You are listening to episode two of the Busy Mom’s Survival Guide.
Welcome to the Busy Mom’s Survival Guide, where we discuss making the most of your family’s health, time and money. I’m your host and I’m here to help you not just survive your busy schedule, but find joy and peace despite the craziness.
Welcome to the second episode of the Busy Mom’s Survival Guide. Today I’m going to be talking about the importance of sleep.
We all know that sleep is important and I imagine that most of us wruish we could get more of it. I’m going to talk about the impacts on our health and our families if we don’t make sleep a priority. As well as what happens if we continually push it aside and deprive ourselves of enough sleep.
Brett will be joining me for a little bit later on and at the end of the show and we will be picking the winner of the Goat Milk Stuff gift certificate.
This is PJ and I can tell you that I am definitely a busy mom. I am a wife and homeschooling mom of eight children, I also began and run Goat Milk Stuff, a successful family business where we make goat milk soap with the milk from our own dairy goats. So I also have the privilege of also being a farm manager.
Before I start talking about sleep, I have to tell all of you thank you so much for the positive feedback from my first episode. If you listened in, you may remember that I said that I was working this week on giving Jim hugs that I initiated and not just responding to hugs he initiated. I want to report that it was a huge success. But it was also funny because it also became kind of a game.
You see, Jim listened to my podcast and he heard me say that I was going to try to give him a hug that he didn’t initiate every day. So every time he would see me coming, he would stop what he was doing and hug me. So it became a game of me sneaking up on him and throwing myself at him into a big hug. And I think the biggest time I surprised him was when we went for a walk outside one day and in the middle of the walk I just launched myself at him and gave him a big hug.
It was really nice because the whole thing became not just a physical closeness, but also a private joke between us and something we spent a lot of time laughing about this week. So that was really good.
I also took time and wrote down my own list of things I do that are important and not important and I put a link to that on last week’s blog post for the podcast. So if you want to see that, you can take a look at that. And if any of you made an effort to do more “something” and had any success with it, or even if you didn’t have success, I’d love to hear about that.
So… on to sleep.
Now I have to tell you that I consider myself something of an expert on lack of sleep. I had eight children in ten years, and they are all about a year and half apart. And the end result of that was that I was either pregnant or breastfeeding for almost 12 years straight. And if anybody understands and can commiserate with sleep deprivation, especially when you have very young children, it’s me.
I can understand but I’m not going to spend much of this podcast talking about those kinds of years. I might do that another time and talk about teaching your children to sleep through the night. But really if you’re in that stage of life, you’ve heard the basic recommendation to sleep when your baby naps. And that’s true. But really during those years you just do the best you can and you get used to operating on less sleep.
But what I really want to talk about today is sleep for moms. Because I am of the firm belief that the old saying – “If mama isn’t happy, the family isn’t happy” – that’s true. And I think that most moms today are chronically sleep deprived.
And I found for me that it’s really difficult to maintain your joy and treat your family the way you want to treat them, if you’re exhausted from a continued lack of sleep.
One of the questions I get asked a lot is, “What time I get up in the morning?” And it always makes me laugh because I think people are expecting me to say, “Oh, I get up at 3am, 4am, 5am in order to get everything done.” But that is really far from the truth.
In fact for most of the past 15 years, I have slept in til about 8 or 9 o’clock in the morning. And that was either because I was up during the night or because I wasn’t going to bed until midnight or even later. And fortunately, I can sleep in that late because we homeschool. I don’t have to get my children up and on the bus or get off to a job outside of the house. So I am privileged to be able to have done that. And I’ve taught my children from a very early age how to feed themselves breakfast and help their siblings eat breakfast. And they are really good at doing this because they know that the quieter they are and if nobody comes in and wakes up mom, that they get more time to play and read or do whatever it is that they want to do before I get up and start putting them to work and getting them on their chores.
So they were very good at letting me sleep and I usually got 8 hours of sleep throughout the night because of that sleeping in the morning. But I’m going to share something that happened this past summer that has completely changed the way that I look at sleep.
You see, I used to think that 8 hours of sleep was enough, but I’ve learned that it’s not that simple.
I managed to have 8 pregnancies and deliveries without any high blood pressure whatsoever. But about a year or so after I started Goat Milk Stuff, I started having some elevated blood pressure running in the 130s and 140s over 80s – that kind of thing. And my doctor, he wasn’t worried about it at all. He said that I eat right, I exercise and it may just be the way my blood pressure runs and he wasn’t worried about it.
