Having relationship tension with your partner is normal after having a child. Sleepless nights, changes in employment, money problems, and several other issues can arise that neither of you would have expected before your baby arrived. A previously happy marriage can seem to take a turn for the worse as you and your spouse disagree over rules for your child, child rearing practices, and other important factors.
Disagreement and frustration is undoubtedly going to occur between you and your partner after having a child, but these difficulties can be overcome. If you fear your marriage has been suffering as you raise children, here’s a few words of advice for common relationship troubles.
Partners to Parents
Some couples may underestimate how much a baby will impact their lifestyle. Couples who enjoy late-night dates or spontaneous trips come to realize that with children, these activities become much rarer. Fun, energetic conversations about dreams, funny stories, or opinions can die out and be replaced by mundane questions about daily life. New parents may also stop doing little things for their spouses that make them smile after having children. It can feel like there’s no romance left in your relationship.
If you feel more like coworkers in raising children than a married couple, try to start bringing romance and spontaneity back in small gestures. Send a quick romantic text to your partner, cook their favorite meal, or simply ask them questions that aren’t about the kids. In order to keep your marriage strong, it’s important to continue making your spouse feel loved and appreciated despite the busyness of life.
Parents can become lonely and overwhelmed if they’re often at home by themselves taking care of the child. One mother says that she “envied her friends’ freedom” during the months she stayed home with her infant son while her husband worked. Even in relationships where both partners continue working after childbirth, women are more likely to cut hours at work in order to spend more time with their baby. After spending a lot of time home, women can start to feel disconnected from coworkers, friends, and family.
To combat the feelings of social isolation, talk to your partner about scheduling time during the week where you can take turns watching the children so the other person can meet up with friends, go shopping, or simply take a walk.
Most men don’t know anything about raising a child or child care until after their partner has a baby. This can be especially frustrating for new mothers, as they feel like they have to supervise their husband to make sure he’s changing or feeding their baby properly. Women may take on the role of the “primary caretaker,” leaving the other partner to feel left out or upset. If this problem continues unresolved, it can lead to power struggles where the husband keeps trying to prove that he knows what to do and he can handle caring for the baby.
The easiest way to combat this problem would be to educate the expecting father about child care before the baby arrives. An expecting father is encouraged to go to prenatal classes and doctor appointments with his wife, and some areas even have “expectant fathers’ classes.” However, if your baby has arrived and your husband seems clueless about caring for a child, he can read up on the basics of child care online.
Raising a baby is expensive, and if one partner needs to take time off work to care for the baby, finances can become even tighter. The spouse who earns money for the family may encounter more stress while being the sole provider, and their partner can feel guilty about staying home. New parents often encounter money problems, but it’s usually the underlying emotions that make these issues worse, such as feelings of shame, stress, or sadness.
One way to combat arguments and negative feelings about money is to find a time to sit down together and go over your budget in detail. Make a list of what the total income is, what essentials your family requires, and look for areas you can cut back spending in.
Of course, there are many more problems parents may encounter as they raise children, and these issues may result in significant stress or depression. Psychology professor Matthew D. Johnson writes that, “The link between psychological and marital problems is strong enough that researchers have found that couples therapy is one of the most effective ways of treating depression and some other mental illnesses.”
If your marriage is struggling or you think you may be suffering from a mental illness such as postpartum depression, don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment online at Oakville Wellness Center today.
Divorce can be a difficult, painful process for you and your partner, but it can be even harder to tell your child about the decision. How can you discuss the situation without upsetting your child? What can you do to make sure they know it isn’t their fault? These, along with several other questions, are likely on your mind, so we did our best to address some common worries and provide advice for approaching the conversation with your child.
Preparing for the Discussion
Research has shown that over 75% of divorcing parents talk to their children about the upcoming shift in their lives for a total of only 10 minutes. That’s not nearly enough time for children to process the situation and ask questions about what will happen in their future! Try to gradually inform your child of the details and make sure you let your child know about the divorce at least a few weeks before the separation is to occur.
Therapist Lisa Herrick, Ph.D., suggests that parents may want to tell their children’s teachers the day before they discuss the news with their children. Ask teachers to keep the information private, but to be sensitive to your child’s feelings the following day. Informing your child’s teachers will also help them understand if your child seems “different” or upset.
