If someone asked me the one thing that would make my life infinitely better, I would likely say a million dollars. Of course, the ability to get more sleep would come in as a very close second. I don't know one parent who doesn't feel sleep deprived. Whether they are up all night with a newborn, have the alarm set for the crack of dawn to catch the school bus, or are awake worrying whether their 19-year-old will make it safely back to their dorm room, all parents lose sleep. You may have wondered how losing sleep affects your parenting.
I know that when I don't get enough sleep, it negatively impacts my entire day. I am cranky toward my kids, curt with my husband, short on patience with my dogs — and all before 6 a.m. I curse the school board under my breath for the kids' 7 a.m. start time, while I accidentally switch my kids' lunches and forget, yet again, to sign the permission slip for a field trip that could be tomorrow, next week, or last month. Sleep is essential in my life, but nearly impossible to attain. I am a parent, after all.
Here are the ways losing sleep may affect your parenting.
1. You Become Moody
To be a good parent is to be kind and patient. But patience is an almost impossible virtue when you don't get enough sleep. According to Healthline, sleep deprivation affects your emotions, making you more likely to have a short temper and mood swings. You may find yourself snapping at your kids and spouse when you go too long without sleep.
2. You Are Forgetful
The brain waves that play a vital role in storing memories are produced during sleep. According to Medical News Today, these brain waves transfer your memories from the hippocampus to the prefrontal cortex, where your long term memories are stored. So when you don't get enough sleep, your memories will get stuck in the hippocampus and not reach the prefrontal cortex, resulting in forgetfulness. If you've ever sent your kid to school without lunch, forgotten to pick them up on a half day, or missed taking them to a check up, it could be related to sleep loss.
3. You Lose Focus
WebMD noted that not getting enough sleep leads to lower alertness and concentration. You can have a difficult time focusing and paying attention, which can make you more easily confused. This is dangerous as a parent because you are often driving with your children which requires you to focus and be alert.
4. Your Decision-Making Skills Are Impaired
According to the website for NPR, lack of sleep can lead to disastrous decision-making. The site also noted that disasters such as the Chernobyl nuclear power plant meltdown and the Exxon Valdez oil spill were handled incorrectly by operators who were sleep-deprived. As a parent, making good decisions your main job. If these skills are impaired by sleep loss, you can be putting your child's well-being at risk.
5. You Become Ill
With long-term sleep deprivation your body’s defenses are compromised which puts you at risk of developing chronic illness, according to the aforementioned Healthline piece. Being sick can mean that you aren't able to physically care for your children.
6. You Feel Stressed
According to the American Psychological Association, 45 percent of adults who struggle with feelings of stress, become even more stressed when they do not get enough sleep. This creates a sleep-stress cycle, with 49 percent of adults with high stress unable to get enough sleep because their minds are racing. Forbes reported that kids of stressed out parents may have a higher risk of mood disorders and addiction. So get some sleep, relax, and see the positivity spill over into your parenting.