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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It was a historical moment for the world and a scary moment for a woman who had just become a mother for the first time. When the Duchess of Cambridge stepped out of the Lindo Wing at St. Mary's Hospital on July 22, 2013, with her new baby in her arms she was happy—but understandably scared, too.

Kate Middleton recently appeared on Giovanna Fletcher's Happy Mum, Happy Baby podcast and when Fletcher asked her about her postpartum debut Kate said she felt a little freaked out when she stepped out with her newborn.

"Yeah, slightly terrifying, slightly terrifying, I'm not going to lie," Kate said.

During the podcast the Duchess opened up about her pregnancy and birth experiences, explaining how much hypnobirthing helped her and that she didn't know whether she was delivering a prince or princess until Prince George was born as she'd opted to be surprised.

She was surprised and thrilled when she met her son, and looked forward to post-pregnancy life after spending her pregnancy quite ill with hyperemesis gravidarum (a seriously debilitating form of extreme morning sickness). She was happy, but was also (very understandably) overwhelmed. In addition to all the pressure new moms feel, Kate had an army of photographers waiting outside the hospital for her.

"Everything goes in a bit of a blur. I think, yeah I did stay in hospital overnight, I remember it was one of the hottest days and night with huge thunderstorms so I didn't get a huge amount of sleep, but George did, which was really great," she explained. "I was keen to get home because, for me, being in hospital, I had all the memories of being in hospital because of being sick [with acute morning sickness] so it wasn't a place I wanted to hang around in. So, I was really desperate to get home and get back to normality."

Kate wanted to get home, but she also did want to share her baby boy with the public who had been so supportive of her young family, she explains.

"Everyone had been so supportive and both William and I were really conscious that this was something that everyone was excited about and you know we're hugely grateful for the support that the public had shown us, and actually for us to be able to share that joy and appreciation with the public, I felt was really important," she shared, adding that "Equally it was coupled with a newborn baby, and inexperienced parents, and the uncertainty of what that held, so there were all sorts of mixed emotions."

"All sorts of mixed emotions."

The now-iconic images of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge exiting the hospital with their firstborn have gone down in history, but so has Kate's bravery that day.

There's been a lot written about whether those pictures put pressure on other moms who might not feel ready for heels and blowouts right after giving birth, but one thing critics of the photos often miss is the positive impact it had on other young women.

Yes, Kate looked beautiful, but she also looked like a woman whose body had just given birth—and the iconic images of her in that polka-dot dress taught a generation of women that the female body isn't an elastic band and that recovering from birth takes time.

"I, myself remember being really surprised when Kate Middleton came out of the hospital holding Prince George," Tina, now a mom herself and a model of postpartum realness in Mothercare's "Body Proud Mums campaign" explained last year.

Tina recalls how Kate's postpartum appearance showed her a reality society hadn't: "She had the baby bump, and I remember being surprised that your belly doesn't just go down after giving birth. I also thought how stupid I was to have ever thought it would. I guess pre-children you just have unrealistic expectations."

Tina wasn't stupid, she just hadn't been shown the truth.

So thank you, Kate, for stepping out of that hospital in 2013, despite being terrified, and showing the world your beautiful baby and your bump.


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[Editor's note: Motherly is committed to covering all relevant presidential candidate plans as we approach the 2020 election. We are making efforts to get information from all candidates. Motherly does not endorse any political party or candidate. We stand with and for mothers and advocate for solutions that will reduce maternal stress and benefit women, families and the country.]

If you've been following the Democratic candidates online you've likely noticed that Amy Klobuchar's 24-year-old daughter, Abigail Klobuchar Bessler, frequently appears in her mother's social media and at campaign events. In fact, Washington Post columnist Karen Tumulty recently declared "Amy Klobuchar's daughter wins Iowans for her mother, one hotdish at a time."

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It is fitting that Abigail is one of Klobuchar's biggest supporters and her most popular surrogate, as her birth is the reason why her mom entered politics in the first place. Klobuchar was wheeled out of the hospital, without her baby, 24 hours after giving birth and decided to fight to save other mothers from the same fate.

Back in 1995, Abigail was born without the ability to swallow, and as The Washington Post's Marc Fisher reports, Klobuchar was soon discharged and forced to leave her baby behind. Klobuchar and her husband checked into a nearby hotel so that they could return to the hospital every three hours to pump breastmilk for Abigail.

Klobuchar wore her hospital gown for three days, going back and forth from the hospital to the hotel. Her experience sounds extreme in the age of family centered care, but it was pretty normal at the time. Back in the mid-90s rapid postpartum discharge was a common occurrence in American hospitals, as insurance companies aimed to keep costs down by getting moms out of the hospitals ASAP.

"I saw it as injustice for moms. I thought if men had babies, this would never happen. It was one of those one-size-fits-all policies that just didn't allow for any humanity. You've been up for 48 hours, you're a brand-new mom and you have no idea what you're doing, and they kick you out. You don't know if your child's going to live," Klobuchar said, decades later.

She wasn't a politician yet, but she was a lawyer and a new mom determined to change things, so, as she told Lisa DePaulo for Elle back in 2010, Klobuchar gathered up "six of her 'closest pregnant friends'" and successfully lobbied for Minnesota to guarantee new moms a 48-hour hospital stay.

