Posted by TheDADiator
As a single man in my twenties and early thirties, I had no-one to answer to other than myself. Well, apart from my boss at the time. Oh, and possibly my parents. So when it came to my sleep routine (if you can call it that), bedtime was governed by whatever was worth staying up to watch on TV, and waking up was an hour which, at the time, seemed ridiculously early. This of course was completely different when it came to the weekend, when it was ‘normal’ to get home after a night of mild drunkenness at around 4am and then pass out, I mean sleep, until well after lunchtime. How I managed to do that week, in week out is beyond me, as most evenings nothing other than liquids entered my digestive system.
Now, as a married 40-something year old, my sleep routine is very much dictated by my 10-month old daughter. I realise now how valuable sleep really is. According to the National Sleep Foundation, for adults between 18 and 64 years of age, it is recommended to have between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night. Most of us look for that golden 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep, which allows for our bodies to regenerate and recover, ready for what the next day has in store. Sadly, the reality is that most of us get nowhere near as much sleep as we need. The modern lifestyle, increased commuter times, varying work shifts and generally trying to cram too much into a day, affect our natural body clock or circadian rhythm.
When my daughter was born, I was remotely aware that my sleep would be affected. Moreover, my “…life will never be the same…” or words to that effect, gave me the impression that parenthood wasn’t something to be taken lightly. Now, I’m not prone to exaggerating, but the first eight weeks or so of being parents, almost broke us. One evening in particular, our daughter had been crying incessantly from 5pm until almost 11pm. I’m not talking a little bit of a wail every now and again. I’m talking full on, nuclear meltdown which measured over 100dB (thanks to an app I downloaded).
Physically, there was nothing wrong with her; she’d been bathed, fed, nappy changed, temperature in room perfect. She’d be put to sleep in her Moses basket and, just when we thought she’d fallen asleep, it would start. And it wouldn’t stop for hours. During this onslaught, we’d try to continue as normal with our evening routine; preparing dinner then eating it, discussing our day (mine at work and my wife’s at home), talking about what the following day had in store…It was impossible. We just couldn’t shut out the screaming coming from our baby’s room. It sounded like she was in pain. Terrible, terrible pain. The truth was, of course, there wasn’t really anything physically wrong with her. It just happens that some babies cry more than others. Thankfully, I found out about Purple Crying around this time which helped us cope and understand this was all a developmental phase and one she would grow out of fairly quickly. To our relief, that night was the turning point and our daughter soon started to settle and sleep a little better, although nowhere near the 14-17 hours recommended for a newborn up to 3 months.
Sleep deprivation is detrimental to ones wellbeing, particular to heart health,
Sleep is essential for a healthy heart. People who don’t sleep enough are at higher risk for cardiovascular disease—regardless of age, weight, smoking and exercise habits. One study that examined data from 3,000 adults over the age of 45 found that those who slept fewer than six hours per night were about twice as likely to have a stroke or heart attack as people who slept six to eight hours per night.
Source: National Sleep Foundation
When you add parenting into the mix, you absolutely, positively, need all the rest you can get. Personally, I just can’t function if I haven’t had at least 6-7 hours of uninterrupted sleep. A fog descends over me, rendering me incapable of giving anyone 100% of my attention. I get headaches, backache and am generally cranky. Mr Grump you might say. Mr Bloody Unbearable my wife might say.
Of course, sleep is just one factor in maintaining good health. A balanced diet, exercise, drinking plenty of water, all contribute to staying healthy and reducing the chances of infections and illness.
As I write this, my daughter is enjoying her post-breakfast morning nap from 9am-10am. When she wakes, it’s off for a brisk walk with the dog to breathe in some of that clean country air and make the most of the sunshine, as I fear it won’t be around for much longer.