Dear Sleep – I miss you …

Dear Sleep,

I love you. I really do. I may have fought you as a kid, refused you as a teen. But now I miss you – because you are excellent – and nothing feels the same without you. Now I know why …

New research has found that eight hours of interrupted sleep can be as physically detrimental as sleeping for only four.

Parents, professionals on call, shift workers and students would know the feeling. As would anyone with a weak bladder or anyone in shouting distance of a barking dog. So too would anybody who has been tossed and turned by the hand of some sort of life stress.

Night waking is a pervasive phenomenon for many people.

In a study published in the journal Sleep Medicine, researchers have demonstrated that interrupted sleep leads to diminished cognitive capacity, shortened attention span and a bad mood.

Interruptions of five to ten minutes are enough to disrupt the natural sleep rhythm.


 

What They Did

Participants in the study were university student volunteers. Their sleep patterns were monitored using wristwatch-like devices that monitored sleep and awake.

On the first night of the study, students slept for eight hours.

Then, on a subsequent night, they were woken up four times by phone calls and instructed to complete a short computer task of about 10-15 minutes duration, after which they could go back to sleep.

The following morning, students completed a set of computer tasks that measured alertness and attention. They were also asked to self-report their mood.

What They Found

One night of interruptions was enough to compromise cognitive function and mood. Attention and alertness were diminished and people reported feeling fatigued, depressed, confused and lethargic. In fact, the effects were as drastic as if they had only slept for four hours.

No effects were found on anger and anxiety, suggesting that these features of mood are less sensitive to fragmented sleep.


 

In real life, interrupted sleep can continue for many nights on end, sometimes for months or even years. The effects of disrupted sleep accumulate over time.

Researcher Professor Sadeh explained, ‘Our study shows the impact of only one disrupted night. But we know that these effects accumulate and therefore the functional price new parents – who awaken three to ten times a night for months on end – pay for common infant sleep disturbance is enormous. Besides the physical effects of interrupted sleep, parents often develop feelings of anger toward their infants and then feel guilty about these negative feelings.’

Importantly, the findings lend support to previous research that has found an association between child sleep disruptions and maternal fatigue, stress and depressive symptoms.

Sleeping is one of the best things you can do for your brain. It’s cleansing, restorative, keeps you functioning and playing nicely. Anything you can do to keep your zzz’s unbroken will pay you dividends. And if anybody comes up with a way to achieve that with kids, barking dogs, a Goldilocks-ish too hot/too cold relationship with the doona and a completely hopeless love affair with late nights, would you pleeeease let me know.

One Comment

Turenne

In my mind, at this point in time, there isn’t enough time in a day. I tend to skip on sleep time. It’s good to be reminded time again, in such an eloquent article, how good sleep time is for Brain Power.

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‘Brave’ doesn’t always feel like certain, or strong, or ready. In fact, it rarely does. That what makes it brave.♥️
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#parenting #mindfulparenting #parentingtips
We teach our kids to respect adults and other children, and they should – respect is an important part of growing up to be a pretty great human. There’s something else though that’s even more important – teaching them to respect themselves first. 

We can’t stop difficult people coming into their lives. They might be teachers, coaches, peers, and eventually, colleagues, or perhaps people connected to the people who love them. What we can do though is give our kids independence of mind and permission to recognise that person and their behaviour as unacceptable to them. We can teach our kids that being kind and respectful doesn’t necessarily mean accepting someone’s behaviour, beliefs or influence. 

The kindness and respect we teach our children to show to others should never be used against them by those broken others who might do harm. We have to recognise as adults that the words and attitudes directed to our children can be just as damaging as anything physical. 

If the behaviour is from an adult, it’s up to us to guard our child’s safe space in the world even harder. That might be by withdrawing support for the adult, using our own voice with the adult to elevate our child’s, asking our child what they need and how we can help, helping them find their voice, withdrawing them from the environment. 

Of course there will be times our children do or say things that aren’t okay, but this never makes it okay for any adult in your child’s life to treat them in a way that leads them to feeling ‘less than’.

