The reasons humans require sleep aren't completely understood. It actually doesn't make sense from an evolutionary standpoint. I mean, sleeping seven to eight hours during the night when many predators were out hunting made our ancestors pretty vulnerable. That alone is pretty telling that sleep is vital to our health if we require it even when it may benefit us to withhold it. I'm sure if humans could have learned to fully function without sleep by now we would have and those who slept less would rise to the top, and those of us who required more sleep would be left in the dust.
So even though the scientific community doesn't seem to know exactly why we need sleep, there is a pretty good consensus on the impact on us when we don't get enough.
We’re all familiar with the fact that we
have a hard time focusing on information
when we’re running on too little sleep.
Absorbing information is only half the
Learning and memory are divided
into three functions. Acquisition, consolidation, and recall. Put simply, you need to receive the info, then you need to stabilize the memory of it, and
finally, you need to be able to access it.
Acquisition and recall really only take place while you’re awake. Consolidation, on the other hand, “takes place during sleep through the strengthening of the neural connections that form our memories. The overall evidence suggests that adequate sleep each day is very important for
So even if you manage to focus on what you’re learning and acquire the information, without
sleep, that information won’t be properly stored in the brain, and when called upon to access it, you’ll
find yourself drawing a blank making that face. You know the one your husband gets when you
ask him to change the baby's diaper? That one.
We all know that when we don’t get enough sleep, we get short-tempered and irritable. A study from the
University of Pennsylvania showed that subjects who experienced even partial sleep deprivation reported
feelings of stress, anger, sadness, and mental exhaustion.
Researchers have suggested that sleep deprivation stimulates activity in the amygdala. That’s the little almond-shaped part of the brain that’s responsible for feelings of, among other things, anger and fear. These amped-up feelings can lead to an overall sense of stress and hostility towards others, if probably one of the reasons you may find yourself bickering more with your spouse after the arrival of your new child.
Well, short of eating and breathing, you would be hard pressed to find anything with more health benefits than getting enough sleep.
“Sleep services all aspects of our body in one way or another: molecular, energy balance, as
well as intellectual function, alertness and mood,” says Dr. Merrill Mitler, a sleep expert and neuroscientist at the National Institutes of Health. “Sleep affects almost every tissue in our
People who regularly get between 7-9 hours of sleep see significantly lower rates of obesity, high blood
pressure, stroke, infections, depression, diabetes, inflammation, hypertension, heart disease, heart
attacks, and heart failure. They also report higher satisfaction with their sex lives, better performance
at work, and take fewer sick days than people who typically sleep less than 7 hours a night.
So, it's pretty obvious that we all feel better when we get the adequate amounts of sleep. This is especially true for your baby.
Growth hormones are being secreted to help baby gain weight and sprout up, cytokines are being
produced to fight off infections and produce antibodies, all kinds of miraculous, intricate systems are at
work laying the foundation for your baby’s growth and development, and they’ll continue to do so
through adolescence, provided they’re given the opportunity to do so.
I see comments all the time on social media, telling parents that they shouldn't make any changes if their baby is waking constantly throughout the night and fighting naps because "babies aren't supposed to sleep through the night", or "some babies just don't need as much sleep".
This well intentioned advice makes me feel sad for both the parents and the child. Telling people to accept their baby’s sleep issues as a part of the parenting experience is preventing them from feeling empowered to provide the best care for their child and themselves. Needing more sleep is not selfish, it doesn't make you weak. In fact, working to get your family more rested is providing for them and yourself in the same way you make sure your family has proper nutrition and health care.
So to every new mother out there, I implore you, don’t accept the idea of sleep as a luxury that
you’re going to have to learn to live without for a few years.
If your baby’s not sleeping, address it. It’s not selfish, it’s not unrealistic, it’s necessary, and the
benefits are prolific for everyone.