you weren't able to bathe the kids before bedtime or when your husband calls to say his boss invited himself to dinner at your home. Keep calm, breathe, and do the best you can to get you and your family through the day. Take it one step at a time.
2. Make time for exercise. "There’s actually no excuse not to exercise because you owe it to yourself and loved ones to be healthy and strong so that you’re up for any challenge or opportunity that comes your way," says tri-athlete and human resources practitioner for Hewlett Packard Philippines Nina Dacanay. Try easy, affordable activities such as running and yoga, which also help in keeping your mind centered.
3. Eat healthy home-cooked meals. ...so you know exactly what goes into your meals. Plan ahead when making baon for the whole family. “A fast food diet will not only make you sluggish and irritable, it also ranks high on sugar, calories, and fat”, Que says. She suggests having these pantry staples on stock always: whole grains, natural flavorings like herbs, frozen and fresh produce, lean protein, eggs, honey, olive and canola oils, low-fat dairy or non-dairy milk, homemade soup stock, and dark chocolate.
4. Don't scrimp on doctor visits. The whole family and your home will practically come to a halt if you get sick, so prevention is key. Don't put off regular annual check-ups, especially doctor's visits to ensure your reproductive health. OB-gyn Dr. Faith Suluen for Jeunesse Anion napkins and liners’ warns, "Never ignore symptoms of vaginal discharge or bleeding, itchiness, odor, abdominal pain, urinary and bowel changes that can save every woman from bigger health problems."
5. Relax and enjoy life a little. Take up a new hobby and don't be afraid to try new things. Being a parent is but only one of your roles. You are also a wife, so allot time to do things as a couple. You are also a woman, so go out with girlfriends or make time for self-improvement. A happy, well-rested, and healthier you makes you a better parent -- we cannot stress that enough. Your kids and your husband will thank you for it, too.