5 Reasons Why Sleep Is Not Selfish

Parental sacrifice is no joke. Becoming a parent immediately puts you, your needs and your wants, into the back seat, heck maybe even out the window entirely.

It’s not a secret this happens. We prepare for it. We pick out durable, cheap laminate instead of beautiful, expensive hardwood that we love. We trade in our pretty clothes for our hubby’s t-shirts and yoga pants. Swap out our wine for water for 9+ months and trade in the 2 door for a mini van. Our bodies create living beings, which is insane and so beautiful, and our bodies are never quite the same. Sadly, our brains aren’t quite the same either. But it’s worth it all. Every nick in the wall, every bottle of dry shampoo because you should have showered two days ago, every bruise and scar, so, so worth it.

I have three boys and I have lived and am living all of this. I wouldn’t have it any other way. This is what we signed up for. The one thing I haven’t sacrificed is my sleep. I remember when I was highly pregnant with my first baby, people would ask if I was sleeping okay. I was, and then they would say something like, “Well, enjoy it now, because you’ll never sleep again after baby comes.” Really?? Never again?? But it was part of the package, so according to those around us, we willingly dove into the never-sleep-again life stage. But we did sleep, we do sleep. Obviously when our babies were little we were up during the night for feedings and attending to their needs. Those first months were a blur of nursing, cuddling, crying (them and me) and waking up to do it all again the next day. But as they grew older, we prioritized their sleep. Was it awesome for us? YES!!! Undoubtedly. But was it selfish for us to want to sleep again?

As a sleep consultant I have worked with so many families to get them sleeping well again. One of the things I hear over and over is a deep seeded fear parents have that in making this choice, they are being selfish. They fear that the process of getting them sleeping again will come at an expense to their baby.

I don’t believe that. In fact, I believe it’s quite the opposite and here’s why:

  1. Sleep promotes growth. The Human Growth Hormone (HGH) is released by the brain into the bloodstream during sleep. Babies grow at an incredible rate in their first years and getting proper, consolidated sleep is vital to their growth and development.
  2. Babies and children who have healthy sleep habits are at a lower risk of developing obesity, diabetes and heart disease. They are also at a lower risk for developing hyperactivity and impulsivity issues.
  3. If you are parenting while exhausted and sleep deprived, you are not doing your best work. No one does a job better when they are over tired and parenting is no different. Our babies and children need an infinite amount of patience and energy from you in order to thrive. When you are getting the sleep you need, you will have more to give to them.
  4. Post partum depression and baby blues are exacerbated by exhaustion. Our mental health is deeply connected to our sleep or lack thereof. If you have been diagnosed, or suspect you may have PPD, talk to your doctor, a friend, a counsellor or all of the above. Getting more sleep won’t be the only answer, but it will help.
  5. Becoming a parent does not negate the other roles you play. It does not mean you cease to be a wife, partner, friend or independent person. If you are parenting around the clock, these relationships suffer and don’t get the proper attention and care they need. If you are a two parent family, that relationship is the foundation of your home. If your baby and/or children go to bed at an appropriate time and are able to get good amounts of consolidated sleep during the night, you will have evenings with your partner or to yourself. Our relationships need quality time, not just the minutes that are left over. This is an incredible gift for our children.

If you’re a Sleepwell alumni family, you know all of this. You know that it’s not a selfish decision. There is so much guilt out there about how we parent our children, in articles, the media, and we are our worst critics. Everyone parents differently and I will always say to do what works for your own family. But if you are reading this, bleary eyed, weepy and deep into your third cup of coffee wondering if you’ll ever sleep again, you can. And it’s okay because sleep is not selfish.

Teresa Johnson is a Certified Child Sleep Consultant with Sleepwell Baby. She works with families to help them get the sleep they need. Teresa offers support to parents with children ages 4 months- 8 years old through both in home and remote consultations. She can be contacted at teresa@sleepwellbaby.ca.

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