Every January gyms start bursting at the seams with people resolved to get fit and healthy in the new year. As a fitness industry professional, I love January with all my little heart! Then, every March — sometimes sooner — the gym calms back down to its original pace, with all those New Year’s resolutioners comfortably back on the couch.
It’s frustrating to see all that momentum come to a screeching halt. I have my ideas as to why so many people fall off the fitness wagon after starting with so much resolve, but I’m going to focus on just one here, because it’s one that mamas deal with all year long, for years on end.
They don’t get enough rest.
Until a hundred or so years ago, humans relied on the sun to tell us when to sleep. We slept when it was dark and worked when it was light. Without artificial light allowing us to function after sundown, what choice did we have but to rest?
Then came the invention of the electric light, and along with it came an almost limitless ability for productivity. We could work round-the-clock without the pesky darkness telling us to calm the heck down and take a nap. Then came tv, computers, and — God help us all — smartphones and Netflix. While the need for sleep or the way the human body functions hasn’t changed, our sleep habits certainly have. The average American now sleeps just over six hours per night.
So what does all this have to do with sticking to those New Year’s resolutions?
Simple: your body can’t work to its full potential when you’re tired, and the first thing to go when you’re feeling weary is that new habit with which you’re trying to stick: healthy eating and exercise. If you need some proof as to how important sleep is, just do a quick Google search for “athlete’s sleep habits.” I’ll go ahead and save you some time and list a few here.
Lebron James sleeps 12 hours per night.
Roger Federer sleeps 11-12 hours per night.
Tom Brady’s bedtime is 8:30pm.
Rich Froning (four-time Crossfit games champion and “fittest man on Earth”) sleeps 9-10 hours per night.
How about some ladies?
Shalane Flanagan sleeps 9-10 hours per night.
Lindy Barber (Crossfit games athlete) sleeps 9-10 hours per night.
Sam Briggs (another Crossfit pro) sleeps 10 hours per night.
I know, I know…we are not professional athletes. Even though my part time job is literally getting paid to work out, I don’t work out at the level of a pro athlete. But, if these people who make their living doing something that requires their bodies to be in tip-top shape prioritize sleep, shouldn’t we?
An article recently appeared on HuffPost discussing how those who make sleep a priority get more of it. Seems logical, right? My question is: why aren’t we all prioritizing sleep?
As mamas, we are often judged by our busyness, amiright? It’s like we are self-made martyrs: “I am SO exhausted. I was up half the night working on a tutu for my little darling’s costume day at school.” “Johnny had practice until 9pm the last three nights and I am just wiped!” or even the all-too-common “The baby had me up every hour last night! I need a double espresso, STAT!” There is always something to do, something to clean, something to cook, someone to console, and holy cannoli, the laundry! It never ends!
So…why are we staying up until 11pm binge-watching Stranger Things? Or scrolling through Facebook? We make our kids shut off the tv, turn out the lights, and go to sleep…so why don’t we? Why are we sacrificing such an important part of our health for things like tutus and practices and social media?
I was never great at resting. I have ADHD (hello, hyperactivity!) and a heap of energy. I’m also guilt-ridden by years of watching my mamaw and my mom work from the time they woke up in the morning until the time they went to bed at night, and feel lazy if I sit down during the middle of the day.
I’ve learned a thing or two over the years, though: 1. My mom and my mamaw got SLEEP. They didn’t watch tv or scroll through social media before going to sleep. At 9pm, it was lights out and they didn’t get up until 6am. The reason they were able to go nonstop from 6am until 9pm is because they rested well. 2. The work never ends. Whether I rest or not, the work continues to pile up. I, however, am much better equipped to deal with all that work when I am well-rested. I am also much LESS likely to go all dragon-mom and scream at my family if I’ve had some decent shut-eye. I no longer feel guilty for taking a nap in the middle of the day. If I didn’t get great sleep but still had to get up at 4:30am to teach an early class, no one is judging me for sleeping for an hour while the kids have their quiet time. News flash: no one knows I’m napping unless I tell them, anyway.
There is no doubt that getting adequate rest when you’re in the thick of raising little ones is TOUGH, but we aren’t doing ourselves any favors by committing to too much or staying up late doing things that really don’t matter.