When it comes to moms and sleep, it seems like no one is getting enough.
Granted, sometimes it’s a simple matter of just not enough time. Sometimes you have to just burn the candle at both ends: a late night activity for one child, and an early start for another (or the same, but we sure hope not!).
Even if we can manage our busy schedules so that we have ample time to actually spend in bed, there are so many ways our sleep is disrupted. From snoring partners to sleepless little ones, sick children to stress, hormones to hot flashes.
Consistently getting enough rest is hard.
And often, as busy moms we just decide it has to be that way, and we determine that we must simply survive. And we become very, very fond of coffee. Sometimes we even wear our lack of sleep as a badge of honor. We are so tough, we can survive on no sleep! Watch us go!
I speak from experience. I’m as guilty as the most exhausted mom. And sometimes, when I’m able to actually spend a good amount of time in bed, I deal with the running to-do list in my head. Or worrying about this or that. Or the snoring husband. Sleep is probably the healthy habit I struggle with the most, if I’m being perfectly honest.
You are not alone. We are in this together!
Today, I thought I’d take a moment and share all the wisdom I’ve amassed over the years of not getting enough rest. But first, I often find that I’m better at maintaining healthy habits when I know why they’re so important. So, what are the negative effects of not getting enough sleep? Just to name a few:
- Brain fog. No, that’s not a technical term. That’s my term for the forgetfulness, the missed appointments, the forgotten permission slip, and the inability to remember that noodles are kind of an important ingredient in lasagna. It’s balls dropped, mom-job fails, and it’s not fun.
- Crankiness. I don’t know about you, but I get headaches when I am run down. I also can sometimes be dizzy. Not feeling our best can make our fuses shorter, and make us quicker to snap at those we love. Another really un-fun feeling as a mom.
- Relationship stress. See above points.
- Risk for accidents, falling, car accidents. See above points.
- Blood sugar irregularities. Did you know that after just a couple nights of poor sleep, your body begins to process sugar much like a diabetic? This is why we often crave sugar (chocolate, anyone?) when we are tired.
- And more.
Is it becoming obvious why you must make your own rest a priority? I am betting that you are a stickler for sleep with your children, right? Well, I am here to tell you: you are just as important as they are! In fact, I’d even argue that you are more important, because you keep them moving and keep the whole household running smoothly. So, as with your nutrition habits and your fitness habits, your rest habits are crucial to your feeling like the great mom you truly are.
So, let’s dive in. What are some ways you can get more rest?
Just as a reminder: I’m not a doctor. I’m a counselor and a mom just like you. Everything I share comes from years of coaching and counseling busy moms like you, and from personal experience! And I have more experience with lack of sleep than I care to admit! So I have plenty to share with you!
Your Daily Habits
- Work to maintain a fairly regular sleep-wake schedule. Try to go to bed and wake up close to the same time every day. On the weekends, try to not stray too far from that schedule. Sure, you’ll be up an hour or two later, and hopefully you can sleep in an hour or two later, but as much as possible, maintain a schedule. This allows your body to establish natural circadian rhythms, so that falling asleep and waking up are easier.
- Avoid caffeine within six hours of bedtime. I’d even recommend avoiding it after noon if at all possible.
Avoid drinking too much water too close to bedtime, so you don’t disrupt your sleep when you finally get to sleep. Getting up once in the middle of the night is okay, but try to hydrate in such a way you hydrate all day, then stop a couple hours before bed.
Avoid too much alcohol. Many people find that even one can mess with their sleep. Often alcohol makes us sleepy, but then has a rebound effect where, after that initial sleepy period, it wakes us back up. It can most definitely disrupt our sleep. If you enjoy a glass of wine some nights, just experiment and see what amount, if any, doesn’t seem to be too disruptive.
- Exercise daily if possible, or at least several times a week.
Your Bedtime Habits
Consider yoga before bed. You can even do seated sun salutations. Sit on your knees with your heels under you. Raise yourself up while reaching toward the sky, breathe deeply. Draw your hands to your heart while exhaling deeply. Repeat a few times until you feel more relaxed.