Psychotherapist and author Vikki Stark says that for some children, sudden news about their parents’ divorce can actually be traumatic. She writes, “Time slows down, the world feels unreal and their bodies go into shock.” It’s crucial for parents to address the topic carefully, but without sugarcoating the reality of the situation.
Steps for Breaking the News
There is no perfect formula for telling your child the news, and it will depend on several different factors. If you and your partner are able to, plan how you’ll approach the topic together. Plan to tell your children about the upcoming changes in their own routines rather than the reasons behind the divorce to avoid further fights or upset. When you’re ready to have the conversation, be sure to complete the following steps:
How to Help Your Child Cope
Some children may be angry or sad, some may pretend everything is OK to avoid making you feel worse, or some might become more isolated. Each person will react differently, and it’s normal to experience a range of different emotions and behaviors. To help your child start to accept the news, here are some things you can do:
Divorce is hard on anyone. For more guidance through the process or any other relationship troubles, visit us at Oakville Wellness Center.
All parents wonder at times if their child is really understanding or listening to what they’re saying, but what if you’re worried your child may actually be struggling to comprehend conversations or instructions? About 5% of school-aged children have an auditory processing disorder, or APD, which affects the connection between their ears and their brain. Children may get confused in the classroom, upset in loud environments, or fail to follow instructions when they have this condition.
What’s the Difference Between an APD and Hearing Loss?
Hearing loss, hearing impairments, and APD can appear to have very similar symptoms, but they have entirely different causes. With hearing loss or a hearing impairment, someone may struggle to hear different sounds or quieter volumes. Hearing loss can also worsen over time if there’s any damage to the cochlea in the inner ear.
APD, on the other hand, isn’t a hearing impairment at all. Those with an auditory processing disorder can hear perfectly fine, but the information gets disorganized somewhere in their brain. Children can have trouble discerning what people are saying to them, or understanding and analyzing different sounds.
Signs and Symptoms of APD
Most parents begin to notice signs of APD when their child is in grade school because their symptoms may become more apparent in the classroom. APD can range in severity, but a common problem is having difficulty listening to one person talking in a loud, noisy environment. Your child may also:
What to Do if You Suspect Your Child has APD
If your child seems to have an auditory processing disorder, make an appointment with an audiologist. Only an audiologist can accurately diagnose your child, but keep in mind that most diagnostic tests require children to be at least 7-8 years old. If you’re wondering what exactly an audiologist will be testing for, here are the five main “problem areas” they will check:
Ways You Can Help
If your child is diagnosed with APD, there are several ways you can help them succeed both at home and in the classroom. First, your child’s doctor or audiologist may refer you to a speech-language pathologist to help your child improve their reading and listening comprehension skills. A speech therapist can also offer you and your child different resources or let you know about in-school supports, such as assistive listening devices. Other ways you can help your child at school include:
At home, you can significantly lessen your child’s frustration or confusion to make both of your lives easier. Along with helping your child study and stay organized, here are a few more tips to ease their symptoms of APD:
For more information, visit us at Oakville Wellness Center.
Over the past few decades, technology has grown exponentially. Parents today probably still remember using big, clunky computers and cell phones with actual buttons. These have been replaced by sleek tablets, laptops, and phones that can do much more than just call others. With this rapid growth, researchers still aren’t sure about all the effects screen time has on children, and it’s one of the most pressing concerns that parents have today.
Consequences of Too Much Screen Time
According to the ADA (American Optometric Association), children today are increasingly learning how to use technology before they can even walk or talk. Screen time for young infants can cause damage to their developing eyes, but as children grow older, screen time may cause even more harm such as:
How to Monitor Your Child’s Screen Time
It’s important to be aware of how you monitor and approach the subject of screen time with your child. Try to calmly explain why you want them to spend less time on their phone or laptop instead of just saying, “Because I said so.” Having access to the internet is often essential for children’s school work, and it will just become more important as your child grows older. Help your child establish good habits now so they don’t experience the negative drawbacks that excessive screen time can cause. Here are a few tips to help you monitor how much time your child is spending in front of a screen:
Benefits of Limited Screen Time
Cardiologist Dr. Tara Narula says that technology, when used for appropriate amounts of time, can have several positive effects on children. Narula says, “It can introduce them to ideas, information, current events, even health education that they may not get normally. It can also connect them socially to people who may live far away geographically, like family and friends, and allow them to be involved in school projects and assignments." When your child becomes a teenager, they’ll also utilize technology to apply for jobs, write research papers, look for colleges, and much more.
