There are plenty of posts out there to help moms whose babies and kids are not sleeping, but there isn’t as much help for the mom trying to unsuccessfully get more rest. Most sleep advice articles all focus on an ideal world where there is more than enough time to sleep. Unfortunately, they all fail to account for how moms also need to find time to do 5876 other things all in one day.
With that in mind, here’s a heap of hints and tips as large as your laundry pile that have been pulled together and tweaked slightly to reflect the realities of being a stressed out, overworked, mom who would love to go to bed at 9pm and sleep like a log, instead of sleeping like a baby.
Nobody wants to sleep like a baby. Honestly, I have never understood that phrase. It was obviously created by one of those annoying people who have a miracle baby that sleeps 12 hours a night from the age of three weeks - yeah, right, like that really happens lady. Either that or it was one of those Victorian parents who had a nanny and only ever saw their baby when it was presented to them, fast asleep, for an hour before dinner.
Anyway, I digress - here are your mom sleep tips. Try them; they might work
21 Don’t Watch The Clock
Forget everything you thought you knew about how much sleep a person needs. For years it has been a popular standard that we all need a straight and solid eight hours sleep a night to function well during the day.
While this is true for many people, it is not right for everyone. Some lucky souls can tick along just fine, thank you very much, on four or five hours, others need a solid nine or ten to genuinely feel human.
If you measure your sleep by the hours on the clock, you may be thinking you have a problem because you slept for six hours, when in reality, that is how much you need.
20 Remember The 90 Minute Rule
In some ways it is not the total amount of sleep you get that matters, but where in your sleep cycle you are woken up. A basic sleep cycle lasts around 90 minutes and if you are woken up in mid-cycle, you do not reap all of the benefits of restful sleep.
If you know you are going to have to get up at 6 am then, for some people it can be better to try and go to sleep at around midnight and have four complete sleep cycles than to fall asleep at 11 and have four and a half. It doesn’t work for everyone, but it is worth a try to see if it helps you.
19 Regular Timing
As in everything our bodies do, sleeping works best if you can have a regular timetable. While this is just an airy fairy pie in the sky idea when you have little ones, one the kids are a bit older you will feel better, and have a more refreshing sleep if you can go to bed and get up at about the same time every day.
Doing this helps to train your body what to expect, and you become more efficient at falling asleep quickly and waking up on time while feeling less groggy.
18 Don’t Sleep In
Yes, when you have a baby, you should get a few extra hours when you can by sleeping in at the weekends, or when there is someone else around to take on all of the childcare responsibilities, so you can rest. However, once you are past this stage, sleeping in at the weekends can be detrimental to your sleep health.
By staying up later and sleeping later on Friday and Saturday nights you are shifting your sleep cycle, which then has to change back for your weekday routine. This causes extra problems trying to fall asleep early again on Sunday etc.
The bottom line? The odd layin to catch up is good - doing it every weekend is bad for you.
17 Naps - A Double-Edged Sword In Three Parts
Researchers believe that before we all had to get jobs and worry about being places at certain times, humans had a natural sleep cycle that involved a shorter solid block of sleep at night and a nap in the afternoon. There are still plenty of cultures around the world where this is still the standard practice, but if you are not lucky enough to live in a place where everything shuts down in early afternoon, a power nap of just ten to fifteen minutes is optimum, although a five minute “power-nap” can be helpful for some people.
16 Naps - The Double-Edged Sword Pt. 2
Napping at any time past 3 pm is going to make it difficult for you to fall asleep that night, no matter how tired you are. This then has an entire knock-on effect, making you more tired the next day so you are more likely to nap and you are caught in a negative cycle.
If it gets towards the point in the afternoon where it is getting quite late, and you will be napping past 3 pm it might be better not to have a nap at all.
