6 important reasons why moms need to (unapologetically) prioritize their sleep

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We enter into motherhood expecting that we won't sleep, at least in the early days. We adjust, do our best, and sometimes we get so used to running on empty that even long after our children have settled into a sleep routine, we're still surviving on insufficient sleep.

According to Terry Cralle, an RN, certified clinical sleep expert and the spokesperson for the Better Sleep Council, the myth of the supermom is pushing moms to prioritize all kinds of things over their own rest, and it's hurting us.

"I would love to see moms be unapologetic for their needs for sleep. It's a biological need and we're much better parents when we're well rested. There's just no glory in being sleep deprived," she tells Motherly.

Here are six good reasons why mothers should not apologize or feel guilty for needing rest:

1. Because there is a gender sleep gap

Research suggests that women who have kids are more likely to be sleep deprived, but having kids does nothing to men's sleeping patterns. Last year sleep researchers from Georgia Southern University released the results of a nationwide telephone survey of 5,805 men and women. They found that only 48% of mothers under 45 years old reported getting at least seven hours of sleep per night.

There is a gender sleep gap, and the myth of the supermom allows it to continue. Moms need sleep as much as dads do.

2. Because we don't need to sleep in sync

According to Dr. Carmel Harrington, author of The Complete Guide to a Good Night's Sleep" and "The Sleep Diet," couples often make the mistake of trying to sleep in sync, but moms need more or less sleep at different times in their lives and cycles.

"As we get closer to the end of our cycle, a lot of us suffer from PMT (premenstrual tension), feeling irritable, grumpy or emotional," she told Vogue Australia, noting that those symptoms are the hallmarks of sleep deprivation.

"One of the things that we often don't address is that fertile women require more sleep in the second half of their cycle," Harrington explained.

Basically, you may need more or less sleep at different times of the month, so matching your partner's bedtime isn't as important as listening to your body.

3. Because skipping sleep doesn't make more time

According to Cralle, a lot of mothers shortchange their sleep in an effort to make more hours in the day, for work, for laundry, for self-care, but unfortunately, the clock is finite.

Insufficient sleep doesn't give us more hours, it just makes us less productive in the time we do have.

"You'll do better if you get the recommended amount of sleep every night, not just on the weekends," Cralle tells Motherly. "If you consistently get sufficient amount of sleep you're going to do more in fewer hours, you're going to be more productive, and you're going to be happier, you're going to be healthier, and a whole lot of other things that are really life-changing."

4. Because it's hurting us at work

Moms already face a lot of barriers in the workplace, and studies show that insufficient sleep makes it even harder.

When we don't get enough sleep our performance and attendance suffer and that hurts us even more.

According to the CDC, one out of three U.S. adults aren't getting enough sleep. So sufficient sleep can be a secret weapon in competitive fields. Get some sleep, mama, so you can really shine.

5. Because it's hurting our health, and our families

Chronic insufficient sleep is linked to obesity, diabetes, hypertension and heart disease. Lack of sleep is also linked to mood disorders and depression. The physical impacts of lack of sleep may rob us of future time with our children, and the emotional impacts can stop us from enjoying the present with our kids.

"We are irritable when we're sleep deprived; we tend to get depressed when we're sleep deprived," Cralle tells Motherly.

She says that when mothers are getting the sleep they need, the whole family is healthier, physically and mentally, and that teaching our children the importance of sleep starts with getting enough ourselves.

"I think as adults we've disregarded it for a long time and it hasn't really been a personal value, let alone a family value," says Cralle.

6. Because moms have precious cargo

For a lot of us, driving our kids around is the literal equivalent to a part-time job. We're doing it upwards for five hours a week, and we shouldn't be doing it on so little sleep.

"We put people in danger by being sleep deprived. Drowsy driving is just as dangerous as drunk driving," says Cralle.

The Centers for Disease Control agrees. According to the CDC, America has a drowsy driving problem, and one way to make our roads safer is to get the rest we so need.

What about those times when it's just not possible?

There are times in motherhood where sufficient sleep just isn't in the cards, and we shouldn't feel guilty about that. When you have a crying baby or a sick toddler or a child who is fighting nightmares, sleep isn't a priority.

But in the seasons of life when we can make it a priority, we should, but it isn't always easy. It is so tempting to stay up late so we can have a couple hours of "me time," but doing it every night can lead to chronic sleep deprivation.