The key takeaway here is that screen time isn’t always a passive activity. YouTube videos can teach children how to make simple recipes or learn an instrument. Social media can keep your child up-to-date on the latest news from around the globe. There are plenty more sites dedicated to educating people about every subject known to humanity. Encourage your child to access this wealth of knowledge responsibly and to use their knowledge to help others, learn new skills, and pursue their interests.
For more guidance, visit us at Oakville Wellness Center today.
Telling stories is one of the longest lasting traditions of mankind. Even before written words were invented, stories were passed down from generation to generation and have mesmerized children for centuries. Kids today still love hearing stories and being read to, especially from their parents. While tucking your child into bed and reading to them can be a calming night-time routine, research has proven that reading to kids can have several other benefits, too. Read on to learn more about why you should read to your children regularly.
Behavior and Attention
It’s believed that when children are read to, they learn how to empathize with the characters and learn how to describe new feelings. Instead of acting out, children are able to identify their emotions and learn how to handle difficult feelings, such as anger or sadness. Parents who tend not to read to their kids raise the chances that their toddler may have attention difficulties or increased levels of aggression. These issues may persist throughout childhood and could lead to issues with concentrating at school.
One study that focused on children from just a few months old through 5 years old showed that reading to children can help them develop better self-control and decrease hyperactivity. Children need to stay still and quiet so they can enjoy the story, which can be hard for kids to do in other circumstances. Dr. Mendelsohn, one of the leaders of this study, stated that, “The key take-home message to me is that when parents read and play with their children when their children are very young...it has really large impacts on their children’s behavior.”
Interest in Books
Reading to your child, even while they’re just a year old, can encourage “pre-literacy” and help them develop an interest in reading. Toddlers enjoy looking at the pictures, hearing about the heroes of the story, and turning the pages of the books. Toddlers often like to ask questions while being read to, and this should be encouraged! Answering their questions will help them increase their vocabulary while learning more about their world.
Children aged 3-5 usually become motivated to learn how to read if they were read to often during their earlier years. If they enjoyed a certain story their parent had read to them before, they may pick it up on their own and try to read it themselves. For preschoolers, having the intrinsic motivation to read will help them immensely when they enter kindergarten.
The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) discovered that young children who are read to at home are more likely to be able to write their own names, count to 20, and recognize all the letters of the alphabet before other children. Kids who have been read to often have larger vocabularies and better language skills when they begin going to school, or they may already be reading independently.
As your child grows older and continues to read on their own, their reading comprehension and writing skills are likely to improve as they subconsciously notice sentence structures and other key elements of writing. It’s also shown that children who read more often typically score better in all kinds of subjects, not just English!
Reading a variety of different books to your child can cause them to become fascinated by a certain topic. They may ask questions about a specific place or job or want to read more about the subject. Having the desire for more knowledge at a young age can help invoke a natural curiosity about their world and lead to a love of learning. When a child enters school, they will be more excited and motivated to work than other classmates who aren’t thirsty for knowledge.
Parents should encourage their child’s interests and find books that appeal to them. This also gives parents the opportunity to explain different topics to their kids and answer any questions they may have. Learning about several different aspects of the world helps to foster compassion, imagination, and motivation for young children, and these benefits may all come simply from nightly bedtime stories. One study conducted in 2004 followed a group of 4-5 year old children who were read to by their parents and found that by the time they were 10-11, they were more likely to enjoy reading than other children.
Have Quality Time
The quality of reading is much more important than the quantity of books you read to your child. Try to not rush through books! Instead, take your time showing your child the pictures, explaining different words, or asking questions about the story. Making sure your child is engaged is the most important part of spending quality time with them. To help your child focus, ask questions about the pictures, or ask them how the main character might be feeling. The key is to spark curiosity and imagination, and your child’s interests and motivation will grow from there.
Looking for more parenting help? Visit our blog at Oakville Wellness Center.
“Communication is the key to human interaction” -Amanda Schaumburgh, SLP
Becoming a new parent is the journey of a lifetime. From hearing their first breath, to watching their first steps, there are many “firsts” that will fill you with a sense of awe and amazement. Of course, one of the most exciting moments in the lives of new parents is hearing that first word. Not only is it a sign of growth and development, it’s typically pretty adorable!