Have a bedtime routine. Allow yourself time to wind down. Even if you can only spare ten minutes, make it relaxing. Avoid screens and phones if possible. Maybe you want to read, or pray.
Keep your room cool and dark.
Consider a sound screen. There are versions that plug into a wall, and there are also free apps for your phone. I’ve used one for years, it masks sounds like the air conditioner kicking on and off or family members knocking around in the room next door or downstairs, without being so loud or distracting that you don’t hear a child crying for you.
Lavender is soothing and relaxing. Consider purchasing some lavender essential oil and rubbing it on your wrists or behind your ears, or look for a lavender pillow spray. I’ll mist the entire bed some nights.
Tips for When You Struggle to Fall Asleep
- Try to keep your eyes open. Often when our eyes close, our brain turns on. Think about when you’re watching a show and can’t stay awake, or when a child falls asleep. Often their eyes are the last to drop. Be childlike, and fight to stay awake, while in bed, staring at the ceiling. Sometimes it will have the opposite effect.
- Count your breaths, ten at a time. Sometimes counting too high makes us anxious, as we’ll realize we’ve been counting for a long time. Instead, just count to ten, and then start over.
- Count your blessings. Think of all the things you’re grateful for. If you’re going to be awake thinking, think about positive, joyful thoughts, rather than worrying about things you can’t fix in the middle of the night, anyway.
- Pray. I love to just pray for one family member at a time. I have to rotate which one I start with, because I often don’t get through them all before I drift off.
- Try a change of scenery. It’s been said that you should get up and leave and find a new place to sleep. Not every mom has a guest bed, or often we don’t want to leave our room because we want to stay where our alarm is, or where the baby monitor is, or where our children can find us if need be. What I do? Try turning upside down in the bed (feet where your head belong). Pull the comforter up like you’re making the bed, grab a blanket and your pillow, and go upside down. You’ll get a bit further away from the snoring if that’s an issue, and I like to pretend I’m settling in for a nap.
- Again: I am not a doctor. I am simply sharing the supplements that have worked for me in the past. I do not like to use prescription sleep aids, or even something like Tylenol PM or Benadryl, but rather try to stick as close as possible to what our bodies naturally produce or supplements that our bodies need or benefit from. These are a few discoveries I’ve made over the years.
Melatonin is a hormone our body naturally produces, which helps control our sleep and wake cycles. Ideally, with good habits, you can naturally control your melatonin levels and your body will produce what you need. However, sometimes we require a bit of help. Melatonin supplements come in a wide variety of doses, so I recommend starting with a low dose and experimenting. I personally don’t love to use melatonin because it has only a thirty-minute half-life, meaning after thirty minutes, half of is already broken down and has left your blood stream. For that reason, if it doesn’t work in thirty minutes, you may discover you almost wake up more than you were previously, and have to start all over. There are time-release capsules that can help with that, but again- this is something you have to experiment with.
Magnesium. Magnesium I have had more luck with, and I find that it helps a great deal with migraines. It can also help as a natural muscle relaxant, so it’s beneficial when you’ve got neck pain or achy muscles as well. In addition it helps control and regulate our levels of calcium, potassium, and sodium. It even can help with constipation and heart health.
Other natural sleep aids include valerian root, Passion flower, and tryptophan (the chemical found in turkey that makes us sleepy on Thanksgiving after a big meal). There are foods that contain tryptophan but also supplements. I actually have found that Passion flower causes me to have strange dreams, but that may be unique to me.
- I’d rather not share brands and doses here, simply because I am not a medical doctor, but if you’d like more information, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me! Cori@MomsRunningClub.com!
And all of this? It assumes sleep is a struggle because you can’t get to sleep or get enough quality sleep! But we all need to make sleep a priority!
Carpool. Help other moms, and get help yourself, by splitting rides to and from evening and early-morning activities. Tell your kids (or friends, or PTO, or work) “no” sometimes, just so that you can get the rest you need and deserve. Opt out every once in awhile, for your own health! You, and your family, will be better for it, when Mom feels rested, calm, centered, and on her game!
What are your best sleep tips? What did I miss here? Share in the comments below, or email me, I love to hear from you!
To your best night’s sleep ever!