In a perfect world, mothers wouldn't have to choose between sleep and self-care, but sometimes we do. Try not to do it too much, and instead attempt to carve out some daytime time for you, even if it's just a few minutes.

How to get more sleep

Cralle suggests putting down your phone long before getting into bed, and keeping electronics out of the bedroom, can help mamas (and the whole family) get more rest. Giving yourself a media curfew can give your brain a buffer between screen time and sleep time, and help you fall asleep faster.

If habits aren't what's keeping you up, but parenting responsibilities are, don't be afraid to ask someone—a partner, a co-parent, a friend or family member—to take over childcare for awhile so you can get some rest.

We need seven to nine hours of sleep per night to be at our best. Don't apologize if you can't function on less than that. Moms do amazing things every day, but the truth is we don't have superpowers. We're only human, and we need to recharge.

[A version of this post was originally published August 28, 2018. It has been updated.]

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People often say that having a second child doesn't much add to the workload of parenting. There's no steep learning curve: You already know how to make a bottle, install a car seat and when to call the pediatrician. And you're already doing laundry, making lunches and supervising bath time—so throwing a second kid in the tub isn't a big deal.

Except that it is. Having a second child doesn't just mean attaching a second seat to your stroller. Adding a whole new person to your family is more complicated than that, and it's okay to say that it is hard.

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A study out of Australia disputes the popular idea that after making the transition from people to parents, making the jump from one child to two is easy. The researchers found that having a second child puts a lot of pressure on parents' time and their mental health, and mothers bear the brunt of the burden.

When looking at heterosexual couples, the researchers found that before a first child is born both partners feel equal amounts of "time pressure," but once the child is born, that pressure grows, more so for mothers than fathers.

Basically, parents feel psychological stress when they feel they don't have enough time to do all they need to. One baby makes both parents feel more stress, but mom's increase is more than dad's. When a second baby comes, that time pressure doubles for both parents, and since mom already had more than dad, there's now a gulf between them.

The researchers behind this study—Leah Ruppanner, Francisco Perales and Janeen Baxter—say that after a first child is born, a mother's mental health improves, but after a second child, it declines.

Writing for The Conversation, the trio explains:

"Second children intensify mothers' feelings of time pressure. We showed that if mothers did not have such intense time pressures following second children, their mental health would actually improve with motherhood. Fathers get a mental health boost with their first child, but also see their mental health decline with the second child. But, unlike mothers, fathers' mental health plateaus over time. Clearly, fathers aren't facing the same chronic time pressure as mothers over the long-term."

The researchers say that even when mothers reduce their work time, the time pressure is still there and that "mothers cannot shoulder the time demands of children alone."

Adding a second child to the family isn't just a matter of throwing a few more socks in the laundry: It means a schedule that is already stretched is now filling up with twice as many appointments, twice as many school functions. Mothers only have 24 hours in the day, and as much as we wish we could add a couple extra hours per child, we can't.

Time simply can't change to help us, but society can. As the researchers noted, when time pressure is removed, motherhood actually improves mental health.

We love our lives, we love our kids, we love parenting, but there is only so much of our day to go around.

Ruppanner, Perales and Baxter suggest that if society were to help mothers out more, our mental health (and therefore our children's wellbeing as well) would improve even after two or three kids. "Collectivising childcare – for example, through school buses, lunch programs and flexible work policies that allow fathers' involvement – may help improve maternal mental health," the researchers explain, adding that "it is in the national interest to reduce stressors so that mothers, children and families can thrive."

Whether you're talking about Australia or America, that last bit is so true, but this research proves that the myth about second-time parenthood isn't. Even if you already have the skills and the hand-me-downs, having a second child isn't as easy as it is sometimes made out to be.

We can love our children and our lives and still admit when things aren't easy.

[This post was first published December 18, 2018.]


News

As parents we don't start our families thinking we will lose our partner or a child when they are still in their prime, but that is what happened to Vanessa Bryant when tragedy struck her family on Sunday. We feel incredible pain and sadness for Vanessa who is now dealing with the unimaginable at less than a year postpartum. It's impossible to conceive of the grief that Vanessa and her daughters are feeling today and our hearts are with them.

America is mourning the loss of the basketball superstar and his daughter Gianna, who was only 13 years old. The two were killed in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California.