While parenting does come with many exciting moments, it comes with a few challenges as well. For example, what if that first word never comes, or maybe it comes later than expected? Despite the fact that children develop at different rates, certain linguistic events are expected to happen within a particular time frame. When a child’s ability to communicate seems delayed, new parents are prone to start experiencing significant worries. Although these fears are completely understandable, there is no need to panic. There are professionals out there who can help.
If your child experiencing a delay in his or her speaking abilities, it may be time to see a Speech Language Pathologist. If you are unfamiliar with the term, these are licensed professionals who deal with speech impediments. Through intensive coaching and therapy, a speech pathologist can figure out the underlying cause of a child's inability to meet their speech milestones. If you would like to learn more about delayed speech and important speech milestones, we have developed this article. Here, we will highlight some of the warning signs that your child may benefit from a little extra help.
Lack of Social Interaction
Most parents look forward to their child reaching new milestones, especially when that child is an infant. Because each day brings something new, even the smallest achievements seem miraculous. It is particularly fascinating to watch you new bundle of joy interact with friends and family. As your baby grows, here are some developments you have to look forward to:
1. From 0-3 months: you should notice that your baby responds with smiles and coo-ing.
2. From 7-12 months: you will hear your baby react with pointing and clapping.
3. From 7-24 months: you should notice your child gaining the ability to respond to your talking.
If your child has passed these benchmarks without noticeable development of the above mentioned skills, a speech therapist will be able to uncover the underlying cause. Remember, early detection is always beneficial. If you are unsure whether or not your child is experiencing a delay that might indicate a speech disability, take him or her in to be checked out by a professional.
Inability to Understand Your Child
Studies have shown that between 18 and 24 months, parents should be able to understand what their children are trying to convey to them. Note: this does not mean your child will have a perfect vocabulary by age 2; we cannot stress that enough. Your child is expected, and even encouraged to make mistakes in syntax and diction. By making mistakes, your child is learning which structures are correct.
English is a difficult language, but, as linguist Noam Chomsky asserts, we are all born with a universal grammar. Simply stated, a universal grammar is the innate ability to learn language. By age two, if your child has not yet found his or her voice, seeking a speech therapist is highly encouraged. Every child has the ability to speak a language effectively. With that being said, about 1 in 12 children has some sort of speech related disorder. The need for extra coaching is quite common, and will produce significant results.
Difficulties With Sound Production
Between the ages of two and three, you should see significant developments in your child’s speaking abilities. Around this time, you may also start to notice that your child has difficulties producing certain sounds. Before you start to worry, remember that some sounds are more difficult to make than others.
For example, if your child has a hard time with trilling (rolling) their “r’s,” this is to be expected. On the other hand, if your child is experiencing difficulties with the bilabials, i.e the sounds P,B,K,G etc., it may be time to start seeking the help of a speech pathologist. To find out whether your child’s ability to produce correct sounds is further behind than average, check out some research on child language acquisition.
If you feel that your child is struggling to keep up, or has yet to reach the milestones that we have mentioned. Check out the Speech Pathologist at Oakville Wellness. Their SLP will work with your child on a wide range of needs and ensure that he or she leaves confident in their abilities to succeed.
The act of giving birth is one of the most celebrated in human society. We all know parents who gush about this phenomenal experience and detail the elation they felt in the hours and days following. Popular culture and film are also awash with moving scenes of childhood as couples transition to parenthood against a backdrop of sentimental music and family joy.
What is less often depicted is that once the post-partum dust has settled, the early stages of parenthood can be truly difficult.
Whilst many women suffer the “baby blues” and may be anxious or tearful for short periods of time (usually around one to two weeks) following birth, this can sometimes develop into something more serious.
If symptoms last much longer, or start later into motherhood, postnatal depression is a possibility. Postnatal depression (sometimes also referred to as postpartum depression) is a mood disorder associated with childbirth. It is estimated that approximately 13% of women experience postnatal depression.
Symptoms that you or a loved one may be suffering from postnatal depression include:
What causes postnatal depression?
Unfortunately the answer to this isn’t entirely clear but it is believed to be caused by a combination of factors.
On a physiological level, pregnancy and birth bring with it a whole host of hormonal changes, which may lead to changes in mood. Hormones affect some women to a greater extent than others.
Parents who have suffered from depression prior to childbirth, are much more likely to develop postnatal depression. A family history of mental illness is also a risk factor.
That said, a history of depression does not automatically mean that you will go on to develop depression postpartum. It may be helpful to be aware that you are at risk, so that you can look out for the signs mentioned above.
