The truth about sleep and your well-being
Getting the right amount of sleep is essential for health and productivity. But being a Solo Mom brings a unique set of challenges—shift work, second jobs, sick kids, worries, and hectic schedules can all cut in to sleep. So why is sleep so important? And what can Solo Moms do to make sure they are getting the sleep they need?
How much sleep does the average person need?
The average adult needs between seven and eight hours of sleep each day. But it differs for each individual. If you find yourself struggling to stay awake midday, you probably need more sleep.
I’m not doing anything while I sleep; why should I spend so much time doing it?
Although it seems like you aren’t doing anything, your brain is quite active while you sleep. Both your body and your brain are doing a wide variety of maintenance tasks during sleep. Experts say that too few hours of restorative sleep can have a detrimental effect on both your mental abilities and your physical health.
Solo Moms often work multiple jobs. How can you squeeze in some extra sleep? Is napping OK?
Napping is a great way for Solo Moms to squeeze in a little sleep. Actually, most cultures incorporate a midday nap into their day. Naturally, our bodies have a slight lag in our internal clock midday. Add late nights, hectic schedules, and stress to this natural inclination and most Solo Moms have more than a slight lag midday! If your children are younger, try napping when they nap. If they are school age, grab some sleep while they are at school. Experts suggest that you nap no more than 30 to 60 minutes, and do it earlier in the afternoon, maybe after lunch, if possible. If you wait too late in the day for your nap, it may interfere with your bedtime.
Many Solo Moms work nights so they are available during the day. This makes getting enough sleep extremely difficult. How can they get a good “day’s” sleep?
Shift workers can have an especially difficult time getting enough sleep. First, make sleep a priority. Since you are home during the day, you can get pulled in to doing chores and errands—don’t! Child care is an essential task you need to be awake for, but folding laundry is not. Set aside several hours during the day to sleep. Make sure your room is dark; you can get fairly inexpensive room-darkening blinds. Also, the temperature is important, so keep your bedroom a little cooler. The sleep environment is important and mostly under your control. If there is neighborhood noise, earplugs are a cheap and effective solution. Having a friend watch your child for a few hours every day will ease the burden, too.
Can’t I just sleep in on the weekends? Will that help?
Sometimes it is a major relief if your child is away for a weekend—a golden opportunity to sleep. Sleeping later on the weekends can relieve a bit of your sleep debt from the week, but not all of it. The other side effect of sleeping later is it makes going to bed on Sunday night more difficult, cutting into your sleep right at the beginning of the week. As a survival tactic, sleeping later on the weekends is OK, but, for optimal functioning, try to get more sleep on a regular basis.
I have difficulty falling asleep. Can I have a glass of wine or beer before lying down?
Solo Moms have a lot on their minds. It can be very difficult to turn that brain off and relax enough to fall asleep. Although drinking a glass of wine of beer often make falling asleep easier, it can cause a restless sleep. Alcohol disrupts REM sleep patterns and can make it harder to stay asleep during that phase throughout the night. So although having a glass of wine or beer makes you feel relaxed and sleepy, it will often cause you to wake up several times during the course of the night.
What about over-the-counter sleep aids—will those work better?
Most over-the-counter sleep aids are antihistamines with a sedative effect. This makes you sleep, but it often will leave you feeling groggy and unwell in the morning. The whole point of getting a good night’s sleep is to feel rested and productive the next day, and over-the-counter sleep aids will probably not make you feel rested. Also, tolerance to the sedative effect of sleep aids grows quickly, and they will no longer make you feel sleepy after a short time. There is also the risk of medical interaction if you take prescriptions for any other ailments.
I cannot turn my brain off to fall asleep! I’m worried about money, schedules, etc. What do I do about that?
It may be helpful to set up a pre-bedtime routine—maybe a warm bath and a book (not your Kindle or phone). It doesn’t have to be elaborate, just something to signal to your body that you are getting ready for bed. Write down your concerns and worries before your bath, and don’t address them again till morning. Whatever activity helps you to relax and you can do on a regular basis would be great for a pre-bedtime ritual.
Solo Moms have a huge amount of responsibility. They shoulder the burden of their household, child care, work and school schedules, bills, meals—everything. It is no wonder that Solo Moms often struggle with getting enough sleep. Sleep is often the first thing they sacrifice to get their tasks completed. But sleep is an essential part of our health. Being chronically fatigued causes us to be much less productive and far less capable of dealing with the everyday stress of our lives. Make sleep a priority, and you will feel better and healthier throughout your day.
Image via Shutterstock.com
Julia Liu is the daughter of a Solo Mom and has a degree in professional communication. She is the mom to two sons. She has worked in early-childhood education and was the director of a nonprofit private preschool for many years. You can follow her on Twitter at @notaDNB1.
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