But this past summer, I was working on my computer when the left side of my face went numb and it really kind of scared me. I admit I kind of freaked out a little bit and when I checked my blood pressure, it was in the 180s and that made Jim freak out a little bit and so he took me to the ER where they admitted me to the hospital.
I basically spent 5 days in the hospital having a whole bunch of tests done. Bottom line was they discovered that I had a hole in my heart which is a very common thing, a lot of people have it and don’t know it. It’s been there since I was born and they are not going to do anything about that. But they couldn’t find any cause for the high blood pressure. I’m a very healthy person, my heart is fine, everything looks good, but they went ahead anyway and prescribed blood pressure medication for me.
Well, I’m not really into pharmaceuticals. I believe they have their place. If one of the children got food poisoning, of course I would use antibiotics. There is a place for that. I just think that it tends to be over used and prescribed when it’s not really necessary.
So because I did not want to take this prescription blood pressure medication, I kind of became a woman on a mission to bring down my blood pressure. And I tried everything. I was even more hyper-vigilant on my diet. I went vegan for a little while to see if that made a difference (and it didn’t). I increased my exercise and I only saw a short-term drop on the blood pressure right after exercising, but it just didn’t last. I also started doing a combination of yoga and stretching regularly and same thing – a short term drop and no long term benefit.
Jim went out and got me this thing called RESPeRate* – which is basically a deep breathing kind of program. It’s fun, I enjoyed it, it’s relaxing. But it doesn’t seem to have a major effect on my blood pressure. So my point is all of these things, while they showed me short term drops and are good and I was doing a lot of them anyway, none of them had any real long term effects on my blood pressure.
So I decided that I was going to change my sleep habits and I spent a week going to sleep at 9 o’clock at night.
And do you know what happened?
My blood pressure came down and stayed down.
And I have to admit to you that I was shocked. I was really surprised. I had a friend who had been after me for months and months telling me my sleep habits were terrible. That I was staying up way too late and I needed to get to bed earlier. And I really didn’t think it was that big a deal because I was getting 8 hours of sleep at night. Yes – those hours from midnight till 8am, but I was still getting them so I thought I was fine.
But obviously it wasn’t and so I decided I had to find out what was the difference and what I needed to do and why going to bed earlier was going to make such a big difference. So in this podcast it’s kind of the result of some of the things that I learned.
I found out that adults need 7-9 hours of sleep at night and this is going to vary based on the person. Pregnant women, older people, all of that would depend on how many hours you need. But most of us I think can probably tell when we are not getting enough sleep.
But some general signs that you aren’t getting enough sleep are:
- if you’re getting sleepy at the wrong time of the day
- if you’re having trouble paying attention
- if you fall asleep extremely quickly or at inappropriate places or times
- if you can’t get through the day without caffeine
- if you require an alarm clock to wake you up.
You’re supposed to wake up at your normal wake up time without an alarm clock. And here is the thing and this is really important, what I found out is that sleep is not just a matter of quantity, it’s not just getting yourself up to 9 hours. It’s a matter of quality. And the quality of your sleep depends on when you’re sleeping.
You know that old saying – “early to bed, early to rise…?”
Well it turns out that that is really true and what I found out was that your body is kind of set up to function this way. When the sun goes down, your melatonin levels which is a chemical your body produces to help you sleep, they start to rise and your core temperature starts to drop. And if you fall asleep at this time instead of putting it off 4 or 5 hours, you get better quality sleep.
But most of us – including myself – we don’t go to sleep then. Especially not in the winter time when it gets dark so early. Instead we use artificial lights. But the problem is that artificial light, even though it’s convenient, it’s not so good for us when it comes to sleep.
I have a quote here from PhD Charles Czeisler and he says, “Artificial light exposure between dusk and the time we go to bed at night suppresses release of the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin, enhances alertness and shifts circadian rhythms to a later hour – making it more difficult to fall asleep.”
So basically the point is that when we expose ourselves to lights whether it is over-head lights or from screens such as the television, the computer or even e-readers that are backlit like nooks and kindles, that makes it even worse for our bodies. Because all of those photons are bouncing right into your face and they are waking your body up and just kind of confusing it so it’s not going to get the sleep that it needs.
So not only do we have to start getting enough hours of sleep, but we really have to start thinking about getting enough quality of sleep. Because the bottom line is that because of your body’s natural rhythm, every one hour of sleep that you get before midnight – in terms of quality – is like 2 hours of sleep after midnight.