15 Naps - The Double-Edged Sword Pt. 3
Unless you can nap every day at around the same time, napping should be an occasional habit. Think of it as “sleep snacking.” From time to time you miss a proper meal and have to snack to keep your hunger at bay until your next meal, but you wouldn’t choose to miss a meal and randomly snack until the next one on a regular basis because it is terrible for your blood sugar and therefore your energy levels.
Same goes for naps. The occasional “sleep snack” is important but unless you live a lifestyle where you “snack” on a regular basis, you will cause yourself a different set of problems.
14 Get Up Early To Prep
I hate this hint with a passion because it goes against everything I like to do, but it can be helpful for some people and I’ll tell you why.
If you are like me, then after the kids go to bed is the time you take on the chores for tomorrow to make your morning run more smoothly. Organizing clothes, packing lunches, checking school bags for notes you were supposed to sign a week ago.
When you do this, you are waking yourself up, physically and mentally and delaying the time at which you will fall asleep. Get up a half hour early, and you won’t necessarily get more sleep, but you’ll get better quality sleep.
Better yet, get your little monsters to wake up earlier and organize themselves.
13 The After-Dinner Drowsiness
This one is a particular problem for me. In the evening, after dinner, but before the kids go to bed, I hit that wall of exhaustion and feel like I could go to sleep there and then on the sofa at 8 pm. Of course, once the kids are in bed, I have woken up again and can’t get to sleep.
When that tiredness hits, and this is counter-intuitive, don’t sit down for a rest. Get up and move around, do all of the things you usually end up doing when the kids are finally in bed. By stopping your body powering down at this stage of the evening, you will give yourself a fighting chance of getting to sleep earlier.
12 Expose Yourself
We are told that when we have a newborn, we need to make the daytime as bright and stimulating as possible so that they learn the difference between night and day. Then, we promptly forget to do the same things for ourselves.
Get as much sunlight as you can during your waking hours. The timing of exposure is also crucial because your internal body clock is most responsive to sunlight in the early morning, between 6 and 8:30 a.m.
This exposure helps your body know it is morning time and has a knock on effect at the end of the day helping you to have a healthier sleep.
11 Pump Up The Light Volume
As well as your early morning exposure, natural light during the day will help regulate your body clock, as well as having other beneficial impacts on your mood. If you are fortunate enough to have insurance that covers it, see if you can get a phototherapy lightbox for your desk to shine on you during the day.
If not, try to invest in natural daylight bulbs for when you must be out of the light, and spend as much time as possible outside during your waking hours. Even a ten-minute walk around the block will help.
10 On The Flip Side
Decide what time “nighttime” is in your house and make sure everyone starts to power down. During the summer this can include closing the curtains or blinds to help darken things and in the darker evenings, turning off excessive lights and dimming the ones you must have on.
Teach your body that this is the time of day when you are going to start winding down for sleep. The reduction in light will trigger your brains productions of melatonin, the hormone which aids your body in falling asleep.
This smoother transition from bright, loud environment to a darker, calmer quieter one means you don’t fall into bed and spend half an hour winding down.
9 Your Bed Has Only One Use
Make your bed the place where you sleep. Nothing else should go on when you are there, between the sheets, except going to sleep.
When you do anything else while you are in bed, you are stimulating your brain, and possibly your body, preventing your entire system from beginning the shutdown routine it needs to fall asleep.
Not only that, but when you have been doing this for a while, just the act of going into your bedroom and getting into bed will be enough for the first steps of your sleep cycle to begin, so there will be no more climbing into bed and waiting for an hour before anything happens.
8 Ok, Maybe Two Uses
Forgive me, when you are an exhausted mom it can be easy to forget there is another kind of action that goes on in the bedroom, and luckily for all of us, that can also be helpful for sleep.
You might not be up to the kind of athletic, swinging from the light fittings, all night sessions you had when you were both younger and child-free, especially on a Wednesday night, with work in the morning and a couple of light sleepers in the room next door, but a quiet quickie could be just the thing.
Not only does it cause your brain to pump out plenty of relaxing hormones, but it helps maintain that emotional bond with your partner.
