Does Sleep make you a better Parent?
We've all seen the toddler melt down in the store after missing a nap, and we take it as a given that a small person can't hold it together without enough sleep. Everyone's brain benefits from good sleep, particularly through the Prefrontal Cortex
The Prefrontal Cortex is the part of the brain responsible for "executive functions". It's the boss who manages impulses and decides what's best to notice and do.
The Prefrontal Cortex relates to: - working memory - impulse control - planning and executing complex behavior - considering and prioritizing competing and simultaneous information - ignoring external distractions, focusing attention - the development of personality
Sound important? This is most of every day as an adult and parent - weighing options, managing schedules for the me and the kids, and maintaining (or trying to) emotional equilibrium. Small and large decisions, generally all day and every day. And remembering where the car was parked.
The association between depression, anxiety, and sleep disturbance has been noted for many years. It was always assumed that the anxiety caused the sleep disturbance, but recent studies point out that it work the other way as well, with sleep disturbances quickly producing depression (10 times more likely) and anxiety (17 times more likely).
I've always figured I could be a nice person with sleep debt it I were a saint... but since I'm not, I should just try to get enough sleep not to traumatize my family, or continually be losing things.
If you were raised by saintly parents, your automatic reactions might be kind and loving, even with sleep deprivation, but most of us were raised by imperfect humans who modeled imperfect responses that we would like to improve upon. Doing better than automatic takes grace and a functioning Prefrontal Cortex. In order to plan and respond rather than simply react, our best thinking parts should be fully online.
Matthew Walker, who wrote the book "Why We Sleep", calls sleep "emotional first aid". That definitely rings true for me. My brain needs all the help it can get!