Aside from this, there are factors relating to the birth process itself that may trigger postnatal depression. These include:
Your home-life may also be influential. Unsuitable housing or money issues may naturally make the transition to parenthood more stressful. Worries relating to work can also hamper your ability to relax and settle into the changes you face.
A strong support network and supportive partner may provide a protective effect against postnatal depression. It is not helpful to spend too much time alone without adult company so if you are feeling isolated it may be helpful to reach out to other parents in the community.
Can men experience postnatal depression?
Although men may not experience the hormonal storm of pregnancy, they may still be subject to its emotional effects. A recent study conducted in Sweden found that 28% of men demonstrated mild levels of depression. Women are routinely screened for postnatal depression while paternal mental health is often overlooked.
The research team added a series of questions to the most commonly used postnatal depression screen, in order to capture the unique symptoms that may be displayed by men. These included working longer hours, irritability and excessive alcohol consumption.
It is not entirely clear whether depression in fathers is a newer phenomenon, or just something which we have only recently begun to explore and detect. Many new fathers face challenges such as trying to balance their work life with their family life as well as decreased sleep and changes in their relationship.
Naturally, depression makes it harder for a new father to invest time in the newborn. Fathers experiencing difficulties should consider that they may have paternal postnatal depression.
How can postnatal depression be treated?
The first step is to speak to your general practitioner. With prevalence rates estimated to lie at about 13%, it is much more common than you think, and health services are trained to recognise the signs and give you the support that you need.
Self-care: It is also crucial at this stage to be kind to yourself. Take care of your primary needs such as getting enough sleep, eating well and doing things that you enjoy. It may feel like you do not have time for this with a young child on your hands, but don’t be afraid to ask others for help.
Talk therapy: As with many psychological difficulties and types of depression, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) may be useful. Most experienced therapists will be able to provide a course of CBT and tailor it to the specific difficulties you may be having. Many new parents struggle to live up to the ideal of “perfect parent” and may not have anticipated the difficulties associated with parenthood. CBT can help new parents find a way to think about the difficulties they face and learn better coping mechanisms.
Antidepressants: Antidepressants may also be useful, particularly if the depression is more severe. Some women worry about taking antidepressants whilst breastfeeding but your doctor will be able to provide you with ones that are safe.
One of the worst things about postnatal depression can be feeling alone or unusual in the feelings you are having. This couldn’t be further from the truth and it can help to reach out to national organisations. These can not only provide information and advice but also networks of other parents to talk to.
Cox, J. L., Holden, J. M., & Sagovsky, R. (1987). Detection of postnatal depression. Development of the 10-item Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale. The British journal of psychiatry, 150(6), 782-786.
NHS, Unknown. “Postnatal Depression.” NHS Choices, NHS, 11 Feb. 2016, www.nhs.uk/conditions/post-natal-depression/treatment/.
Psouni, E., Agebjörn, J., & Linder, H. (2017). Symptoms of depression in Swedish fathers in the postnatal period and development of a screening tool. Scandinavian journal of psychology.
Having a child with a developmental delay can be a very scary experience for a parent.
In a culture that values academic success more and more highly and measures it at younger and younger ages, any type of deficiency in academic ability can become blown out of proportion.
On the other hand, the impulse to provide a child the highest quality education is a very natural parental impulse. So long as it does not become unreasonable, taking a keen interest in the child's intellectual development from a young age is one of the most important parts of a parent's job.
Unfortunately, however, even parents with the best intentions often feel ill-equipped to help their children overcome language abnormalities. Every child is different, and it can often times feel impossible to truly understand the difference between a slight difficulty in a serious delay.
For example, when a slight speech impediment keeps your child from being able to read fluently, it could perhaps be nothing more than an innocuous (and undeniably cute) little developmental hiccup. That same speech impediment, though, might also mask a delay in reading ability that could potentially lead to serious consequences down the road.
In this context, it becomes important to understand the differences between the different types of developmental disorders in the realm of reading, speech, and language.
Let’s take a look at these three realms specifically, with an eye to understand the differences between the three, how they are diagnosed, and what you should do for your child.
The Difference Between Speaking, Reading, and Using Language
At first glance, speaking, reading and using language all seem to be different sides of the same coin. But upon closer review, the relationship between the three is strikingly complex, particularly during the ages in which all three abilities begin to develop.
