I’m tired. It seems to me that it is a standard response to “how are you?”. Have you ever noticed that? I’ve even caught myself using that as my go to. Almost like if you’re not tired then you’re not working hard enough. Tired, however, to me is very broad.

There are three Webster dictionary definitions for tired:

  1. In need of sleep or rest; weary.
  2. Bored with.
  3. A thing that is no longer fresh or in good condition.

In the medical setting when someone tells me they are tired I always ask clarifying questions such as:

“Tell me more, is the tired a feeling of lack of sleep?”


“Do you feel like no matter how much you sleep or how much caffeine you drink you feel like your legs are logs and you just can’t get up and go.”

The response to these questions take us down very different paths of solutions. But for now let’s talk about lack of sleep.

As a mom of two beautiful daughters ages 6 and 3 I am no stranger to lack of sleep. In fact, as I write this I feel tired. I thought as my children got older my sleep would be restored (I know, I hear you veteran parents laughing at me).

I forgot about night time potty training, boogie men and thunderstorms. Besides just feeling tired though, I understand that a continued lack of sleep has a negative effect on my health. This quote from Thomas Dekker describes it perfectly.

“Sleep is the golden chain that binds health and our bodies together.”

We have a circadian rhythm to guide our sleep and wake pattern. At least we’re supposed to. For those of you with children, though, it seems like they have no concept of circadian rhythms.

I never in my life thought I would have to teach my children to sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) “Sleep For Kids” children sleep less in a 24 hours time frame than is recommended by experts. The NSF also reports that sleep habits of children have a direct impact on the adults caring for them.

Parents/caregivers whose children get the least amount of sleep are twice as likely to say they sleep less than six hours a night. On average, parents/caregivers lose slightly more than a half-hour of sleep each night because their child awakens them during the night.

Parents of infants lose the most sleep—nearly an hour on a typical night. Yet the recommendations on how to help your children and therefore help yourself sleep are quite varied.

I can speak to this personally. As a new parent surprised by having to teach my older infant/young toddler how to sleep I read article after article.

Desperate to find answers so I could go back to “feeling myself” and getting more sleep. I remember lying awake hiding under the sheets of my daughters bed reading articles about how to help my child fall asleep at night, by herself. Desperate to have some alone time with my spouse or myself, but also desperate to get my child to sleep.

What I can tell you is I don’t have THE answer.

I tried it all.

Cry it out (I hated this one), laying down, patting, nursing, bringing them in bed with me, sounds machines, expensive nighttime toys, falling asleep on the couch with the older toddler, reward charts.

All of these things can be tools, but it was consistency, positive reinforcement and sticking to a bedtime schedule at all costs is what worked the best.

What I did learn is what I would do differently the second time around. Which is everything. But remember, every child is different and what works or doesn’t work the first time may not work the second, third or fourth.

Here’s the thing, getting my children to sleep is just as much about my sleep hygiene as it is theirs.

When I’m sleep deprived I’m desperate. Which affects my parenting abilities, my memory, my work, my appetite and my hormones. Sleep loss has been shown to cause alterations in satiety hormones, feelings of hunger, and can lead to cravings for fatty comfort foods.

Carbohydrates foods turn to glucose the fastest in our body, which gives us the quickest energy “bursts”.

Healthy carbohydrates allow energy to stay elevated throughout the day, but with sleep deprivation our body is literally craving the energy burst to just get us through the next 30 minutes without falling asleep practically standing up. Cue the processed snack food high in sugar and refined starches.

So now, the next time you have a sleepless night and can’t seem to get enough chips, chocolate and sugary caffeinated beverages (not that I know anything about that, hint hint) remember the cravings are your body actually craving sleep and rest.

Allow yourself small breaks throughout the day to take this rest. Even if you don’t nap, although a 20 min nap can be much sweeter than a candy bar to your system, allow your body to rest, drink some water, get some fresh air and have a healthy snack of fruit and some form of nut or seed. Your body (and your children) will thank you.

There are countless articles and books out there you can read that tell you what you should do. Remember, they are just one person’s experience. What I can tell you is to make it a priority to figure out what works for you and your household and stick to it.

Don’t laugh, shrug and tell yourself “well I’ll sleep again someday” or “I’ll get to sleep enough when I die”.

Sleep is such an important piece of overall health, not a luxury, don’t take it lightly. For yourself or your children. Let’s not pride ourselves on being tired because it will catch up with us eventually.