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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“Karen Young - Hey Sigmund has such a wonderful way with words especially around anxiety. This is her latest beautiful picture book that explains anxiety through the lens of the Polyvagal theory using the metaphor of a house. This shows how sometimes anxiety can be hard to notice. I think this book can help kids and teens better understand stress and anxiety. I loved it! This would be great for homes, schools and in libraries.
Congratulations Karen.💛”
Of course we love them, no matter what - but they need to feel us loving them, no matter what. Especially when they are acting in unlovable ways, or saying unlovable things. Especially then.

This is not ‘rewarding bad behaviour’. To think this assumes that they want to behave badly. They don’t. What they want is to feel calm and safe again, but in that moment they don’t have the skills to do that themselves, so they need us to help them. 

It’s leading with love. It’s showing up, even when it’s hard. The more connected they feel to us, the more capacity we will have to lead them - back to calm, into better choices, towards claiming their space in the world kindly, respectfully, and with strength. 

This is not about dropping the boundary, but about holding it lovingly, ‘I can see you’re doing it tough right now. I’m right here. No, I won’t let you [name the boundary]. I’m right here. You’re not in trouble. We’ll get through this together.’

If you’re not sure what they need, ask them (when they are calm), ‘When you get upset/ angry/ anxious, what could I do that would help you feel loved and cared for in that moment? And this doesn’t mean saying ‘yes’ to a ‘no’ situation. What can I do to make the no easier to handle? What do I do that makes it harder?’♥️
Believe them AND believe in them. 

‘Yes this is hard. I know how much you don’t want to do this. It feels big doesn’t it. And I know you can do big things, even when it feels like you can’t. How can I help?’

They won’t believe in themselves until we show them what they are capable of. For this, we’ll have to believe in their ‘can’ more than they believe in their ‘can’t’.♥️
Sometimes it feels as though how we feel directs what we do, but it also works the other way: What we do will direct how we feel. 

When we avoid, we feel more anxious, and a bigger need to avoid. But when we do brave - and it only needs to be a teeny brave step - we feel brave. The braver we do, the braver we feel, and the braver we do… This is how we build brave - with tiny, tiny uncertain steps. 

So, tell me how you feel. All feelings are okay to be there. Now tell me what you like to do if your brave felt a little bigger. What tiny step can we take towards that. Because that brave is always in you. Always. And when you take the first step, your brave will rise bigger to meet you.♥️
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#anxietyinkids #consciousparenting #parentingtips #gentleparent #parentinglife #mindfulparenting #childanxiety #heywarrior
If anxiety has had extra big teeth lately, I know how brutal this feels. I really do. Think of it as the invitation to strengthen your young ones against anxiety. It’s not the disappearance of brave, or the retreat of brave. It’s the invitation to build their brave.

This is because the strengthening against anxiety happens only with experience. When the experience is in front of you, it can feel like bloodshed. I know that. I really do. But this is when we fight for them and with them - to show them they can do this.

The need to support their avoidance can feel relentless. But as long as they are safe, we don’t need to hold them back. We’ll want to, and they’ll want us to, but we don’t need to. 

Handling the distress of anxiety IS the work. Anxiety isn’t the disruption to building brave, it’s the invitation to build brave. As their important adult who knows they are capable, strong, and brave, you are the one to help them do that.

The amygdala only learns from experience - for better or worse. So the more they avoid, the more the amygdala learns that the thing they are avoiding is ‘unsafe’, and it will continue to drive a big fight (anger, distress) or flight (avoidance) response. 

On the other hand, when they stay with the discomfort of anxiety - and they only need to stay with it for a little longer each time (tiny steps count as big steps with anxiety) - the amygdala learns that it’s okay to move forward. It’s safe enough.

This learning won’t happen quickly or easily though. In fact, it will probably get worse before it gets better. This is part of the process of strengthening them against anxiety, not a disruption to it. 

As long as they are safe, their anxiety and the discomfort of that anxiety won’t hurt them. 
What’s important making sure they don’t feel alone in their distress. We can do this with validation, which shows our emotional availability. 

They also need to feel us holding the boundary, by not supporting their avoidance. This sends the message that we trust their capacity to handle this.

‘I know this feels big, and I know you can do this. What would feel brave right now?’♥️

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