“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
Sleep, Sleep, Sleep… We hear it all the time– You must get 8 hours of sleep and 8 glasses of water a day. We pay as much attention to that warning as our children do when we tell them for the umpteenth time “Don’t play with that or you will get hurt”. But after living with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for 15 plus years, I have learned the hard way how very important sleep is.
It is so important that God devoted 8-10 hours each and every day to sleeping and one whole day a week to resting. Think about it. Is there anything else that He gave so much time to? And since He knew we were like silly little children who refuse to take a nap, He put resting in the 10 commandments hoping that that would really get our attention. There were only 10 things that made it on that all important list and resting was one of them.
Sleep is as necessary to life as food and water. Each of us needs to realize how much lack of sleep affects our whole life. Are we too tired to clean the house, fix meals, or do the laundry? Are we so tired that when our children come to us for our help with something, we snap at them or when our spouses want some snuggle time, we look at them like they have grown two heads?
Lack of sleep affects children even more than adults and yet many of us let them keep the same late hours as the adults. When I was a young mom I was told that children usually whine and cry for one of two reasons: They are tired or hungry. If you keep them well rested, and make sure they get snacks throughout the day, you will eliminate most of their whining and crying. I have found that to be so true.
I had an example of that happen just the other day. My three year old grandson is always so good about going down for his nap. He allows himself to be picked up, passed around for kisses and then laid down without a peep. The other day, however, when he was told it was time for his nap he said “NO! I don’t want a nap,” and fought all the way to bed.
This seemed so out of character for him but then it dawned on me: He always takes his nap at 12:00 but this day, he did some running around with his dad and by the time they were done, it was almost 2:30. He was tired, so there was no reasoning with him. He couldn’t think rationally because he was tired. What often happens is that the parent gets angry at the child for throwing a fit, but it was really the parent’s fault for not allowing the child to get his proper rest.
We adults act the same way when we are tired. We become irritable, impatient, discouraged and depressed. No one can reason with us. We start acting just like that tired child and usually don’t realize it. Exhaustion also affects us physically. Your doctor will tell you that people tend to catch more viruses when they are tired and our bodies simply don’t work at 100 percent. We start seeing the world through a hazy fog and everything becomes a burden.
Have I painted a clear enough picture for you? Does that describe the way you feel most of the time (maybe even right now)? Then you need to get serious about your family’s sleeping habits.
- If you are a new mom or a mom with sick children, you may have to let some things go for a season. Just accept it and scale back your activities. I discovered this many years ago when I had an 18 month old and a newborn with colic. My oldest would be up 3-4 times each night and my newborn was up most of the night just crying. If I had two hours of sleep, I thought I had died and gone to heaven.
On the rare occasions when they would take a nap at the same time, I made the mistake of trying to get really dumb things done, like iron my children’s pajamas and tee shirts, instead of taking a nap. Needless to say, it didn’t take long for me to become seriously ill with walking pneumonia, which lasted three months.
Learn from my mistakes and take a nap when you can, even if it means hiring a babysitter to watch the kids at home while you sleep. If you think you don’t have the money to hire a babysitter you might want to think again. Which is cheaper, a babysitter or doctor bills?
Keep your meals as simple as possible If all you can manage for a few months is sandwiches, make sandwiches. The same applies to cleaning the house. Do only the necessary cleaning and upkeep. This is not the time for spring cleaning. Even if you have to let the dusting and vacuuming go for a while, the rest will help you more.
- Give yourself permission to take a nap or, if you have to, make yourself take a nap. You say you don’t have the time, but most people can find serious improvement with even 20 minutes’ rest to refresh themselves. Find the time. Make your shower 10 minutes shorter or get rid of one of your non essential activities during the day like shopping, volunteer work, killing time on the computer or talking on the phone. If you work, take an alarm with you to work and take a quick nap in your car. Where there’s a will there’s a way. Find that 20 minutes some place.