Specifically, most childhood language use disorders fall into three distinct diagnostic categories: language impairment, reading disability, and speech sound disorder.
Let's take a look at each of these individually.
With these three definitions in mind, two things become immediately apparent.
First, it is clear that the three different developmental language disorders are distinct. A child could have one of the three without having the other two.
Second, it is clear that diagnosing a child with one of the three disorders independently of the other two would not be straightforward, particularly at certain ages.
Let’s take a look at this second point more specifically, on the difficulties with diagnosis.
Difficulties with Diagnosis
Speech language pathologists often have a difficult task ahead of them when trying to diagnose a young child who clearly has language difficulties.
For example, it would be impossible to ascertain if a child has a reading disability before they have been instructed how to read. However, the very act of instructing a child how to read might be difficult and/or delayed if a child had language impairment.
Furthermore, as we mentioned in the introduction above, a child's difficulties in producing spoken language while reading (caused by a speech sound disorder) could potentially cloud a parent’s ability to judge whether their child is developing reading skills at the appropriate pace.
To be even more specific, consider the possible causes for a speech sound disorder, as presented in an article called “Relations Among Speech, Language, and Reading Disorders,” by researchers Bruce Pennington and Dorothy Bishop.
The authors write that causes for a speech sound disorder could include difficulties processing sounds, motor problems with planning and producing the movements necessary for speech, brain issues involving the mapping between motor planning and speech production, difficulties identifying the differences between similar sounding speech patterns, or some combination of any of these causes.
So in summary, not only could a child have language impairment without a reading disorder, a speech sound disorder without language impairment, or any other combination of these three, but it is also difficult to separate out the different causes that would prompt one of the three diagnosis.
And as if all of this complexity wasn't enough, the issue can be further complicated by introducing other developmental or cognitive disorders. In the case of ADHD, the authors explicitly state:
“One can readily imagine that a child might appear to be inattentive or hyperactive in the classroom because of the frustration elicited by difficulties with reading rather than as a consequence of the neurocognitive difficulties that are typically associated with ADHD in the absence of [reading disability].” ~Pennington & Bishop, 299
The Takeaway for You and Your Child
Despite the occasionally overwhelming complexity, any experienced parent knows that children are very resilient. The way in which they constantly grow and improve despite obstacles never ceases to amaze.
A parent's response when faced with facing a situation of a child struggling with some type of language difficulty should not be to run away from the complexity and give up. It can be easy to settle on the quickest and easiest diagnosis and hide behind that label.
And while a close relationship with a trusted, capable speech-language pathologist can certainly go a long way towards getting your child the attention he or she deserves, in the end it is the parents that know best what specific difficulties the child has, and what they can do in response.
No matter the situation, there are always activities and exercises that you can do with your child that will hone in on the specific problems they have.
As with all things in parenting, the more individual attention you can give your child, the more able they will be to overcome individual difficulties and develop into healthy, thriving adults.
In the immortal words of Albert Einstein, “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want your children to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”
Pennington, B. F., & Bishop, D. V. (2009). Relations Among Speech, Language, and Reading Disorders. Annual Review of Psychology, 60, 283-306.
For many people, nutrition comes down to diet, and diet comes down to what you eat.
Unfortunately, this is a sadly uninformed and incomplete picture of nutrition, and a perspective that can be seriously detrimental for individuals. If an individual believes that the only way to eat healthy is by cutting out the unhealthy foods they love and incorporating the healthy foods they hate, they make the task of finding a healthy, balanced lifestyle much more difficult than it has to be.
The truth of the matter is that nutrition is a complex interplay between a variety of different factors. It’s a balancing act: Consistently eating healthy foods is important, but it’s also important to have variety. Limiting unhealthy foods is important, but it’s also important to enjoy your food.
In addition, recent research supports the idea that the timing of eating also plays a major role. Specifically, when people eat in relation to when they sleep can impact how well they eat and how well they sleep.
Let’s review two different research findings that dive deeper into the science of routine, and how eating and sleeping interact with each other.
Less Sleeping = More Eating?
One piece of evidence that supports the connection between eating and sleeping was provided in a 2016 research study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
The researchers performed what is called a meta-analysis, meaning a statistical analysis of multiple previously published research studies. The purpose of a meta-analysis is to compare different published research studies and draw more broad conclusions about what the research suggests.
In this study, the researchers were interested in establishing a connection between how long people sleep and their overall energy balance, which includes how many calories they intake through eating and how many calories they burn through physical activity.