7 You Don’t Need Another Person
“BUT,” I hear you cry, “My other half goes to bed early, or else they fall asleep as soon as their head touches the pillow.” Or maybe you are a single mom who doesn’t have a warm body next to her but still has a need to relax on her own?
No worries. Your brain can distinguish, in some ways, the difference between satisfaction with another and the act of self-love, but a far as sleep goes? Not so much.
Your brain will pump out the same chemicals to help you sleep when you “double-click your mouse” as it does when there is someone else involved.
6 Declutter To Slumber
Strange as it might sound, research suggests that having a disorderly mess in your bedroom can affect how well, or otherwise, you sleep. The theory seems to be that your subconscious is aware of all of those piles of household paperwork sitting on top of your chest of drawers and the collection of laundry that needs attending to on your chair and a small part of your brain is thinking about them while you are in the land of nod. Thus, it prevents your mind from shutting down and resting entirely.
That being said, you don’t need to deal with it all right before bed. Try hiding it away in a cupboard in the middle of the day, and you’ll have forgotten about it by bedtime.
5 All Clean For Bedtime
A National Sleep Foundation (NSF) study suggests that people sleep much better when their bedrooms are comfortable and clean.
“We’ve looked a lot at how medical and behavioral issues affect sleep, but we really hadn’t looked at the sleep environment in such depth,” NSF Chief Operating Officer David Cloud told WebMD. “Frankly, we were surprised to see that senses like touch, feel, and smell were so important.”
“People reported sleeping longer hours and feeling better about going to bed when their bed was made, their sheets were fresh, and their bedroom was comfortable,” Cloud said.
4 Color Me Sleepy
Specialized cells in your eyes called ganglion cells are responsible for sending information to the part of your brain that controls your body clock. These cells are most receptive to the color blue, which are linked to feelings of calm, so when the ganglion cells pick up blue, it signals calm to your brain, helping to reduce blood pressure and heart rate, all of which help you receive a solid night’s sleep.
You do not have to redecorate to reap the benefit of this phenomenon. Blue bedding, pillows, curtains or other accents in your room will all contribute to a feeling of calm. Unless, of course, all of that blue is a pile of dirty laundry, but we’ve gone over that point already. On your phone, be sure to enable the blue light filter function in the evenings.
3 Sniff Out Some Sleep
The sense of smell is linked to the brain's limbic system, which governs emotion and behavior. You will have experienced this when you go to the store, and the smell from the bakery makes you hungry, or when you catch a whiff of perfume when a stranger walks past, and it reminds you of being a kid at your grandma's.
Some smells have been shown to help our brain go to sleep. Lavender, rose, jasmine and vanilla are all shown to help you relax and drift off. Because these scents are popular, they are readily available in toiletries and household cleaners, as well as scented candles and essential oils.
Try layering yourself and your home with “sleepy smells” and see if it helps you.
2 You Smell Dreamy
A 2008 study found that subjects who were given whiffs of pleasant smells while they were asleep reported more positive dreams and a better quality of sleep than when they had unpleasant smells waived under their noses.
Study author Boris Stuck of the University Hospital Mannheim in Germany said: "There was hardly any kind of a dream dealing with smelling, but the pleasant odor appeared to affect the subjects' emotional ratings of their dreams.”
He went on to say "If odor has a strong effect on your emotions when you're awake, it makes sense for it to have a strong effect on your emotions when you're asleep."
1 A Final List Of Don’ts
Most people know these already but, just in case, don’t drink caffeine within six hours of bedtime, drink alcohol within six hours of bedtime, eat within four hours of bed, drink anything in the last 30 mins before bed, read on backlit devices, have your phone in the bedroom, or use any lit screen in the hour before bed.
References: sleep.org, psychologytoday.com, webmd.com, dreampadsleep.com, realsimple.com, sleepfoundation.org, and oto.sagepub.com.