The effects of fragmented sleep go beyond a tired body—it also impacts how you think and cope, your mental and physical health and your relationship with your partner. Luckily, we’ve got some tips for getting the rest you desperately need to recharge.
Sleep is an essential function that allows your body and mind to recharge, leaving you refreshed and alert when you wake up. Healthy sleep also helps the body remain healthy and and balanced. Parents of babies are notoriously sleep-deprived, which can lead to relationship and health issues if left unchecked.
The Science Behind Sleep
To deal with sleep deprivation, you need to understand the sleep cycle. There are actually two different types of sleep: rapid eye movement (REM), known as dream sleep, and non-REM.
Non-REM is made up of three stages.
Stage one is a transitioning state. The body begins to relax and you have a semi-awareness of your surroundings.
Stage two, is a deeper sleep. Your body temperature drops, heartbeat and breathing slow down, and eye movements cease.
Stage three is deep sleep; breathing is slower and you show no response to what's going on around you. This stage plays an important role in making you feel refreshed and alert the next day.
REM stage will occur about 90 minutes after you fall asleep. As the name suggests, your eyes will move back and forth rather quickly under your eyelids. Breathing rate, heart rate, and blood pressure will begin to increase. Dreaming will typically occur during REM sleep, and your arms and legs will become paralysed.
The entire cycle of sleep is completed about four to six times a night.
The Importance of Sleep
With sleep deprivation, you're not just short on deep sleep; you're also getting less dream sleep. Dreams play a surprisingly important role in our ability to think clearly. During REM sleep, the brain sorts memories and processes the day's events. Lack of REM sleep can cause memory lapses and make tasks requiring higher cognitive functioning more difficult, leaving you feeling scattered and foggy. During sleep, your brain is forming connections to help you process and remember new information. Sleep deprivation can disrupt these processes, leading to problems with both short- and long-term memory.
For parents, sleep deprivation makes a range of daily activities problematic—from paying bills to finding the patience to deal with a cranky baby or toddler. It is indeed much harder to use techniques such as distraction or humor, instead of yelling, when you're exhausted.
Another negative consequence of sleep deprivation include mood changes. When you're extremely tired, you may feel irritable, emotional, and temperamental. You may be quicker to lash out at friends and family members. This could even escalate into problems with anxiety and depression.
When you sleep, your body's immune system is producing antibodies. Without sufficient sleep, your body's defenses are weakened, meaning you may be at higher risk of contracting viruses like the flu and common cold.
Weight gain is another possible consequence. Sleep is associated with the production of two hormones that control your feelings of hunger and fullness: Leptin and Ghrelin. Sleep deprivation may put these hormones off-balance, causing you to overindulge. You may also have less energy to exercise.
In addition, lack of sleep increases reaction times, which can make activities like driving and exercise unsafe.
" With getting up constantly in the middle of the night, and just devoting all of my time to the baby, there is no time for romance or intimacy. I'm so tired that sex is really the last thing on my mind."
The Relationship Between Sleep and Sex
As mention above, sleep has far-reaching effects on well-being. It is a pillar of health that is critical to nearly every process and system of the body. Sex and sexuality also are important components of health in adults. Sexual health is not only physical but also involves emotions, relationships, and broader quality of life.
Despite the major role that both sleep and sex have in overall wellness, the relationship between them has often been overlooked.
Poor sleep can lead to emotional and relationship problems that can interfere sexual health. A lack of sleep can cause frequent conflicts with a partner, fostering an emotional state that heightens stress, reduces intimacy, and detracts from a satisfying relationship and sex life.
Fortunately, while there is more research to be done, evidence so far demonstrates that quality sleep can enhance intimacy and promote a better sex life, and a healthy sex life can facilitate improved sleep.