Whenever you get a group of moms together and they start swapping stories and chatting about the hard-knock life of motherhood, you’re bound to hear about sleep deprivation. It is a universal struggle. We know to expect it with our newborns but what about when we can’t use that excuse anymore because our kids are now sleeping through the night? Why is it that we still don’t feel rested in the morning?
I’ve put together a comprehensive list of some things we can do in order to make sleep more of a priority and for those of us who might have a harder time making it to bed early or falling asleep once we’re there.
1. Assess Sleeping Environment
Your bedroom is a sacred place. Use this checklist to create a fortress that will induce sleep:
• Keep the temperature lower, between 60-67 degrees preferably.
• Keep it dark with blackout curtains if you need them.
• Make it a rule that your bed is for sleep and sex only. Creating any other associations (such as working, watching TV, or browsing Pinterest) will create a discord when you climb into bed to sleep.
• Is it comfortable? Do you look forward to crawling into a soft, lush bed with cloud like pillows and warm blankets? If not, make it a goal to create that, STAT.
2. Calming Nighttime Routine
Just as the parenting books say it is important to create a nighttime routine for your kids to help them sleep, so it is with your routine. If you like to have a few minutes to yourself once the kids are in bed, find a calming activity that you can make a part of your routine. Reading, crocheting, writing, yoga, or stretching are all great ideas. Try not to include electronics in your routine as they can interfere with your ability to fall asleep.
3. Same Sleep Schedule
Part of your nighttime routine will include a non-negotiable bedtime hour. Which should follow with a non-negotiable wake up hour. Working toward going to sleep and getting up at the same time everyday will pay off great dividends in life. It’s difficult when you have young kids who sometimes wake up in the night and require your attention. However, making it a goal and protecting that time as best you can is one of the smartest things you can do for your health.
4. Exercise Daily
Daily exercise has proven to help most people fall asleep at night. It’s a good idea to do something, each day, that gets your heart rate up. It doesn’t have to be a marathon run on the treadmill but something that gets your blood flowing. Try to do it earlier in the day for the best effect.
5. Power Down Electronics
Screens from any of our electronic devices are a huge problem when it comes to sleep. So many of us plop ourselves in front of the TV, flip open our laptops, or grab our phones to “unwind” at night. The problem is, these activities don’t help us unwind, they stimulate our brain and tell it to stop producing melatonin because the light from these screens suggests it’s daytime.
Try turning these devices completely off or plugging them into a central charging station for everyone’s devices an hour or so before bedtime. This is sure to help you get to bed on time and fall asleep quickly once you’re there.
6. Close the Kitchen
I want to scream every time my kids tell me, well after dinnertime, “I’m hungry!” My response is always the same, “Why didn’t you eat when it was time to eat?” I have made it a habit to warn my kids when they’re ready to get down from the dinner table, “Are you sure you’re done eating? The kitchen is closed as soon as you get down from the table, understood?”
Not only is it annoying to feed my kids when we’re in the middle of our bedtime routine, going to bed on a full stomach can make it difficult to fall asleep. Drinking too many liquids too close to bedtime can cause us to get up in the night to go to the bathroom. If we make it a habit to “close the kitchen” after dinner, we’re much less likely to suffer from these things when we’re trying to fall asleep. I make it clear the kitchen is closed by turning off the lights.
7. Avoid Caffeine, Tobacco, and Alcohol
Caffeine, tobacco, and alcohol can all have a negative effect on our sleep habits. If Diet Coke is your vice and you’re telling me there’s no way you’re going to give it up, consider giving it up after a certain hour in the day. These things can stay in your system for many hours so at least try eliminating them in the afternoon and evening hours.
8. Dim Lights
A really good way to change gears at home when it’s time to start getting ready for bed is to circle your house and turn off all the overhead lights. I usually leave a lamp on in each room but the difference in brightness is a good sign to your brain that nighttime is approaching and to start producing melatonin.
9. White Noise
The other night, my mom and her sister were talking about when they were young they used to listen to the radio or their records at night to fall asleep. Now they both have this major problem where they can’t sleep some nights because they have a stupid line of a stupid song that gets stuck in their heads. I’m no expert so I can’t say listening to the radio causes this weird problem but I will say, white noise is probably a better idea.
You can use an app on your phone or purchase a white noise machine. This kind of noise isn’t stimulating like music or TV, it’s background noise if you have a hard time turning your brain off at night.
10. Don’t Lay Awake in Bed
If you still can’t sleep and you’re laying awake in bed, don’t lay there and stress about how you can’t sleep. Get up and do something relaxing for a while. If you’re worried about something, write it down on a post-it note and tell yourself you’ll think about it in the morning. The more you lay in bed stressing, the less likely you are going to fall asleep. Interrupt the pattern and get up for a minute to distract yourself. Try some relaxing yoga or a low-key book.
Of all the things we can do for our health, sleep is one of the most important. It helps regulate every process in our body and mind and helps us to be more effective during our waking hours. With all of the demands of motherhood, we have to commit to protecting this precious asset. If we don’t, it is far too easy to let other things get in the way.
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Have you tried any of these suggestions to help you get a better night’s sleep? Do you have any others? What is the one thing that most often gets in the way of you getting a good night’s sleep?