Sleep. Once you become a parent, you realize just how much you love it and how much you miss it. Sleeping in is a thing of the past. Now your babies need you every couple of hours day and night, and your older children are getting up before the crack of dawn. Then add your to-do list, the errands that you have to run, the chores that you have piling up at home, and maybe even projects, assignments, and or emails that you need to do for work. You’re completely fried. Not to mention days and nights when your little ones get sick. Who has time for sleep?! I get it. I really do.
A lot of moms that I know and have worked with are running on around 5 or 6 hours of sleep each night. As someone who has worked on-call 24/7 as a doula and who manages a company, I know what it’s like when you have to function on only 2 or 3 hours of sleep or work a whole night shift and have to be up all day. It’s hard work and long hours. But guess what. Sleep is critical to a healthy life. It’s a necessity. It may seem impossible to add more time to your sleep schedule when there is so much going on, and so much that needs to be done. However, there are some things that you can do to improve your quality of sleep, which can then lead you to more sleep each night.
I’ve incorporated these tips into my life to help me live a healthier lifestyle, so I hope that these will help you too. Here are my top 10 tips to help moms (and dads) get more and better sleep each night.
Tip #1: Avoid Screen-Time at Least an Hour Before Bed
I know. This is really tough. I’m the same way scrolling through my phone on social media before I go to bed. But staring at a screen can hinder you from falling asleep quickly and getting the healthy sleep that you need. The reason is this particular type of light illuminating from your screen is interfering with your melatonin production (essential for getting a good night’s sleep), and it is activating your brain. Put the TV, computer, tablet, and phone away and focus on tip #2…
Tip #2: Create a Relaxing Bedtime Ritual
It’s easy for us to get caught up and work, work, work until we drop. But rather than stressing about house chores or work emails right before bed, focus your time on doing something relaxing. Some examples are taking a warm bath or shower, putting on a soothing lotion, meditating, reading a book (not on a tablet), or listening to calming music. If you continue to do your bedtime ritual each night, you are telling your body that it’s time to wind down and go to bed. Your relaxing bedtime ritual can promote better sleep by easing the transition from wakefulness to drowsiness.
Tip #3: Set a Bedtime for Yourself
I get that this isn’t achievable all the time, but try to go to bed at the same time every day, even if that time is at 9 pm. You want to give yourself enough time to try to get 7-9 hours of sleep. (I know that sounds impossible.) But going to bed consistently at the same time every night is good for your body’s sleep-wake cycle, and it helps promote a better night’s sleep.
If it’s been more than 15 minutes and you’re having a hard time dozing off, get up and do something relaxing. Do not pick up that phone of yours! This will not help. Get your mind and body ready for sleep and go back to bed when you’re feeling tired. Otherwise, you’ll be miserable tossing and turning in bed, thinking about how you cannot sleep—been there.
Tip #4: Look at Your Surroundings
Look around your bedroom and notice if there are things that you can change to help with your sleep. For example:
- Is your room bright when you’re trying to sleep? Consider purchasing blackout curtains to help your body’s circadian rhythm.
- What’s the temperature in your room? Studies have found that an ideal sleep temperature is between 68 and 72 degrees.
- Do you live on a busy street or noisy neighborhood? Contemplate using earplugs, a fan, or a white noise machine to help block out disruptive sounds.
- How old are your mattress and pillow? Your mattress and pillow can contribute to better sleep, too. Make sure that what you are sleeping on isn’t hurting your sleep time.
Tip #5: Pay Attention to What You’re Eating and Drinking
It doesn’t matter what time you eat (even before bed). You just have to pay attention to what and how much you’re eating and drinking before bed. You don’t want to be consuming too many calories before you go to sleep. You also don’t want to go to bed either hungry or stuffed. That discomfort might keep you up at night. If you overeat before you go to sleep, your body will also be busy digesting that food, not allowing you to achieve good quality, deep sleep.
And it should go without saying, don’t drink too much before bed. We want to prevent those disruptive middle-of-the-night trips to the bathroom. Pregnant moms can especially feel me on this one!
Tip #6: Get Physical
We know that just having kids can be your cardio, but working up a sweat for at last 30 minutes a day can help you when you’re getting ready for bed. It will help you fall asleep faster and enjoy deeper sleep. Or you can spend some quality time and have sex with your partner. That can help with your sleep quality too. 😉
Tip #7: Manage Your Stress
When you have too much on your mind because you have so much going on or too much to do (like most moms I know), your sleep will suffer. Figure out healthy ways to help you stay organized and relaxed so you can manage your stress levels. Ways to do that are first to set your priorities and second delegate some of your tasks. You can’t do it all. Determine what the most critical tasks are, and the rest can wait. Also, don’t feel guilty if you need to give yourself a break. Everyone deserves some downtime. And to help lower your stress before bed, write down and journal what’s on your mind. Set those thoughts aside for the next day so you can go to bed with a clear mind.
Tip #8: Split the Night Shift with Your Partner
This may not be possible every night, but if you have a newborn, split the night with your partner. You (or your partner) start with the first 5 hours (10 pm to 3 am), and the other can do the remaining 5 hours (3 am to 8 am) or whatever 5-hour block you prefer. This way, you can each get at least five solid hours of sleep.
Another option would be to switch days of being up with the baby. However, if you are breastfeeding your baby, taking a whole night off can affect your milk production and cause engorgement and major discomfort.
Tip #9: Say No to Extra Responsibilities
When you have a newborn, do not feel guilty about saying no to extra responsibilities. Maybe your oldest child’s school needs a chaperone or a volunteer for an activity, or your church needs some extra help, or your friends want you to help with a party. It’s okay to say no. Don’t feel guilty about it. You need this time to bond with your baby and to sleep when you have the time. Extra things on your plate will only cause you to have more stress and less sleep.
Tip #10: Say Yes to Help
I tell this to every single mother . . . Accept any help that is offered to you, and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. Many people are more than happy to offer a helping hand if you ask for it. That could be your family, friends, church members, a babysitter, a postpartum doula. You name it. Whether you hire help or recruit the help, accept the help. Sleep is a necessity, and even if you just need someone (that you trust) to watching your kids so you can catch up on some sleep, do it.
It’s common for mothers to put others’ needs before themselves. It’s what we do. But when it comes to sleep, you must make it a priority. Well-rested moms are healthier, happier, and don’t feel as crazy. 😉 It’s unrealistic to think that you will now get 8 to 9 hours of sleep each night because come on, you’re a mom! And your kids won’t let you. But if you consider these tips and start incorporating them into your life, I promise you will be getting more/better sleep, and you will begin to feel better, stronger, and ready to take on the day.