"When some lobbyists wanted to delay the time until the bill took effect," Klobuchar recalled, they had to ask when it should take effect. "All my pregnant friends raised their hands and said, `Now," she said.

It worked, and the mom who was wheeled out of the hospital too soon became a mom on the road to political success.

In 2006 Klobuchar became the first woman elected as senator in Minnesota's history. In 2020 she hopes to be the first woman elected as President. She placed third in the New Hampshire primary this week, prompting pundits to declare her a "serious candidate."

Abigail Klobuchar Bessler says her mom has always been serious about fighting for families, and the 24-year-old is so serious about supporting her mom that she's using up all her PTO from her job in New York City Council's office to do it, telling TIME: "Who better to talk about my mom than someone who's known her her whole life?"

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Gabrielle Union + Dwyane Wade have been blended family goals, an inspiration to those struggling with infertility and now they are an inspiration to parents of trans kids and supporters of trans rights.

This week Wade appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, and spoke about his 12-year-old daughter Zaya coming out as transgender and Union posted a beautiful video + caption to Instagram, inviting fans to "meet Zaya."

In the video Zaya is riding in a golf cart with her dad and dropping wisdom. She says: "Just be true to yourself, because what's the point of even living on this earth if you're going to try to be someone you're not?...Be true and don't really care what the 'stereotypical' way of being you is."

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Union was so impressed by her step-daughter, captioning the video: "She's compassionate, loving, whip smart and we are so proud of her. It's Ok to listen to, love & respect your children exactly as they are. Love and light good people."

Later in the week Union addressed criticism of Zaya's transition on Twitter, writing: "This has been a journey. We're still humbly learning but we decided quickly w/ our family that we wouldn't be led by fear. We refuse to sacrifice the freedom to live authentically becuz we are afraid of what ppl might say. U have the ability to learn & evolve."

Zaya's big brother is also on her side. Newly 18-year-old Zaire posted the cutest throwback pic from when he and Zaya were just little kids, noting how the siblings were and are best friends.

"Man, I remember bugging my mom as a kid telling her I wanted a brother so bad. I was the only child looking for company and someone to look after and take care of," Zaire began his caption. "I have been blessed to have my best friend, Zaya with me for 12 years. We did everything together … we fought, we played, we laughed and we cried. But the one thing we never did was leave each other behind."

Zaire continued: "I've told you that I would lay my life down to make sure you are ten toes down and happy on this earth," he told his younger sibling. "I don't care what they think Z, you are my best friend and I love you kid, and if it means anything, just know there's no love lost on this side ✊🏾"

We are so impressed and inspired by the love Zaya's family is showing her (and other kids by sharing this story publicly). You've got this Zaya!

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The Duchess of Cambridge is opening up about the meditative method that helped her deliver all three of her children and helped her cope with pregnancies made challenging by hyperemesis gravidarum (HG), a seriously debilitating form of pregnancy nausea and vomiting.

The former Kate Middleton says she relied on hypnobirth, which is routinely used at the hospital where she delivered. In a new interview on the Happy Mum, Happy Baby podcast with Giovanna Fletcher, Kate explained, "I saw the power of it really, the meditation and the deep breathing and things like that—that they teach you in hypnobirthing—when I was really sick and actually I realized that this was something I could take control of, I suppose, during labor," she said.

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The Duchess explained: "It was through hyperemesis that I really realized the power of the mind over the body because I really had to try everything to try and help me through it."

So what is hypnobirthing?

Well, it's not the party trick hypnosis commonly portrayed in pop culture. It's more of a form of meditation proven to help mothers relax during childbirth. It involves visualization, breathing techniques, guided meditation and sometimes massage.

It can be used during vaginal births and C-sections (and, as Kate proves, even when you're not giving birth but dealing with other challenges). Research indicates hypnobirth may make labor faster and reduce the risk of C-section, and that it can reduce a mom's fear and anxiety. Classes on hypnobirthing are available in most major cities (many experts recommend taking them when you're around 25 to 30 weeks), and several companies offer online courses as well.

Colleen Temple shares her experience. "Pre-hypnobirthing, I would literally cry on the spot when I thought about going into labor. Post-hypnobirthing? I felt empowered, strong, prepared and very ready to birth my baby. It transformed my mindset completely," she previously wrote for Motherly.

"With the help of the meditations and affirmations used in hypnobirthing, the fear of the unknown that I had before the course started shifted into the ability to truly trust that my body and my baby were going to do exactly what they needed to do to bring my little one safely into this world," shares Temple.

The mind can be a powerful thing, and Temple and the Duchess have plenty of company on team hypnobirth. Mogul mama Jessica Alba is also a fan. She told Ellen it's not weird, and is something women can involve their partners in. "My husband takes me through sort of a meditation. He'll say, 'you're relaxed, and you're floating on clouds while you're going through labor and your contractions. I'm just concentrating on breathing and staying relaxed," she explained.

The Duke of Cambridge wasn't quite as into it as Alba's husband, but that's because it was more of Kate's thing. "I'm not going to say that William was standing there sort of, chanting sweet nothings at me. He definitely wasn't! I didn't even ask him about it, but it was just something I wanted to do for myself," she said on the Happy Mum, Happy Baby podcast.

Every mama should have things she wants to do for herself, and pregnant or not, meditation can be a great form of self-care.

[A version of this post was previously published April 26, 2018. It has been updated.]





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