- Make your children take a nap. Up until first grade, on the days my kids weren’t in school, they always took a nap. When they were older and for whatever reason stayed up late the night before, I made them at least lie down and rest the next day.
No matter how old they are, children need some daily down time. If they were too old for naps, I would send them to their rooms for 30 minutes each day during the summer to read, color or do some quiet activity. This not only helped them rest, but it separated them from their siblings and me. No matter how much you love each other, living in the same house 24/7, you will get on each others nerves if you never get a break. This gives everyone a break.
- Have a regular bedtime routine. Whether it is bath time, story time, prayer time or just tucking the kids in with hugs and kisses, have a routine. When you are tucking the children in, give yourself an extra 15-20 minutes to talk to them. That is one of the best times of day to find out about things they have on their minds. Why? Because they are relaxed and they will use every stall tactic known to man to keep from going to bed, even if that means talking to mom and dad.
Make sure that they have a regular bed time and stick to it. This is very important! Children have their own built in clocks. When you wake them up and put them to bed at different times every day it causes their biological clocks to go haywire. They need to get at least 10 hours of sleep a night. That means putting them to bed at a decent time. Up until they started high school, my children always went to bed at 8:30. That may seem hard to believe but I didn’t have near the problem with attitudes, whining, sulking or outright rebellion that a lot of parents had to deal with.
I don’t know how many moms over the years came to me tearing their hair out saying “I don’t know what is wrong with my child but he won’t stop whining or throwing tantrums.” I knew exactly what the problem was. Mom had taken them to her Bible study the night before and didn’t get home until 10:00. She then dragged the child out of bed at 5:30 in the morning to get ready before they left for school and work. The day before that the child got to sleep in until 11:00. You may think that irregular sleeping hours doesn’t affect your child but you might be surprised to find that at least 50 percent of whining and fussing would stop if the kids had regular hours.
One thing to keep in mind is that when you start putting children to bed at an earlier than usual time, you will have to start slowly. If the children are used to going to bed at 10:30 or 11:00 at night, don’t suddenly make them go to bed at 8:30. Start at 10:00 for a few nights then move it up to 9:30 and so on until you reach the bedtime you want.
Don’t forget to adjust for daylight savings time or if you will be traveling between time zones. A week or so before the change, start putting the kids to bed 15 minutes earlier or later so the can start adjusting to the new time.
Adults need regular bedtime routines, too. As much as possible, try to have a set time that you go to bed each night. An hour or two before you go to bed, try to start unwinding. This is the time to talk over your day with your spouse, read a good book, or sip a hot cup of cocoa. It is also a good time to take a warm bath. Not only will it relax you, but it will be one less thing to do in the morning. If you are a new mom you probably don’t need to unwind because you will fall asleep the minute you sit down, so just go to bed while you can.
- Make your room and your children’s rooms as comfortable as possible. Make your bed in the morning. A made bed is so much more inviting then a rumpled mess, where you have to clear off loads of junk before you can crawl into it. Keep a low wattage bedside lamp on your night stand to start letting your body know it’s getting close to time for bed.
Keep your room at a pleasant temperature. Be sure to check the temperature in your children’s rooms too. Sometimes when babies and young children have their bedroom doors shut, their rooms can be different temperatures than the rest of the house. This can then cause them to wake up because they are too hot or cold. This can also be the reason if they are having a hard time getting to sleep. Soft music or a fan that helps to drown out background noises are good for children and adults alike.
Since we usually write about getting out of debt, you may wonder how being well rested can help save you money? How often do you go out to eat because you are too tired to fix dinner? When something breaks, do you just go buy a new one because you are too tired to fix it? Do you buy more clothes then you really need because you are too tired to keep up with the laundry? Do you just say “yes” all the time to your children when they ask to buy something because you are too tired to fight with them? Trust me the little monkeys are smart. They know when the enemy is tired and weak and that’s usually when they attack! So if you want to win the war you need to get some sleep!