The idea of a full night’s sleep is a faraway dream for parents in the newborn stage. Studies show that about half of new parents only get between one and three hours of uninterrupted sleep each night.
The silver lining: the older your children get, the more possible it becomes to reclaim your sleep. Still, even with older kids, you might be missing out on three to nine hours of sleep each week.
The recommended amount of sleep for the average adult is seven to nine hours, but as many as 60% of women are falling short of this goal. This means that we fall into “sleep debt”, which often manifests itself in symptoms like forgetfulness, fatigue and irritability. Over time, the consequences get more serious, and heart disease, stroke and memory loss can result.
The fact of the matter is, regardless of what stage of motherhood you’re in, sleep is a challenge. Yet sleep plays a huge role in our health and happiness, and we can’t run on coffee and power naps forever. So what realistic steps can we take to get more sleep?
The early years of motherhood leaves very limited time for anything outside of work and kids, and this often leads to a fear of missing out (FOMO). We have a go-go-go mentality and make rest the enemy. We end up staying up too late because we think we’re going to miss something. Shift your perspective and start looking at sleep as the thing you’re afraid to miss out on. Sleep deprivation is not a badge of honor.
In her book “Sleep Revolution,” Arianna Huffington talks about the idea of revering sleep. Shift your entire family to this mentality. Treat naps as an important part of life. Make sleep part of your daily conversation. Ask “How did you sleep?” and “Are we getting enough hours?”. Teach older kids to play quietly in their rooms if they awake before you!
While coffee and tea can provide a needed boost, caffeine lasts in our systems far longer than we want it there. If you’ve been struggling to fall asleep, help yourself by cutting down on your caffeine intake and eliminating it after lunch. Replace the caffeinated beverages you typically drink in the afternoon with water, which gives you natural energy.
Motherhood is challenging, and often when our heads hit the pillow we have a day’s worth of stress, frustration and worry we still haven’t worked out, plus the little to-do’s that are floating around in our heads. Before you go to sleep, spend 10 or 15 minutes writing it all out in a journal. Let the fears lose, and keep a to-do list or bullet journal handy so when you remember that doctor's appointment you need to reschedule, you can write it down without having to hop out of bed.
Watching TV or browsing Facebook might be a relaxing way to unwind after a long day, but they’re proven to be counterproductive to sleep. The blue light messes with our natural biology, and we’re more likely to stay up late if we’re binge-watching Netflix or caught up in our friends’ latest posts. If this is a problem, take the TV out of the bedroom and ban phones and tablets too.
Also consider how your children’s sleep arrangements affect your rest-- some moms love co-sleeping, while others just can’t relax with their baby in the bed. Remember that you need to take care of yourself and do what’s best for you!
It may be hard to find the energy to exercise when you’re overtired, but hear us out. Exercising actually boosts your energy levels and mood, thanks to the endorphins it creates in your body. Strap the baby in the stroller and take a long walk around the neighborhood. Studies have shown that moving your body can help make you more physically tired, which makes it easier for you to fall asleep.
Do you know how much sleep you’re really getting? When you have a realistic picture of your sleep habits, it’s easier to see where you can make a change. Use a device like a Fitbit or Apple Watch to collect the data. Make it fun by setting sleep goals and celebrating when you achieve them.
Mommas need a schedule and routine too. You may be adamant about your baby’s bedtime, but you’re probably forgetting that it’s good for you too! If you’re going to bed at different times every night, your body is all over the place. Commit to a consistent bedtime for yourself, and create a wind-down routine. Stay away from your devices, make a cup of soothing bedtime tea and grab a book.
You can get yourself excited for bedtime by buying a beautiful new pair of pajamas, or new sheets with an indulgent thread count. Treat yourself to a facial mask and a nice bath. It may take you a few days to feel tired at the appropriate time, but eventually you’ll work your way into a sleep routine.
Chances are, your partner is just as exhausted as you and would love a day to sleep in too. Try establishing a schedule where you trade who gets up with the baby. An extra 30 minutes of sleep makes a big difference when you’re sleep deprived. On weekends when you don’t have any plans, make a deal where you take turns to sleep in. Get a sound machine for your room so the sounds of the morning routine won’t wake you up, and you can each have a day to wake up feeling refreshed.
Sleep is so vital to our health and happiness, but we often don’t make it a priority because there is so much on our plates. Look at your to-do lists and examine the way you allocate yourt time. Are Real Housewives reruns worth missing out on our precious sleep? Do all the dishes really need to be done every night before we go to bed? If getting solid sleep is a challenge, laying out clear priorities can help you realize where you can make meaningful change.
The simple truth is that life is not the same as it was pre-kids. The days of staying up late and “catching up” on sleep on the weekend are gone. While some sleep interruptions are unavoidable (we’re looking at you, baby), there are many that can be worked around.
If your own health isn’t enough to motivate you to get more sleep, remember that not sleeping is unsafe for your baby, too-- you’re much more prone to accidents and forgetfulness when you are significantly overtired. Remember, there are few things worth losing sleep over, mommas, especially when you know how important sleep is!
P/S: Here are some tried-and-true bedtime habits for both your baby and you!