Get some sleep

Parents need to rest, too

Middle-aged adults are not sleeping enough, according to a recent study in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

The 669 participants in the study, done in Chicago, slept an average of 6.1 hours each night. Some experts argue adults need seven to nine hours.

The findings raise questions about how well sleep-deprived adults function as parents.

"If a parent is not getting enough sleep, it affects everything that they do," says Dr. Stephen Sheldon, director of the Sleep Medicine Center at Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago. "Not only their ability to manage the situation, but their mood and their performance and their attention changes."

"Parents who are not getting the sleep they need are not going to parent as well," agrees Jodi Mindell, associate director of the Sleep Disorders Center at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and author of Sleeping through the Night: How Infants, Toddlers, and Their Parents Can Get a Good Night's Sleep. While adult insomnia often stems from poor sleep habits or tension about sleep, children's insomnia usually results from habits their parents set up.

Though researchers haven't yet studied the link between sleep deprivation and parenting, Mindell says tired adults are more likely to be irritable and less able to emotionally regulate themselves. She also worries about parents driving while drowsy.

Dr. Michael Kohrman, associate professor of pediatrics and neurology at the University of Chicago, suggests that parents with sleep trouble avoid caffeine, set a regular sleep schedule, avoid exercise after 7 p.m. and get rid of the bedroom TV.

If problems persist, a sleep disorder may be to blame, and it's time to see your doctor, Mindell says.

Joanna Broder

*This is an updated version of a story that orginally ran in Chicago Parent.

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