Sleep Is a Seriously Real Struggle for Single Moms: How to Cope

exhausted womanYou don't have to watch The Walking Dead to FEEL like a zombie. It's a deeply unfortunate side effect of sleep deprivation, which so many women have. And now, to no one's surprise, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say the group of women who sleep the worst and suffer the most are single moms.

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This demographic sleeps less than everyone else on the planet, with 44 percent getting less than 7 hours of shut-eye each night. (Only 38 percent of single dads and 30 percent of married moms are in the same tired boat.)

Single moms also have a harder time falling asleep and staying asleep. And once they do get some ZZZs, they're more likely to wake up and STILL not feel rested.

We can't say we're surprised. And neither is Michael Breus, PhD, a clinical psychologist with a specialty in sleep disorders and author of Beauty Sleep: Look Younger, Lose Weight, and Feel Great Through Better Sleep.

"In my patient population, moms are always the worst sleepers," he tells The Stir. "Childcare duties have a large effect, plus a lot of moms also work."

If you're a single mom, those factors are only exacerbated.

Still, "you have to realize that sleep deprivation is NOT a productive way to have a lifestyle," says Breus. Or any life at all, for that matter.

Here are a few things we can ALL do to start taking our sleep more seriously.

1. Know how much sleep you need. "Some people only need 6 1/2 hours, others need 8 1/2," Breus says. "It depends on the individual and what works for you, but understand your sleep needs and that getting that amount every night is important."

2. Keep a schedule. Maybe you're waking up throughout the night. Or maybe you WANT to go to bed at a reasonable hour but are too busy working / folding laundry / finally getting time to yourself. But there IS one time we can all control, notes Breus: "Waking up at the same time every morning." Doing so keeps your body and brain on the schedule it craves. Which means....

More from The Stir: How Much Do You Know About Sleep Deprivation? (QUIZ)

3. Don't sleep in on weekends. We know how lovely it is to sleep in on Sundays. But it's a bad idea. "When you sleep late, you're changing your biological clock," explains Breus. "Your body now wants to be staying up late Sunday night and sleeping in on Monday." Which will make you -- you guessed it -- freaking exhausted.

4. Stop caffeine at 2 p.m. "Most people don't know that caffeine has a half-life of 8 to 10 hours," notes Breus. That means that 8 hours after you down that grande skinny latte, you -- and your sleep -- could still be affected.

5. Turn down the nightcap. A glass of wine or beer THREE hours before bedtime is okay. But don't booze it up closer than that. "It takes the human body one hour to digest each alcoholic drink," Breus says. And while alcohol may help you fall asleep faster, you won't sleep as deeply. And deep sleep is the good stuff.

6. Put off your morning cup of coffee. We know, you're horrified. But listen why. "During your sleep, you breathe out about one liter of water, so when you wake up you're dehydrated," Breus says. Coffee will make you more so PLUS interfere with your body's natural ability to wake up and get going in the morning. A better strategy to get energized: a glass of water first thing, Breus suggests, then coffee 90 minutes to 2 hours later so you reap the max effects of the caffeine.

7. Chart your cycle. "Your need for sleep changes over the course of your menstrual cycle," says Breus. "Right before your period, you'll need more sleep and should go to sleep earlier." But after your period, you actually need LESS sleep, so take advantage of it.

 

Image via iStock.com/monkeybusinessimages

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