Mothers & Sleep
Now what’s better than sunshine and well behaved children on your summer break from business as usual? The answer from my POV is very definitely a bloody good night’s sleep on at least as good a mattress as I have at home. On our break in North Yorkshire the sun shone, our friends were as awesome as ever and we had a seriously good rest from the old routine. HOWEVER, the sleep thing just wasn’t as it should be. The thing they called a mattress was as far removed from being a facilitator of sleep that I thought I may as well have gone camping -and that’s insane.
I wouldn’t usually think about using a shoddy mattress as my inspiration for a short thought for you but an e-mail just came in from Netmums who are promoting their “Sleep Week” so it felt apt.
Sleep is massively important for parents; I’ll go so far as to say I think parental sleep is more important than a child’s sleep. In Mothers Work! I wrote a little on the subject and you’ll see why I hold that belief (and by golly I still understand the sleep deprivation thing having recently had four nights of broken sleep due to our youngest’s reactions to her pre-school booster jabs):
Postnatal maternal mood disorder and problems with children’s sleep behaviour are common in the first year, and researchers say there is a clear association between the two. Prior to 1998, when a group of Australian doctors published results of their childhood sleep-modification programme, it was believed that postnatal depression could be the cause of an infant’s sleep problems and not the other way around. Their research turned this on its head, showing that with improvements in a child’s sleep can come an improvement in the mother. As they caution in their research paper published in The Journal of Paediatric Child Health, there is the possibility that mothers have been receiving ineffective or harmful treatment for postnatal depression when in fact the remedy for their depressed mood is simply more sleep.
I can say from personal experience and talking to many other parents that it really does pay to kick unwanted sleep habits into touch as soon as you can – be those your own bad habits (watching TV in bed, too much alcohol or caffeine before sleep, not getting to bed early enough to name just three) or your child’s. I can recall the difference in myself on days when I’d had good kip and the days following a couple of bad nights. Sleep deprivation could make me tearful, anxious, on edge and without my usual confidence. This is clearly not a good state to be in at work or at home.
We’ve never had our children in bed with us in the night and we’ve been through difficult periods when we’ve used controlled crying techniques to get them to stay in bed and sleep. It worked for us. A good indicator that you’re getting enough sleep is waking up naturally. On the days when you’ve had enough sleep, can you recall how you achieved it? If sleep is an issue for you it’s worth keeping a sleep diary and experimenting with sleeping arrangements and routines to get a good night’s kip more of the time. If lack of sleep is due to a baby or problem sleeper, focus your sleep diary and experimenting on them. A Lumie alarm clock for a gentle waking is a nice touch, too, especially in the winter (but let’s not think about the prospect of that now given the summer is yet to really arrive).
May sleep come deeply and peacefully for you in August whether you’re a working mother or not.
COACHING FOR YOU
I’m not a sleep consultant, a maker of quality mattresses (although heartily recommend “Sleepshaper”) or a fairy godmother. What I can do for you as and when required is help you make a smooth transition back to work and get back on top more generally as a mother when you feel life with all its various goings on could be better. (A client of mine is a child sleep consultant and I’m sure she’d be delighted to help you if you’d like me to pass you her name and number). Do get in touch any time to say hello or to start a conversation about how coaching can give you a boost. About half of my clients pay their own coaching fees and the other 50% secure funding from their organisation or other sponsor. I’m always happy to approach clients’ employers with a coaching proposal that explains the benefits. You may e interested to read our “Compelling Case for Maternity Coaching” paper – free to download from jessicachivers.com