And I just couldn’t believe that. I found that to be so shocking and yet I had this proof that when I got the hours after midnight, it didn’t help my blood pressure. But when I got them before, it was like everything was fine. So I can tell you from my experience that it really is true.
I also was doing all this research and I found that a lack of quality sleep can do much more than just affect your blood pressure. It can also cause things like memory problems or depression. It obviously weakens your immune system, so you’re more likely to get sick. And it can affect how you perceive pain, so if you have monthly cramping or whatever, it can make it that much worse if you’re not getting enough sleep. And if you are chronically sleep deprived it can lead to high blood pressure and diabetes and obesity.
In fact one of the things that I learned was that if you are trying to lose weight and you’re eating right, you’re exercising right and doing all of those things right and you’re still not losing the weight, then the chances are you’re probably not sleeping right. And if you can start sleeping better then you’ll probably start to see the weight start to come off.
I don’t want to get into all the details of sleep and all the sleep cycles and all of what happens. But I just want to touch base on a couple of things that are happening while you’re sleeping because I think it is important to understand why you need to get to sleep. One of the things is that if you are exercising, your muscles are getting repaired during that time. Your immune system is being strengthened. Human growth hormone is being released and that’s what helps kids grow but it also helps us adults to actually fight aging. So I thought that was kind of important.
And you know sleep really just helps with your body’s functioning.
But one of the big things is during sleep is when your liver is most efficient at detoxifying your body and getting rid of all the poisons and toxins and everything that comes out. And I didn’t realize this but your liver actually works most efficiently between when you fall asleep and 3am and it’s also important to know that your last meal should be 3 hours before bedtime for your liver to function optimally.
But if you don’t go to sleep until after midnight, then your liver doesn’t have that much time to function efficiently. And you’re not going to feel as good. You’re not going to be as healthy because your liver is not detoxifying your body the way it needs to. So that was kind of surprising to me as well.
And another reason why it’s important to get enough sleep as far as the time you are actually sleeping,
I don’t have any trouble falling asleep, Jim can tell you I don’t have any trouble falling asleep. But in case you do, some of the things that are most important for the time you spend sleeping is that your room needs to be dark. There should not be lights on in your room like night-lights. Especially for kids. That can really interfere with their sleep patterns. But with adults, if you tend to have alarm clocks or things that are blinking, if you have a television in your room, all of those lights should be off and nothing should be close to your head.
If you have an alarm clock it should not be close to your head because it actually emits sound that you may not hear when you are lying there. But your body or brain can hear and it will disturb your sleep.
You should try not to have any food three hours before your bedtime and not exercise vigorously within two hours of bedtime. Another thing that is important is that you should try to keep your room cool. They say the low to mid 60s are the best temperatures. Which is really hard to achieve during the summer, but if you find you’re having trouble sleeping in the summers a suggestion a friend of mine had was to get a water bottle and put some ice water in it and keep it down by your feet. Because that would help you feel a lot cooler while you’re sleeping.
And then obviously the most important too is no screen time, a minimom of 30 minutes if not a whole hour before bed. And that would be TV, computers, any backlit screens like a kindle or things like that.
The other thing I wanted to mention before I forget is the subject of naps. Because even when you’re doing everything right – you’re not eating right before bed, you’re going to bed on time, you’re getting proper sleep – there are going to be times in your life when your sleep is interrupted. Whether it’s a sick child. Or for us, for example, we just went through kidding season. And we had 18 goats that were having their babies. And I talked to all the goats and gave them my little pep talk that I needed to have my sleep and they needed to have their kids in the day.
But some of them didn’t listen and decided to have their babies in the middle of the night and I needed to get up and deal with it. So I didn’t always get my sleep during that time and there were two weeks that I was sleep deprived and definitely needed to take some naps.
So if you can avoid taking a nap, that would be best. But if you need one, your best is an early afternoon nap that’s either 20 minutes or an hour. Because after 20 minutes your body is going to enter into REM and if you wake up (and it comes out of REM after an hour). But if you wake up in between that 20 minutes and an hour time then you’re breaking that REM cycle. And that’s when you wake up feeling more tired than you actually were before you took your nap. So either try for the 20 minutes or if you think you’ve got a clear hour, go for it. But don’t try to take like a 40 minute nap.
So I’ve spent a lot of time talking about how important sleep is and I just want to reiterate that as moms and as homemakers, it’s our job to take care of our family. And in order to take care of your family, you have to take care of yourself. And you need to get enough sleep to be able to do that. You’re not being selfish if you don’t do something in order to get the rest that you need. It’s something that you have to make sacrifices and some things may get left undone because its bedtime and you just need to stop. And those things are still going to be there tomorrow. You can put them aside, you’ve got my permission. I am supporting you on this.
