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How Parents Can Manage Sleep and Stress

on Mon, 04/28/2014 - 12:20

The connection between stress and sleep can become a never-ending cycle. Does this sound like a familiar situation for you or your partner? “I did not get much sleep last night. I wish I could sleep-in or take a nap during the day, but my to-do list is overflowing. I have to finish that report for work, I have so many things to do for the kids and my house is a mess! I am so stressed. I don’t know how I will get everything done!” In the spirit of Stress Awareness Month, we are examining the connection between sleep and stress for parents and how you can improve both. The inability to get quality sleep affects our stress level and vice versa. The good news is, if you can manage one of these two factors well, the other tends to improve.


Examining the Connection

As parents, getting enough sleep and lowering our stress levels are huge challenges. Parents with young children tend to have increased stress and decreased sleep. However, it is crucial for our well-being and for our family to make sleep and stress management a priority. Many parents view sleep as a necessity, but it often becomes an inconvenient requirement. Many parents feel if their sleep is made a priority, none of the modern day demands of family life would get done: working, maintaining a home, maintaining relationships, and organizing children’s activities and appointments. When sleeping is not made a priority, parents typically experience: · Exhaustion · Irritability · Decreased productivity · A suffering quality of life · A negative mood · Declining physical health · Lack of focus With poor sleep and an increased irritable mood, our problems feel bigger than they really are and stress can become intensified. According to a recent study by psychologists at University of California- Berkeley, lack of sleep increases relationship stress. This can make parents feel more irritable toward each other and less patient with their children.


Parents tend to feel overwhelmed with the amount of responsibilities placed on them. They have to manage their own stressors from work, family, and society along with their child’s many needs. Children also feed off of the stress levels of their parents and turn to them as models of how to handle life’s problems. So, it is important that parents model how best to handle stress. With increased stress comes increased levels of stress hormones that keep us awake at night. Poor stress management can lead to poor sleep, which in turn leads to decreased ability to handle stress, causing a vicious cycle to emerge.

Fixing the Problem

So how can parents decrease their stress and improve their sleep? The good news is that sleep and stress can be both managed with some of the same tips. Here are a few areas to focus on that can tackle both issues. · Physical activity: Exercise and proper levels of physical activity are can improve mood and help people fall asleep and stay asleep better during the night. Parents often find a brisk walk or aerobic workout helps them manage their stress levels. The proper level of physical exertion is scientifically proven to lower stress hormones. · Proper diet: Avoiding caffeine and alcohol before bed can improve sleep. Eating a proper balanced diet can help with improving mood and reducing stress. There is research that shows a link between increased Omega- 3s in children and improved  sleep. · Manage thoughts: Concentrating on your ever-growing to-do list and focusing on the negative experiences of your day can keep you up at night as well as increase your stress level. Practice decreasing stress by stopping negative intrusive thoughts and replacing them with more positive thoughts. The results will not be immediate, but over a period of time this will help lower your stress level by changing your perception of life events. Without the barrage of negative perceptions and thoughts, falling asleep will become much easier. · Make sleep a priority for the entire family: If children are not sleeping, chances are parents are not sleeping either. Keeping regular schedules and routines can lower stress levels in children and parents because everyone knows what to expect. Regular schedules for meals, activities, bed and awake times, help to maintain our circadian rhythms, our internal body clocks that regulate sleep. This makes it easier for all family members to get adequate sleep. Parents should consider carrying out their daily activities around sleep schedules, and not sacrifice sleep to meet their daily activity demands. This is one of the biggest challenges families face, but with the focus on proper sleep it can be done. When family members are well rested, the ability to handle stressors is greatly improved, leading to a more peaceful, less stressed household. Is lack of sleep causing stress on your family? Have a question about your child and their inability to sleep? Contact me to schedule a sleep consultation.