The researchers reviewed 17 different research studies and ended up including 11 in their meta-analysis. The conclusions the researchers presented were from a combination of each of these studies put together, and included data from a total of 172 research participants.
The overall conclusion of the study was that people who got less than adequate sleep (between 3½ to 5½ hours), they ate an average of 385 extra calories the following day. For reference, 385 calories are roughly 20% of the calories required per day on a 2000-calorie diet. This is roughly the same amount of calories as a serving of homemade chicken stir fry, or a heaping bowl of your favorite sugary cereal with milk.
However, the lack of sleep did not translate into more physical activity, so the extra calories consumed after insufficient sleep definitely had the potential to contribute to weight gain.
Less Eating = More Sleeping?
The research above connecting insufficient sleep to increased eating was built on a solid foundation of published research. The following idea also links eating and sleeping, but comes from unpublished data that were presented at a conference for the Obesity Society.
Despite the fact that it has not yet been proven to be fully reliable, the research nonetheless establishes a provocative connection between eating and sleeping. The main idea of the study is that eating nothing between the hours of 2PM and 8AM may be effective in burning body fat and losing weight.
The study tracked the eating of 11 overweight research participants on two different feeding schedules. For one schedule, participants ate during normal feeding hours, with meals falling anywhere from 8AM to 8PM. By contrast, on the “early time-restricted feeding” schedule, participants did not eat anything before 8AM or after 2PM. The total amount of calories consumed did not change between the two schedules.
The researchers concluded that incorporating a daily 18-hour fast caused participants to burn more fat while they slept, and also helped to regulate appetite levels throughout the day.
It’s important to note that this feeding schedule could not be generalized to all people, in all likelihood. In one sense, participants were essentially using the scheduling of their eating to activate the body’s fat-burning reaction, so that they could utilize their sleeping time to burn the excess fat they had stored on their bodies. For people who do not have similar fat stores, this approach could be less effective and more problematic.
Nonetheless, the point is that through controlling their daily eating and sleeping routine, participants were able to fundamentally change the way their body metabolized food – even while keeping their diet and their total number of calories consistent.
Getting to the Meat of these Research Findings
We have a lot to learn about the science of nutrition, so it’s important not to latch onto every new finding as ground-breaking or life-altering.
However, the new research presented above does support the idea that there is a real relationship between how much you eat and how much you sleep. Even more broadly, there seems to be a growing consensus that individuals should note the timing of their eating just as much as they take note of the food that they eat.
This should not be seen as an endorsement of the dietary plan outlined above, in which individuals do not eat anything after 2PM. There is insufficient research to support the effectiveness of this plan, and even if there was sufficient research, that wouldn’t mean that it would be a good fit for everyone.
When making dietary changes, remember the three P’s: Practical, Personal, and Pleasurable.
The overall conclusion is that nutritional scientists have recently demonstrated that eating and sleeping are integrally linked, and the timing of eating is an important factor for overall dietary health. Individuals should take care not only to watch what they eat, but also to take note of when they eat.
When you are able to settle into a good routine, and when what you eat, when you eat, and how much you sleep all come together into a healthy balance, you’ll be amazed at how much energy you can have and how in sync you will feel with the world around you!
Al Khatib, H. K., Harding, S. V., Darzi, J., & Pot, G. K. (2016). The effects of partial sleep deprivation on energy balance: a systematic review and meta-analysis. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Peterson, C. (2016). Time-Restricted Feeding Increases Fat Oxidation and Reduces Swings in Appetite Levels in Humans. Oral abstract presentation at: The Obesity Society Annual Meeting 2016; October 31 – November 4, 2016. Retrieved from:
Addictions can invade every facet of our lives. Whether we are the addict, in close relationship with an addict, or deal with it at work or in friendships our hope is this series will help with understanding and seeking help to work through and come out the other side healthy and whole. So please stick with us and post comments or email us and ask us questions.... we are here to help!
For as prevalent as addiction is, the amount of misinformation and misunderstanding that surrounds the issue is truly disheartening. The word itself is used in a variety of different contexts, anywhere from offhand comments to deadly serious medical conversations.
In this three-part series on addiction, our goals are to first define what addiction is, then to understand why and how addictions happen, and finally to look and see what we can do about addiction.
