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    Parents, Your Sleep Matters Too!

    Since the birth of our first child, sleep became an issue in our house. At first, how well the baby slept impacted how much sleep my spouse and I got. Then the baby started sleeping in longer stretches but with my night owl disposition, I found it hard to fall asleep when the baby did, leaving me exhausted. The reality of those early years is that parenting is hard work and for many of us, getting enough sleep is a challenge.

    Interestingly around the same time, I began having a number of conversations about sleep with clients and colleagues at the hospital where I worked, as well as with friends and family. I noticed a surprising number of people in my life were not only exhausted but ironically, had difficulty sleeping even when given the opportunity to do so. In response to this need, I decided to seek out additional professional training to effectively address insomnia. This led to the development of an outpatient insomnia group treatment program at the hospital and a few years later, a private practice with a focus on sleep.

    The Inspiration for the upcoming parent sleep workshop, “Sleep Well: A Workshop for Sleepless And Exhausted Parents” grew from discussions I was having with parents in my neighbourhood.

    When people learned that my practice focused on sleep, a number of parents commented on how they slept better before having kids. The message I repeatedly heard from parents was that sleep had become more difficult and frustratingly remained a challenge even though their children now slept through the night.

    From these conversations I noticed two patterns:

    1. Some parents found themselves stuck in the same sleep-wake cycle their children had when they were younger.
    2. The quiet of night became a time when parents found themselves doing a lot of thinking. Their minds became noisy with thoughts of organizing, planning, problem solving, reflecting on to-do lists and worrying.

    Having children often results in a major shift in our priorities. We move our focus from centering on ourselves to that of making sure our children are fed, dressed, educated, guided and loved. Meeting these demands places additional stress on our physical, mental and emotional resources and at times, can cause us to feel overstretched.

    I understand what this is like. As a mother of three busy kids, juggling parenting, work and home can feel like a precarious balancing act. Add in a child who’s been diagnosed with special needs and the demands can feel overwhelming.

    These feelings of being overstretched and overwhelmed can lead to insomnia. This is the experience of having trouble falling asleep, staying asleep or waking much earlier than intended. If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. Insomnia is a very common problem. In Canada, between 10-30% of the population has trouble sleeping.

    For most of us when we don’t sleep well, coping with the demands of life feels harder. When we’re exhausted, we have less patience and energy for our children. Dealing with the stresses of work, family life, feelings of anxiety, worry and frustration all become more difficult. Our resources feel depleted.

    Sleeping well helps us recharge and have the energy to function at our best. Sleep research has also shown that when the adults in the house sleep well, their children learn to sleep well too.

    If insomnia has been wearing you down, there is hope. Sleep doesn’t have to be a struggle. Research points to cognitive behavioural therapy, known as CBT-I, as a highly effective treatment approach for insomnia. CBT-I is a non-invasive, medication free treatment that will help you to identify the behaviours and thoughts that interfere with sleep and teach you strategies that you can use to overcome your insomnia.

    Many of the people I work with have struggled with sleep issues for years. I understand the feelings of frustration that can result from this struggle.

    The good news is that it doesn’t have to continue that way. CBT-I can help.

    If you are interested in learning more about how to access CBT-I treatment, or would like to register for the upcoming Workshop For Sleepless And Exhausted Parents, please contact Boomerang Health at (905) 553-3155 or email info@boomeranghealth.com.

    About the Author

    Judith Mendoza is an occupational therapist with advanced level training in cognitive behavioural therapy and additional training in cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia (CBT-I). She has 15 years of hospital based experience working with adults who have anxiety, panic, depression and chronic pain. You can learn more about Judith at www.agoodsleep.ca, and visit her Facebook and Twitter pages.

    About Guest Contributor

    Boomerang Health is proud to have occasional guest contributors write blog posts for us.