Monday, January 23, 2012

Healthy sleep, healthy body, happy family, happy mom

Boy did we have a rough night last night. We're not sure if Aria is teething, had painful gas, or all of the above. My husband and I spent an hour and a half trying to calm her, then of course we had to calm her brother because she woke him up (and probably the whole neighborhood), and then each other so that we could get back to sleep.

She survived. And after a night of being awakened four or five more times (who knows how many really), I woke up exhausted. And in physical pain, once again.

This may sound like hell, and it kind of is. But the good news is that Aria really is typically a great sleeper. That's how we know that the crazy waking up must be something like teething. And it also gives me a chance to re-visit the importance of sleep for a healthy body - and for a happy me.

This is not new news from the mom of the infant twins world. I don't think I'm saying anything new when I tell you that sleep is important to your health; it's a chance for your body to restore physically, emotionally, and mentally.

All that saying, I have to write about this topic. Because I'm just so tired and that's what's on my mind. And because I feel a real difference in my health when I sleep and when I don't sleep.

Here's a brief example: I woke up two days ago with pain in my left hip. Mind you, that's the hip that has healed. I took a nap at around 4 pm. I woke up, and the pain went away!

I desperately wrote our pediatrician an e-mail asking for advice a few months back when the kids were waking up every two hours. I knew I wouldn't make it if we kept going like this.

What I didn't know it at the time, and now do, is that I was taking on a new family project: Get us all to sleep well. She recommended that I read "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child" by Dr. Marc Weissbluth, which I call 'the sleepy book' for short.

The sleepy book tells us tired, exhausted parents all the reasons why lack of sleep is so detrimental to the health of infants AND adults. Sleep is important for mental alertness, and lack of sleep has been shown to cause fussiness, excited-ness, and an upset baby. It has been linked to attention deficit disorder in older children.

And an Australian sleep study done on adults shows that lack of sleep causes an increase in cortisol – the body’s stress hormone. Cortisol is a hormone that we diabetics are familiar with as it has also been linked to rising morning blood sugars (known as dawn phenomenon) and weight gain. Please check for more information or the links provided in this paragraph.

The sleepy book recommends creating an environment for healthy sleep, which includes: a regular sleep schedule, sleep consolidation - meaning lots of it undisturbed, naps (for children), and sleep duration night and day. His strategies work unless a baby is teething, sick, just received immunizations, or is hungry.

So first there's the schedule: We did this by logging when our kids' natural sleepy times and feedings are and then building a schedule around them. And then sticking to it. The schedule is key. We treat naps as sacred, and we don't keep them awake to play with visitors. Ever.

Undisturbed sleep is also important. Never wake a sleeping baby. Of course this is hard when you are also sticking to a schedule - with twins - but it somehow works itself out on most days. We do wake them up if we need to - mostly because of their feeding schedule, and the sleeping schedule falls into place around it naturally.

Longer night and day sleep results from putting kids to bed when they first appear drowsy. Not stretching them. So when we see Aria starting to slow down or Ethan staring into space, we know it's time for bed. If they're yawning, rubbing their eyes, or getting fussy, it means they're already overtired.

This works for us most of the time. The sleepy book does say that babies start to sleep through the night at around nine months after their due date. So we have some time to go. And I'll tell you, it's not an easy journey. And as everyone told me when this whole thing started, it does get better.

One thing I can say is that I have never been so aware of sleep before. I used to just do it. Now I pray for it and appreciate it when it does happen. I do believe that once the sleeping gets back on track that I'll feel better physically. Healthier and happier. We all need healthy sleep so that we can be healthy and happy. And I hope I will never take sleep for granted ever again...

P.S. I wrote this blog yesterday, Sunday morning, and last night both babies slept the whole night!!! And I slept for nine and a half undisturbed hours!!! I feel better already. My hands feel much better, and my hips do too.

P.P.S. I cannot possibly relay the wealth of information found in the sleepy book. Check out the sleepy book for all of the tips and tricks!

1 comment:

  1. Having a schedule and being proactive is important if you have snoring issues.