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I’ve been sleeping a lot lately — napping on Saturday afternoons, turning in early at night and even catching a few winks on weekdays as my daughter does her homework. It has been absolutely MARVELOUS. Miraculous, really.

Like so many out there, I’ve been sleep deprived mom for years. Although I’ve been functioning normally day to day, there have been times where I have felt like an absolute zombie just going through the motions. Since the moment that my little bundle of joy (who is now a big primary school kid) came home, I have been in search of deep soul-satisfying sleep. But instead I would find dishes to wash, lunches to pack, play areas to clean, homework to check, and an endless list of parenting chores that ate away at my rest.

The sleep experts say that this is typical of mothers. Sleep deprivation can start even before your baby as born as you deal with the challenges of sleeping with a baby bump. Then it continues when your child is born as you rewire your body’s sleep patterns to meet your infant’s nightly feeding needs. But it can continue well into your child’s school age years. And although you may think that it’s no big deal, Jodi A. Mindell, PhD, a professor of psychology at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia and author of Sleep Deprived No More: From Pregnancy to Early Motherhood — Helping You & Your Baby Sleep Through the Night, says lack of sleep can have serious impacts on your health and your home life.

When interviewed by WebMD, Mindell shared this, “Not getting enough sleep really affects your ability to function. You’re more likely to make mistakes when you’re tired. You’re more likely to slip and fall, or cut yourself when chopping vegetables, or forget to fasten the straps of your baby’s high chair.” And of course there’s the issue of driving your child while tired. The results could be disastrous.

Thomas Roth, PhD, director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, also told WebMD that lack of sleep is linked to a number of health issues. “It’s connected to poor performance at work, obesity, diabetes, excessive risk-taking behavior, and heart disease,” said Roth.
While I had no idea that experts considered sleep so crucial, I did know that my body needed more rest and it needed it badly. So here’s what I’ve been doing to get more sleep:

• I make lists – I’m a Type A kind of mom who is all about getting everything done. When I would lay down, visions of what needed to be done around the house would torment me. But I’ve noticed that making a thorough list before sleeping clears my mind and allows me to settle down easily in bed.

• I mandate naps for my child – My daughter hates it, but I’ve created a Sunday afternoon nap ritual for her. After church, I insists that she takes a nap. She thinks it because I’m concerned about her getting rest, but it’s really so I can sleep soundly with worrying about her burning down the house!

• I keep a bedtime schedule – Whenever possible my daughter is in bed by 8 pm. After she’s all tucked in, I give myself two hours to get anything that needs to be completed. If it isn’t done by 10 pm, it ain’t getting done because mama is headed to bed!
Since I’ve made sleep a priority, I’ve noticed that I’m more energetic, more pleasant and more patient. Turning off the lights has helped me turn on my life.

What about you, busy mama? Are you getting enough sleep?

Yolanda Darville is a wife, mom and freelance writer focusing on issues that make a difference. To read more of her writings connect with her on Twitter at @YolandaDarville.

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