It's no secret that sleepless nights are part of the package when it comes to parenting – especially when you have a baby.
But if sleep struggles become the norm in your house as your child gets older, you may not realize the profound impact that poor sleep can have on one of the most important relationships in your life: your marriage.
That’s certainly what happened in my family.
But now I know this: prioritizing sleep for your kids is an act of strengthening your marriage, and I’m going to explain exactly how.
>>Watch this blog on my Awesome Little Sleepers YouTube channel! 👇
The Challenge of Bedtime
Does this sound like your life?
After a long day, you look forward to relaxing in the evening. Maybe you’ll read a book, watch TV or spend some quality time with your partner. But as the clock ticks, the evening scaries start as the familiar feeling of dread starts to creep in.
Your kid seems fussy, maybe they’re overtired, maybe they’re getting sick - who knows - and slowly bedtime starts to unravel and becomes a battleground.
Your kid is refusing to stay in their room, so you’re forced to sit with them for an hour or longer before you can silently sneak out. Or, you know they’re going to wake up at some point overnight and you’re pre-tired just thinking about how many times they’ll wake you up, too.
These disruptions can quickly turn your anticipated quiet evening into a frustrating and exhausting experience.
Beyond Tiredness: A Strain on Marriage
When kids don't sleep well, there’s a ripple effect. Their behavior and mood is negatively affected and so is ours. As parents, our patience wears thin and our anxiety levels skyrocket.
But there’s a deeper ripple effect that many people overlook. The child’s sleep problems can deeply impact the marital relationship, too. When evenings are overrun with bedtime drama like constantly walking the child back to their room, answering curtain calls and managing tantrums, the chance for quality time between parents is off the table.
Conversations are cut short, TV shows are interrupted, and all the focus shifts back to the child.
Lack of sleep doesn't just make you tired; it can decrease patience, escalate conflicts, and reduce your ability to communicate effectively with your partner. And if you and your spouse aren’t on the same page with how to manage your child’s sleep problems, the feeling of being partners as parents can diminish. You may end up in a power struggle with each of you thinking you’re right about how to solve the sleep problem.
That's what happened in my family before I was a certified sleep coach. My husband thought I was being too soft when our daughter refused to stay in her room and go to sleep. I thought he was being too strict.
So what ultimately happened? We spent months delivering totally mixed messages to her. I laid with her and waited for her to fall asleep, which increasingly took forever. And my husband would try to leave the room, which led to her running out and frustrations escalating.
Getting mixed messages from parents is one of the biggest drivers of sleep issues in kids.
When each parent uses their own approach, the child gets confused and pushes boundaries harder. My daughter was running out of her room after her dad because she knew that eventually I would come in and lay with her. The more she pushed, the more likely I was to give in.
How do you think my husband felt about that? Not great. It felt like I was undermining him. But really, we were just never on the same page about what to do because we had no resources to help us.
And, in many cases, one parent just defaults to the other, leaving that parent feeling defeated and alone.
This situation can become even more challenging if a little one ends up in your bed, taking over the space that was once reserved for intimacy and connection. If parents aren’t on the same page about bed-sharing with a child, it can cause a deep rift in the relationship.
Over time, these parental differences can lead to feelings of resentment and disconnection, putting a strain on the marriage. And the longer it goes on, the greater the impact.
The Solution: Prioritizing Sleep
Addressing sleep issues in kids isn't just about ensuring that THEY are well-rested - it's also about preserving the health and partnership in your marital relationship. Prioritizing sleep really is strengthening your marriage. Here are some steps to take to do just that:
Establish a Consistent Bedtime Routine: Consistency is key. A predictable bedtime and bedtime routine with clearly defined steps can signal to your child that it's time to wind down and go to sleep. This should be followed consistently by both parents.
Create a Sleep-Conducive Environment: Make sure your child's bedroom is cool - around 68 degrees is best, quiet with a white noise machine and dark with a dim night light or salt lamp if they need it. This can make a significant difference in how easily they fall asleep and stay asleep.
Get Help: If your child is behaving in ways that you haven’t been able to overcome, like excessive bedtime stalling and overnight wake ups, get help! As a certified sleep coach, I’ve spent years helping families solve these issues. You can join my next free Toddler Sleep Masterclass if you want to learn more about my REST Method for toddlers & preschoolers. Click the link to visit: ToddlerSleepMasterclass.com
Strengthening your marriage one sleep at a time
Remember, fixing sleep issues in your children isn't just about getting them to bed on time or getting them to stay in their own bed; it's about reclaiming your time as a couple. It's about strengthening the bond that holds your family together. Prioritizing sleep can save more than just your sanity - it can play a crucial role in maintaining a healthy, loving partnership in your marriage.