Get yourself to bed because your family needs you to stay healthy.
I actually came across this really kind of scary study that the American cancer society did and it showed that people who slept 6 hours or less every night had a death rate that was 30% higher than those people who slept between 7 and 8 hours at night.
And I was just shocked at that. I mean 30%!
I always thought of lack of sleep as you’re tired, you’re grumpy, and then you go to sleep that night and it was better.
But it really goes much deeper because there is a lot happening in our bodies while we sleep. And the quality of sleep is just really important, so do what it takes to make sure that you and your family are getting enough quality sleep. Because teaching good sleep habits to your children by modeling good sleep habits is going to give them a major boost in life.
PJ: We are back now with Brett and I have to tell everybody that she is joining us under duress because apparently she doesn’t like to listen to the sound of her own voice. So I told her that she doesn’t have to listen to the podcast once it’s done or if she wants to listen to me, she can listen to me and we can just skip over the part that she does her talking. But I told her she sounds just fine. But Brett knows that I’m talking about sleep today because she’s 15 and listens to everything that’s going on around this family and so nothing escapes her notice. But she doesn’t know exactly what questions I’m going to ask her. So Indigo didn’t embarrass me and hopefully she won’t embarrass me either. One of the things that we talked about earlier was that adults need 7-9 hours of sleep and children need 10-12. Teens actually go back and forth between these two, sometimes they need the sleep of adults, sometimes they need the sleep of children. Which iswhy teenagers tend to be known for sleeping in so much. So the first thing I want to ask Brett is, do you think you get enough sleep?
Brett: It depends, sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t.
PJ: When do you think are the times that you do and what are the times that you don’t?
Brett: If I’m really stressed I tend to not get as much as I need. And if I’m not stressed then I usually get enough.
PJ: That’s pretty good. What happens when you don’t get enough sleep?
Brett: I get really cranky, really cranky.
PJ: Especially with your brothers?
Brett: Yeah, every little thing they do annoys me.
PJ: What happens when Mom doesn’t get enough sleep?
Brett: You get cranky.
PJ: Do I get more cranky with anybody more than others or…?
Brett: It depends on who is having a bad day. If someone is having a bad day, you generally are crankier with them.
PJ: Ok, so basically I am much more short-tempered and not as patient when I don’t have enough sleep?
Brett: Yeah, that about sums it up.
PJ: Ok, what are some of the things that prevent you? You talked about stress, is there anything else that stops you from getting enough sleep?
Brett: Not really, I usually want to fall asleep, I just can’t, I don’t know why.
PJ: Is there anything that Mom and Dad do to help you sleep?
Brett: You make us exercise a lot. You’ll make us do jumping jacks.
PJ: I do, right? What does Dad say?
Brett: He says a lot of things.
PJ: True, I admit that. When he says, if you have trouble falling asleep then?
Brett: Oh that. He says if you have trouble falling asleep, you’re not doing enough, you’re not exercising enough, you’re not working enough.
PJ: Right. Because by the end of the day you should be tired if you’ve put in a good day and haven’t just been lazy through it all. You want to tell everybody one of the things that were just changed about your sleeping arrangements?
Brett: I got my own room. The boys moved upstairs. Now they are upstairs and I moved out of the girls’ room, into the old boys’ bedroom. And I have my own room which is awesome.
PJ: Does that help you sleep better?
Brett: It was weird the first couple of nights, but now I’m used to it and I sleep better I think. The one problem is in the purple room the lights from our neighbors usually shine through the window and right over my bed. And in this room the neighbor across the street has this really bright light on his garage that would shine directly into my eyes if I don’t have the curtains shut. So there is like no light in the room whatsoever, and that really threw me off at first. And I’m starting to get used to it now.
PJ: For waking up in the morning because you have to keep the curtains shut.
Brett: I told Mom because the boys used to sleep in, they would be so late. And I told Mom I think it’s just this room because the curtains are so dark to keep out the light across the street that you don’t realize how late it’s getting.
PJ: And the morning is here. Because it’s really a big thing. You should sleep according to the patterns of the sun. And when that light disrupts it, it really does mess things up. What are one of the things Dad made for the windows?
Brett: Dad made “dark boards.” They are just pieces of plywood that fit onto the windowsill, and I don’t have to use them in this new room because there’s the really heavy duty curtains. But the girls in the summer have to use them because the curtains in the girls’ room are just sheer.
