Lockdown has challenged many people to maintain a sleep schedule, especially parents with kids who don’t want to sleep. Sleep medicine experts are noticing parents’ sleep struggles and subsequent exhaustion.
“Without certain outlets like school or sports, kids aren’t getting the level of activity they need to be exhausted at night,” says Ramiz Fargo, MD, medical director for the Sleep Disorders Center and a sleep medicine physician at Loma Linda University Health. “This can translate into parents being kept up as well, or add to the stress that can keep them awake.”
To help with the resulting exhaustion, Fargo names his top five strategies to push back against tiredness:
Appreciate the importance of sleep
Lack of sleep can have a massive impact on your health and affect your memory, mood, the risk for diseases, weight, and more, says Fargo. “Long-term impact of sleep deprivation can put both your physical and mental health at risk,” he says.
Fargo recommends prioritizing sleep to the same degree as one would prioritize nutrition and exercise. “You’re more likely to make sleep a priority when you realize how important it is to your overall health,” he says.
Take care of yourself; know when to get help
It can be challenging to prioritize yourself, but Fargo says putting your health first is the best thing you can do for both yourself and your family. “Your kids deserve a parent who is at their best,” he says. “Set a good example of healthy sleep habits for your family.”
If you have to sacrifice sleep to clean, cook, or complete other important tasks, there are people who can help. “It takes courage to step back and say, ‘I can’t do everything,’” Fargo says. “Learn to be comfortable with getting support in the areas where others can do the job. Many tasks can be performed for you by others, but no one can sleep for you.”
Lean on your support system
In addition to getting help with accomplishing necessary tasks, lean on your support system for assistance. If your exhaustion is taking over, enlist your friends or family to play with your kids for an hour to reduce your sleep debt. “A half-hour nap in the early afternoon can make a big difference and help you reset,” Fargo says.
Stick to a routine
Creating a sleep routine that works for you and your family can help manage your exhaustion during the day. “Start by deciding what time you need to wake up and establishing a realistic bedtime that gives you at least eight hours of sleep,” Fargo says. “Getting into the routine means doing it seven days a week and staying disciplined.”
By sticking to a routine, Fargo says the whole family will feel refreshed and have more energy in the day.
Power down… but actually do it
Turn off your phone and go to sleep. It’s simple but effective. You may have trouble turning off your devices because you feel like you’re missing out, or it may be how you relax in the evenings. However, Fargo says the blue wavelength light shining from LED-based devices increases the release of cortisol in the brain and inhibits the release of melatonin, making us more alert and increasing the difficulty of falling asleep. “Avoid caffeine and heavy meals close to bedtime. Relaxation exercises in the evening such as stretching or yoga will help your sleep and can be an enjoyable bonding experience for the whole family. You’ll notice the difference in both your exhaustion level during the day and your relationship with your family.”