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Gianna, or Gigi as her family called her, brought her father back to basketball after his retirement and was showing the world that girls can be amazing athletes.

As her father explained on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Gianna's goal was to play in the WNBA and her father was sure she could make that happen. Bryant told Kimmel: "The best thing that happens is when we go out and fans will come up to me, and she'll be standing next to me. And they'll be like, 'Man, you gotta have a boy. You and V gotta have a boy, man, have somebody carry on your tradition, the legacy.' And she's like, 'Oy, I got this. You don't need no boy for that. I got this." And I'm like, 'That's right. Yes, you do. You got this.'"

Like her father, Gianna was an incredibly talented basketball player. Her basketball teammate, Alyssa Altobelli, along with her parents, Keri and Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli were also killed. It's an unimaginable loss of young talent and knowledge for the basketball community, a nation and the victims' families.

Kobe and Vanessa Bryant just welcomed their fourth child, baby Capri Kobe Bryant, in July 2019. "We are beyond excited that our baby girl 'Koko' has arrived!!," Kobe announced on Instagram.

The hearts of an entire nation and much of the world are with them in this terrible moment. Bryant was beloved and the news of his death and Gianna's is hitting many people incredibly hard.

If you are having trouble coping with the news today mama, remember that It is okay to turn it off. It is okay to go offline and turn your attention to your family. It's okay to talk about how hard this is hitting you and to take time to give yourself some extra care as you process this. Grief looks different for everyone and even those who never met Bryant were touched by his cultural impact and legacy.

News

If you're expecting a baby this year you've got plenty of celebrity company, mama. From reality TV stars to bloggers and A-list actresses, there is a baby boom happening in celebrity circles right now.

Amy Schumer, Snooki and Christina Anstead are just a few of the celebrity moms who recently welcomed little ones and there are a ton more who are still waiting to meet their kiddos.

Here are some fellow parents-to-be expecting in 2020:

America Ferrera will be a mom of 2 in 2020 

America Ferrera and her husband Ryan Piers Williams already have one little boy, 1-year-old Sebastian, and soon he will be a big brother!

"Welcoming Baby #2 in 2020! 🥰" she captioned a family photo released early in the year.

Congratulations, mama!

Modern Family's Jesse Tyler Ferguson will be a dad in 2020! 

Moden Family may be ending but Jesse Tyler Ferguson's family is just beginning. In January the sitcom star announced he's expecting a baby with his husband, Justin Mikita.

"This is something I haven't even mentioned to anyone, if we could just keep it between the three of us and you all, but I'm actually expecting a baby in July with my husband," he said on The Late Late Show.


Laura Prepon is expecting her second child 

Actors Laura Prepon and Ben Foster share 2-year-old daughter Ella and will soon share one more little one.

Prepon announced her pregnancy on Instagram:. "We are so excited to announce that our family is growing. Life is beautiful!"

Report: Michelle Williams is engaged + pregnant 🎉

Mom of one Michelle Williams will soon be a mom of two!

News of the actress' pregnancy and engagement to Tony Award-winning director Thomas Kail was first reported by People and confirmed by E! News. The actress split from her former husband musician Phil Elverum nearly a year ago.

Williams and Kail previously worked together when Kail directed Fosse/Verdon, in which Williams starred. She won an Emmy for that performance and her powerful Emmy acceptance speech inspired working moms everywhere by acknowledging "what is possible when a woman is trusted to discern her own needs, feels safe enough to voice them, and respected enough that they'll be heard."

Williams' incredible speech ended with a shout out to her 14-year-old daughter, Matilda, who she shared with the late Heath Ledger: "Matilda, this is for you, like everything else."

Matilda was just 2 years old when she and Williams lost Ledger in 2008.

In the years since his death, Williams has protected their daughter's privacy with the same intensity she brings to her work. In addition to her Emmy win, she has won a Golden Globe and been nominated for four Academy Awards since becoming a mother.

Williams has demonstrated that motherhood is no impediment to professional success and we can't wait to see what she does as a mother of two!

Hope Solo is pregnant with twins! 🎉

Soccer superstar Hope Solo just announced she is pregnant...and expecting twins!

She broke the news during the beIN Sports show Weekend Winners, which she co-hosts.

She's having a boy and a girl and can't wait to meet her "miniature soccer team".

"Yes, my husband and I get to practice equality from the very beginning with one boy and one girl," Solo explained during the segment, which was posted to Twitter.

