What can busy parents do to get the rest they need? Read these facts and learn why sufficient sleep is so critical, and what you can do to get a better night's sleep.

The importance of sleep is often underestimated. In our busy society, people work hard and multitask -- often at the expense of getting enough rest. This is especially true for parents, who lose sleep to attend to the needs of their children. But adequate sleep is crucial in order for you to function safely and effectively in your daily life. Read these facts and learn why sufficient sleep is so critical, and what you can do to get a better night's sleep.

1. Why is adequate sleep so important?

Insufficient or poor quality of sleep can affect your life in many ways. According to the NSF, these are some of the ramifications of sleep problems:

  • Decreased alertness and attentiveness
  • Increased irritability and relationship difficulties
  • Decreased concentration and judgment
  • Decreased performance and productivity
  • Increased risk of accidents

For these reasons, it's important that you get the sleep your body needs to function. It's critical if you care for small children, drive a car, or work around heavy machinery. Don't think of sleep as a luxury -- it's a necessity for you to operate safely day to day!

2. How much sleep do I need?

The amount of sleep needed varies with each individual. The NSF suggests a simple experiment to determine your optimum amount of sleep. You need a week or so to determine it, so you should be able to go to sleep when you're tired and wake up naturally with no alarm clock. Taking a vacation or planning to have someone to help with your children is necessary to do this test.

Simply go to bed when you feel tired, and get up when you feel ready -- don't set an alarm clock. For a few days, you might be sleeping more if you've been deprived of sleep. But once you catch up, your body will tell you just how many hours you need to restore yourself each night. Once you've learned this important fact about yourself, you can adjust your schedule accordingly.

3. Is napping a good idea?

According to the NSF, a 15- to 20-minute nap can be very beneficial. It can help your alertness and memory, and reduce feelings of fatigue. Napping is a good way for exhausted parents to take the edge off their tiredness. But remember, in the long term a nap is not a substitute for a good night's sleep.

If you're unable to get a good night's sleep, you need to get help for safety's sake. If attending to small children is causing sleep loss that affects your daily functioning, work out a sleep schedule with your partner, enlist the help of a relative, or pay a child-care provider to help you get more sleep. If insomnia or another sleep disorder is the issue, you may need to see a specialist.

4. How can I get help with sleep problems?

There are successful treatments for sleep disorders, so you don't have to suffer in silence if you're not getting enough sleep. Talk with your doctor about your symptoms so he can refer you to a sleep disorders specialist. You'll have an initial consultation and will probably spend a night or two at the specialist's clinic to evaluate your sleep problems. You'll likely be given a polysomnogram, a painless and unobtrusive test that monitors brain waves, muscle activity, heartbeat, and more. After your condition is evaluated, the specialist can give you the appropriate treatment.

Source: National Sleep Foundation, www.sleepfoundation.org

All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.

American Baby