Sometimes the difficult person will be a peer. There is no ‘one certain way’ to deal with this. Sometimes it will involve mediation, role playing responses, clarifying the other child’s behaviour, asking for support from other adults in the environment, or letting go of the friendship.

Learning that it’s okay to let go of relationships is such an important part of full living. Too often we hold on to people who don’t deserve us. Not everyone who comes into our lives is meant to stay and if we can help our children start to think about this when they’re young, they’ll be so much more empowered and deliberate in their relationships when they’re older.♥️
When we are angry, there will always be another emotion underneath it. It is this way for all of us. 

Anger itself is a valid emotion so it’s important not to dismiss it. Emotion is e-motion - energy in motion. It has to find a way out, which is why telling an angry child to calm down or to keep their bodies still will only make things worse for them. They might comply, but their bodies will still be in a state of distress. 

Often, beneath an angry child is an anxious one needing our help. It’s the ‘fight’ part of the fight or flight response. As with all emotions, anger has a job to do - to help us to safety through movement, or to recruit support, or to give us the physical resources to meet a need or to change something that needs changing. It doesn’t mean it does the job well, because an angry brain means the feeling brain has the baton, while the thinking brain sits out for a while. What it means is that there is a valid need there and this young person is doing their very best to meet it, given their available resources in the moment or their developmental stage. 

Children need the same thing we all need when we’re feeling fierce - to be seen,  heard, and supported; to find a way to get the energy out, either with words or movement. Not to be shut down or ‘fixed’. 

Our job isn’t to stop their anger, but to help them find ways to feel it and express it in ways that don’t do damage. This will take lots of experience, and lots of time - and that’s okay.♥️
The SCCR Online Conference 2021 is a wonderful initiative by @sccrcentre (Scottish Centre for Conflict Resolution) which will explore ’The Power of Reconnection’. I’ve been working with SCCR for many years. They do incredible work to build relationships between young people and the important adults around them, and I’m excited to be working with them again as part of this conference.

More than ever, relationships matter. They heal, provide a buffer against stress, and make the world feel a little softer and safer for our young people. Building meaningful connections can take time, and even the strongest relationships can feel the effects of disconnection from time to time. As part of this free webinar, I’ll be talking about the power of attachment relationships, and ways to build relationships with the children and teens in your life that protect, strengthen, and heal. 

The workshop will be on Monday 11 October at 7pm Brisbane, Australia time (10am Scotland time). The link to register is in my story.
There are many things that can send a nervous system into distress. These can include physiological (tired, hungry, unwell), sensory overload/ underload, real or perceived threat (anxiety), stressed resources (having to share, pay attention, learn new things, putting a lid on what they really think or want - the things that can send any of us to the end of ourselves).

Most of the time it’s developmental - the grown up brain is being built and still has a way to go. Like all beautiful, strong, important things, brains take time to build. The part of the brain that has a heavy hand in regulation launches into its big developmental window when kids are about 6 years old. It won’t be fully done developing until mid-late 20s. This is a great thing - it means we have a wide window of influence, and there is no hurry.

Like any building work, on the way to completion things will get messy sometimes - and that’s okay. It’s not a reflection of your young one and it’s not a reflection of your parenting. It’s a reflection of a brain in the midst of a build. It’s wondrous and fascinating and frustrating and maddening - it’s all the things.

The messy times are part of their development, not glitches in it. They are how it’s meant to be. They are important opportunities for us to influence their growth. It’s just how it happens. We have to be careful not to judge our children or ourselves because of these messy times, or let the judgement of others fill the space where love, curiosity, and gentle guidance should be. For sure, some days this will be easy, and some days it will feel harder - like splitting an atom with an axe kind of hard.

Their growth will always be best nurtured in the calm, loving space beside us. It won’t happen through punishment, ever. Consequences have a place if they make sense and are delivered in a way that doesn’t shame or separate them from us, either physically or emotionally. The best ‘consequence’ is the conversation with you in a space that is held by your warm loving strong presence, in a way that makes it safe for both of you to be curious, explore options, and understand what happened.♥️
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#mindfulparenting #positiveparenting #parenting

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