PJ: Yeah, that was one of the things we were really surprised at when we moved out here to Indiana. Because we are on the very western edge of the eastern time zone, it surprised us how late it stays light out. Because we are almost central but not, we are eastern. So in June at 10 o’clock at night it’s still light out, so that really kind of messed…
Brett: Sunset isn’t til 10:30 sometimes.
PJ: Yeah, so that’s when dad came up with the dark boards so the kids could actually go to bed at 7 or 8 or 9 o’clock at night and not have the sun still up and shining. You want to tell everybody about “no light nights.” What we do?
Brett: We have “no light nights” in the summer. Every once in a while Dad would say “Ok, tonight is a no light night.” We all hurry and get everything done because no light night means we cannot have any light. We can’t flip on any switches and we usually don’t use candles either. The only thing we are allowed to use the candle for is the bathroom because there are no window so there is no light whatsoever. And you kind of need to see to go to the bathroom.
PJ: We just have to pretty much go to bed when the sun goes down.
PJ: And it’s funny though because don’t you think you do get more tired when you don’t have the lights on and the sun is going down and you haven’t flipped on an overhead switch?
Brett: I don’t feel that, it might just be because I’m usually out playing outside. Especially in the summer because we don’t usually do “no light nights” in the winter because it gets dark early.
PJ: Yeah, “no light nights” in the winter would not be fun, we would be going to bed like 5:30.
Brett: Yeah, that would not be fun.
PJ: Especially the goats really wouldn’t like it if we were milking them at 3 o’clock in the afternoon.
Brett: Yeah, that’s a pain in the neck.
PJ: So the only other thing that I really wanted to ask you was, do you think that this family values sleep or do we not value sleep?
Brett: That depends on which person in the family you’re talking about. I think you and Dad really value sleep and the little girls are like what the heck, why do we have to go to bed? We’re not tired.
PJ: I think that’s one of those cosmic jokes – that the people who have to sleep don’t want it and the people who want to sleep can’t have it.
PJ: Thank you, was that as bad as you thought it would be?
Brett: Not really.
PJ: Want to say “goodbye” to everybody?
Well we’re almost done with this podcast episode and I want o leave you with this week’s Survival Guide Rule. And that is to – Get Enough Sleep.
I know that this is a really simple thing for me to say and it’s not necessarily so easy in practice. But I just want you to realize that it is also important, because I don’t know about you, but I have discovered that I have a split personality between my “sleepy self” and my “awake self.” And my “sleepy-self” often makes decisions and does things that my “awake-self” cringes at.
Decisions to not exercise or to pick up pizza, those kinds of decisions are usually made by Sleepy PJ. And Sleepy PJ as you heard Brett say is also a little grumpier and is much less apt to discipline the children when they need it and more likely to snap at my husband or be grumpy. And so it really is important not just for your health reasons but for your attitude towards your family that you get enough sleep.
And I would encourage you all to pick a bed time for this week that you can hit every day – even if that means having to leave work undone until tomorrow. And then just concentrate on one thing and that is not have any screen time one hour before bed. So no TV or nooks. If you want to read just read your paperback and see what a difference it makes in your life.
But one word of caution. Don’t be surprised if it takes several days to adjust to the change. But eventually it will and it will settle into a new routine and you’ll start to see the benefits if you can maintain it over the long-term. And as for me, it’s going to be lights out at 9 o’clock and then I stretch, do yoga by candle light and I also spend some time with Jim.
And if we’re talking we keep any discussions light and not about heavy matters and then it’s sleep time by ten at night. We usually get up between 6 and 7. I was interrupted from this routine by kidding season, but all the baby goats are now born and I’m going to get back to it because I saw what a difference it made for my health. And I’m trusting that my entire family is going to blessed by it.
Thank you so much for listening to this episode of the Busy Mom’s Survival Guide with PJ Jonas. I hope you have enjoyed listening and learned something that will help you to not just survive but to thrive in your role as a mother.
Please join me on the next episode where I’ll be talking about fruits and vegetables and if it’s really possible to get in those 5-9 servings that they recommend on a regular basis.
If you’ve enjoyed this episode, please leave me a comment on the blog post at www.pjjonas.com or rate this episode on ITunes. You can also call my feedback line at 240-230-SOAP.
So until next time, I’m PJ Jonas, and I’m praying that all the busy moms out there make the most of the best job in the world – motherhood.