While you weren’t sleeping

Some parents are wide awake at night, even when their children are peacefully sleeping. Physiotherapist Renee Vincent explains why cleaning up our sleep hygiene is a helpful and healthy idea.

As any parent knows, sleep is a cherished and sought-after commodity. Post-birth, you very quickly find yourself on a quest to understand your child’s sleep needs and how to guide them into healthy sleep habits – so they thrive and you stay sane. Infant and child sleep is the subject of many articles and, when my son was competing for the title of world’s worst sleeping baby, I remember devouring any information I could get my hands on. What was less talked about, I discovered, was how parents recover from these months or years of sleep deprivation and how they can restore their own good sleep habits.

The word habit is important with regards to sleep. Just as we teach our little ones how to get to sleep and stay asleep, as adults we are equally responsive to training in the form of either good or bad habits.

As parents, we quickly adapt to functioning on less sleep than we ever thought possible. Then finally, either by hard work, the passing of time or a miracle, your child sleeps through the night. But this doesn’t mean you automatically get a good night’s rest. It’s common for parents to continue feeling exhausted and not be able to sleep well, despite the fact that their child is now sleeping for at least eight hours, at least some nights a week.

I often talk about sleep with the parents I treat in our clinic. In relation to injury, it is helpful to assess important lifestyle factors that promote the body’s ability to heal. We often talk about the three pillars of health: exercise, nutrition and sleep. Exercise and nutrition typically receive a lot more attention than sleep. Most people understand why they need to be eating well and exercising daily, but evidence now shows that without good sleep, we can’t benefit from all that good food and exercise.

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