This is a rainbow pregnancy for Solo, who miscarried twins in 2018.

We are so happy for Hope and her husband, former NFL player Jerramy Stevens.

Can't wait to see this mini soccer team in action!

Bekah Martinez is pregnant again! 🎉

Bekah Martinez first pregnancy announcement shocked the world in September 2018 and now she's just announced she's expecting again!

The Bachelor alum and her partner Grayston Leonard are having another baby, as seen in a sonogram Bekah posted to Instagram.

"Thankful," she captioned the pic.

The baby will join older sister Ruth who was born in February.

Jenna Dewan and Steve Kazee are having a baby! 

The last two years have seen a lot of changes for Jenna Dewan. In April 2018 she and former husband Channing Tatum announced they had "lovingly chosen to separate as a couple". Later that year she was publicly linked to boyfriend Steve Kazee.

Now, another change is on the horizon for Dewan as she and Kazee are expecting their first child together. The baby will join 6-year-old Everly, who Dewan co-parents with Tatum.

"We are beyond overjoyed and couldn't be happier to be expanding our family!" Dewan and Kazee told People.

That's pretty much all the couple is saying at this point, and we can't blame them. They've confirmed the pregnancy to media outlets, but haven't shared much or made any announcements on Instagram but we can't wait to see what Dewan decides to share as she embarks on this journey.

Every pregnancy is different, so even though she's not a first-time mom, Dewan may be in for some surprises. The one thing we know for sure is that her life is about to change again, in a big way.

Congratulations to Jenna and Steve! 🎉

Eva Amurri Martino will soon be a mom of 3!

Blogger Eva Amurri Martino, aka Happily Eva After, just announced she and her sportscaster husband Kyle Martino and expecting a their third baby.

"I'm so thrilled to announce our most exciting collab yet. Head to HappilyEvaAfter.com for the full video and reveal," she wrote in an Instagram caption teasing the announcement.

On her blog she wrote: "Our family is ecstatic to share this 'collab' that has been brewing now for several months!"

Baby no. 3 will join the couple's two older children, 2-year-old Major James and 5-year-old Marlowe.

Congrats Eva!

[A version of this post was originally published October 21, 2018. It has been updated. ]

News

When infectious diseases make headlines parents naturally get a little worried, and this week coronavirus is in the news constantly. The coronavirus has infected more than 600 people worldwide, though mostly in China. As of Jan. 23, Chinese authorities have reported 17 deaths from the virus so far. Only two cases have been confirmed in the U.S. and officials are monitoring 63 suspected cases.

Here's what you need to know, mama.

1. Don't panic.

According to the World Health Organization the coronavirus outbreak is not an international public health emergency.

"CDC believes the immediate risk to the U.S. public is low at this time, but the situation is evolving rapidly," Dr. Nancy Messonnier, the director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said on a conference call with media on Friday. "We have our best people working on this problem," Messonnier explained, adding that we will likely see more cases in the coming days.

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2. There have been no fatalities in children.

The youngest victim of a confirmed case of novel coronavirus is 36 years old. Most of the fatal cases in China have been in people over 60 and more men than women have been impacted.

3. The family of coronaviruses is a spectrum of severity.

According to the CDC, most people will be infected with a coronavirus at some point in their lives. The common strains of coronavirus cause "moderate upper-respiratory tract illnesses, like the common cold" while more severe strains, including Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrom (MERS) can be fatal.

The strain that is making headlines is a severe and novel coronavirus. It's new and the similarities to influenza make it difficult for experts to distinguish it from all the other respiratory illnesses floating around this time of year.

4. There is a test for it.

When public health officials suspect someone may have coronavirus they can send respiratory and serum samples to the CDC and find out if it's coronavirus or just the flu within about 24 hours.

5. There are steps to take for prevention.

To prevent the spread of the virus the U.S. State Department has issued its most severe travel advisory for the area of China (the province of Hubei, where the city of Wuhan is) most impacted by the coronavirus.

The CDC offers the following tips for protecting your family from the coronavirus (as well as other respiratory illnesses):

  • "Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds."
  • "Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands."
  • "Avoid close contact with people who are sick."
Bottom line: Don't panic, mama. The illness is likely to be in the headlines for months, but that doesn't mean we need to live in fear. We just need to be proactive and keep washing those little hands.
News
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