I’m a working mom. I juggle a lot of responsibilities and activities throughout the day. My calendar and brain are overloaded with all the things I’ve got to do to keep my household and life running smoothly. At the end of the day, when my kid is finally asleep… I breathe a sigh of relief and think, “Yay, it’s me time!” It’s time to read my book or watch the latest Netflix show or do all the laundry I possibly can or respond to all those texts or finally spend some time connecting with my husband. Just how much stuff can I cram in between the hours of 7pm-12am until I just can’t keep my eyes open any longer?
Recently, however, I had several nights in a row where I simply couldn’t do it. My gas tank was totally empty by 5pm. In fact, once my 2-year-old was asleep at 7pm all I could think about was getting into bed myself. So by 9pm I was zonked out.
The next day I felt better than I had in a long time! I was clearer headed, more patient and if truth be told a little nicer too. The next night, I decided I would try it again. By 9pm it was lights out. The next day, again, I found that my tolerance for the maddening antics of my toddler was much higher, my attitude was more upbeat despite a packed day of work and my husband didn’t annoy me nearly as much.
So I did a little research and as it turns out, going to bed around the same time every night and waking up around the same time every morning is one of the best things you can do for yourself. Here’s why.
Consistency is the best thing you can do for your overall health.
This isn’t surprising if you really stop to think about it. We all have our kids on a schedule right? We know that our kids are better behaved when they eat, take a nap and go to bed at the same time each day. So why don’t we take care of ourselves in the same way?
A new study, first reported by Reuters, shows that keeping a consistent daily schedule — where you eat, start working and go outside around the same time each day — is associated with better sleep.
Inconsistency in your sleep and wake times is linked to higher cholesterol, greater insulin resistance, a bigger waistline and a higher body mass index. Not to mention overall moodiness and impatience. Studies show that overall, consistent routines are good for you in many ways.
It’s good for the quality of your sleep.
Going to bed around the same time every night—whether you’re tired or not—is better for the quality of your sleep. Having a consistent sleep schedule can make it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep through the night, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
It’s good for your waistline.
New research finds that adults who slept for six hours a night had waist measurement 1.2 inches larger than those who slept for nine hours a night. That means that the ones who only got six hours of sleep a night were fatter! Yes! Fatter. The research team thinks that a lack of sleep interferes with our metabolism and our body’s ability to maintain a healthy weight.
Another study that included 330 young women showed a direct correlation between inconsistent sleep and higher body fat levels. Yikes.
It’s good for your brain.
If you’ve had a newborn you know the effects of sleep deprivation. Some countries punish prisoners of war with sleep deprivation. It’s literally torture! I remember getting behind the wheel for the first time after my baby was born. He was three weeks old and I was just running a simple errand. Once I got on the road I realized that I felt like I was totally drunk. I would have tested clean on a breathalyzer but I felt like I’d had about a bottle or two of wine. My mental capacity was completely handicapped by the fact that I hadn’t gotten more than four hours of sleep a night for three weeks in a row.
Turns out that sleep deprivation makes us moody and irritable, and impairs brain functions such as memory and decision-making. And to another extreme, the latest of these studies shows that just one night of sleep deprivation shows an accumulation in the brain of a protein implicated in Alzheimer’s. Lack of sleep also negatively impacts the rest of the body – it impairs the functioning of the immune system, which, makes us more susceptible to infection.
In essence, not getting enough quality sleep can negatively affect us in so many ways. And yet, when your kiddo goes to sleep tonight, I bet you’re still going to stay up till 11pm or 12pm trying to “get stuff done” or watching Jimmy Fallon.
But is it worth it?
Personally, I’ve accepted the fact that in order to lead my best life—to be a more patient mom, a more creative and critical thinker at work and a better wife and person in general—I’ve got to accept that I’ve got get everything I need out of life within the window of 6am and 9:30pm. At least for this season in my life. When the kids are teenagers maybe I can go back to my night owl ways. Until then, it’s lights out at 9:30pm for me. (Except on the weekends, of course. A girl has to have some fun every now and then.)