SLEEP? WHO NEEDS IT?
If you are pregnant and a planner, or are currently in the midst of trying to figure out how to get your infant to sleep, whether we are talking daytime naps, or during the night, you know there is an endless supply of information out there. The spectrum of options range from cry-it-out methods, to attachment styles, to somewhere in between styles. And the definitions of these vary.
NOW LET’S BE HONEST, THE PROBLEM IS NOT A LACK OF INFORMATION OR VARIETY IN APPROACHES TO TRY.
The challenge is that there is too much information. When you are sleep deprived and can hardly think clearly enough to remember if you ate lunch, it can be incredibly helpful to have someone take the guesswork out of it for you, to provide you with a clear and simple framework tailored to your family and your baby. One thing I believe we can all agree on, is that sleep is important for infants and young children. It supports their emotion regulation, encourages them to learn to self-soothe, and fosters healthy brain development that gets them on track for life. Experts in this area like Jessica Bennett, owner of Upon a Dream Sleep Consulting support families through this process by setting them up with a clear plan and framework from which families can be coached through the process.
WE AS ADULTS ARE NO DIFFERENT THAN INFANTS. WE ALL REQUIRE RESTFUL SLEEP AND SELF-CARE.
For those who choose to breastfeed, the struggle to increase milk supply to meet your infant’s needs can be impacted by stress level and exhaustion.
We require sleep to be able to regulate our own emotion states. The way we manage our own emotions serves as a model for our children to learn how to process and manage their own emotions. They learn by observing their parents, and by having their parents support them through co-regulation.
“The infant is born with a limited capacity to self-regulate. When overwhelmed by the external environment, for example, she can simply fall asleep. But most often when an infant feels a sensation in her body, whether it is hunger or some other type of discomfort, she has very few options. Typically, when an unfamiliar or uncomfortable sensation arises, the infant cries to signal her parent (or caregiver) that something is the matter. If in response the parent picks up the infant, makes eye contact and talks softly to her, and the infant begins to calm down, this is co-regulation.” – Co-Regulation and Self-Regulation David Belford, LISW, IMH-E February 2012
When we are emotionally regulated and rested, we naturally have a higher tolerance and ability to soothe a crying infant. On the other hand, when we are not well regulated ourselves, our stress level may further exacerbate baby’s upset.
We require sleep in order to access our cognitive thinking and ability to be resourceful. This may mean having awareness in the moment that shushing, swaddling, singing, making goofy faces, or dancing with baby can be a positive distraction and can shift them from a state of upset to positive connection. (When we are tired, we just want it to stop! And, as many parents can attest to, just wanting it to stop is not overly effective.)
We require sleep in order to communicate clearly and in order to be mentally and emotionally present with our partners, children, friends, family, colleagues and clients.
IT IS COMMON FOR NEW PARENTS TO STRUGGLE WITH A LACK OF RESTFUL SLEEP, AND TO THEN FURTHER STRUGGLE WITH THE CHALLENGES INVOLVED IN THE EXCITING TRANSITION TO BECOMING PARENTS.
But just because it is common does not mean you need to struggle through it alone. Sleep deprivation increases the chances of struggling with postpartum depression, anxiety and relationship challenges. With a bit of support and some tried and true shifts in your self-care, these struggles can be eased and you can more easily enjoy this exciting and often challenging time.
WHEN WE HAVE A TOUGH LITTLE ONE, IT SEEMS LIKE THE HORROR OF SLEEP DEPRIVATION AND INCONSOLABLE CRYING MAY LAST FOREVER. BUT THEN ALL OF A SUDDEN, IT GOES VERY QUICKLY!
Lisa Thomson is a Registered Clinical Marriage and Family Therapist and a Registered Psychologist who specializes in working with individuals, couples and families during significant life transitions, such as during the Perinatal period (24 weeks gestation to 1 year postpartum). Contact Lisa at www.connectedclaritycounselling.com or (888) 622-8350 x 120 for a free 15-minute consultation.