In Part 1 of our series, in exploring what addiction is, we came to understand that it’s vitally important to keep addiction in the proper perspective: The established prevalence rates are undoubtedly alarming, and higher than you might think. And yet, at the same time, it’s important to keep in mind the rigorous scientific criteria for addiction, so that we don’t mistake an innocuous habit for a deadly disease.
In this second in-depth look at addiction, we’ll try to understand why addiction happens, and how this works in the brain.
Etiology of Addiction
When medical professionals consider the causes of things, they will often times use the word “etiology.” Also spelled “aetiology,” the word comes from the Greek words “aití,” meaning cause, and “logos,” meaning discourse or study.
So when we discuss the etiology of addiction, what we are talking about is simply the study of or discourse about the causes of addiction.
And as with any ongoing study, there are a variety of models by which we can explain addiction, each with its own degree of truth. These theories are generally divided into three major subgroups: Social theories of addiction, psychological theories of addiction, and biological theories of addiction.
Of course this wealth of information provided by the different theories and ideas about the causes of addiction are very difficult to sum up in brief. Nonetheless, here is a short list of factors that have been identified by scientists as potential contributors to the development of an addiction:
It’s important to note here that this is not an exhaustive list, nor is it a conclusive diagnosis. This is simply an informal assemblage of some of the different factors that, when combined together, can potentially lead to addiction.
Brain Mechanism of Addiction
None of the factors listed above is a conclusive diagnosis for an addiction. And all of the factors above contribute to the development of an addiction in different ways, according to different models. Some factors contribute to social development of an addiction; others contribute to psychological need.
But in one very important sense, all of these various different understandings of addiction ultimately come down to the brain.
Every predisposition, every personality feature, every behavior, every memory, every fixed action pattern, every temperamental factor – ultimately, each of these bears a physical legacy in the brain of the individual. And regardless of whether treatments for addiction include talk or behavioral therapy, social support groups, medications, or any combination of these, it is the brain that is treated.
In this way, understanding how addiction manifests from the microscopic perspective of the brain is just as important as understanding how addiction manifests from the macroscopic perspective of etiology.
In brief, understanding how addiction happens in the brain is tantamount to understanding long-term memory. Basically, when something positive or pleasurable happens to us, it is advantageous for us to remember this feeling, and to know how to recreate it. For prehistoric man, the ability to remember a lush watering hole could have been the difference between health and starvation.
And mostly, the things that make us happy (or, more to the point, the things that activate the reward pathway of the brain) are also the things that provide us adaptive advantages, such as loving relationships, wholesome foods, exercise, etc.
However, in addiction this adaptive learning process becomes twisted, and we “learn” that the rush of neurochemical release that accompanies a reward will only come if we continue using a substance or performing a behavior that has been demonstrably damaging to our body or our relationships.
Why This Matters
Without going into too much detail, the important thing to understand about the neurobiology of the reward pathway mentioned above is that the effects of the addiction can have very widespread effects.
The connections involved in the reward pathway are located in the part of the brain known as the medial forebrain bundle, which is important to understand because this bundle has nerve connections throughout a big portion of the brain, including areas that are involved with emotion, pleasure, memory, and decision-making ability.
So when an addiction to a substance or behavior ends up changing or altering the neural machinery for an entire class of molecule – such as the way the pleasure neurotransmitter dopamine is taken up and used by brain cells – this global change can’t help but impact a huge variety of different areas. When the brain’s pleasure system becomes rewired due to addiction, it can affect everything.
Just in the same way that a bodily disease like cancer can metastasize and spread throughout a number of different organ systems, so too can the brain disease of addiction spread throughout a number of different mental and emotional systems, wreaking havoc in just the same way.
Fortunately, unlike cancer, the effects of recovery efforts and rehabilitation programs can form a positive spiral, making the chronic brain disease of addiction something that is eminently treatable.
Stay tuned: In Part 3 of our series we will discuss the responses necessary to lead to wholeness and healing from the horror of addiction.
Erickson, C. K., & Wilcox, R. E. (2001). Neurobiological causes of addiction. Journal of Social Work Practice in the Addictions, 1(3), 7-22.
Hyman, S. E., Malenka, R. C., & Nestler, E. J. (2006). Neural mechanisms of addiction: The role of reward-related learning and memory. Annual Reviews of Neuroscience, 29, 565-598.
Jadidi, N., & Nakhaee, N. (2014). Etiology of drug abuse: A narrative analysis. Journal of Addiction.