Rage Triggers and Sleep

Uncategorized May 27, 2020

This morning I had the pleasure of meeting Vicki Dawson, the founder of the Children's Sleep Charity, during one of her workshops to local foster-care professionals.

During the break she and I chatted about the difficulty parents have when discussing sleep on social media because of the highly emotive responses that can be generated.


I brought up the relevance of L.I.F.E.M.O.R.T.S as an explanation of the rage and other amygdala-based responses (i.e. fight, flight or freeze) that can be triggered.

This mnemonic, proposed by neuroscientist R Douglas Fields in his book 'Why We Snap', is discussed in the Understanding Preschoolers course I run, but as you'll see below, it very much applies to adults too.

So, you may experience a 'rage' response if someone else's actions or words trigger (conscious or unconscious) thoughts related to one of more of the following categories:

  • L - Life or Limb / Survival (basically self-defence)
  • I - Insult (Verbal or physical)
  • F - Family / Maternal Aggression (the urge to protect our nearest and dearest)
  • E - Environment / Territorialism (when our personal space is invaded)
  • M - Mate (why many people find aggressive characters in films attractive)
  • O - Organisation (the personal routines and rituals of our daily lives as well as the rules we live by)
  • R - Resources / Lack of Resources (toys, money, valuables, etc)
  • T - Tribe (“Us and Them” Mentality) 
  • S - Stop (Being stuck (in a traffic jam), restrained or cornered)

In the context of sleep, several of these LIFEMORTS could be in play when discussing our children's sleep:


We might be so sleep deprived that our child's sleep is making us physically and mentally ill. 


We might be insulted by the less-than-empathetic listening skills of friends and family. 


We may feel rage towards a non-sleeping child for hurting the well-being of their siblings. 


Ever felt touched out by your child invading your personal space? It can happen when bedsharing, hair twiddling, or if our child is still in the living room later in the evening than you would like.  


If we believe that our child should be sleeping through, even if it's not biologically normal, we will feel rage while dealing with their night wakings. Sleep deprivation also impacts on our ability to conduct our usual daily rituals and habits.  


Some parents suffer so much with their children's sleep that they limit or give up work. Thus sleep can have a direct impact on the family's finances. 


This is a big one online. In life, we usually gravitate towards others who we identify with because it feels safer and more pleasant. From there though, it is just one short step into the 'Them' and 'Us' mentality that plagues social media and other platforms. 


We give ourselves the label 'parents', but we also carry the identities 'individual', 'partner', 'friend', 'professional', etc. If our child's (lack of) sleep stops us being ourselves, it is no surprise that we might be triggered into a rage response. 

Where have you spotted the LIFEMORTS triggers in your own parenting (or life in general - road rage, etc.)?




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