It’s hard enough for an average person to manage a proper sleep schedule, but once you become a parent? Forget it.
Whether you’re dealing with an infant or a toddler, here are nine things moms can do to get a good night’s sleep.
1. Don’t Look at Screens Before Bed
Yes, this even includes your cell phone’s screen. Don’t take the time right before bed to check emails, scroll through Facebook or even watch Netflix. Exposing yourself to the light of a screen before trying to go to bed signals your brain to stay awake. If possible, avoid watching TV in the bedroom and keep your computer in a separate room so you aren’t tempted to check it before falling asleep.
If you have to get up to check on your children throughout the night, use nightlights or a low-light lamp instead of turning on all the lights.
2. Avoid an Afternoon Cup of Joe
While you might feel like it’s necessary to have a cup of coffee when you start hitting that afternoon slump, it could cause you to lose sleep later that night. Studies have shown caffeine consumption in the afternoon can reduce both the quality and quantity of sleep you get at night.
If you can’t avoid the afternoon coffee, the general consensus is that you should have it before 2 p.m. You don’t need to cut out caffeine completely, but if you’re having trouble sleeping at night, your afternoon cup of coffee could be the culprit!
3. Drinking Alcohol Before Bed
It’s easy to look forward to enjoying a nice, relaxing glass of wine after a long day, but it could be affecting your sleep. While alcohol might help you feel tired and fall asleep faster, studies show it actually inhibits quality of sleep.
The National Sleep Foundation goes a bit more in-depth: It blocks REM sleep, the deep sleep that makes you feel well-rested, and interrupts your circadian rhythm, which is responsible for telling your body when to sleep and wake up.
4. Don’t Try to Do It All
There will always be dishes to wash and laundry to fold. Part of being able to relax and sleep well is being able to separate yourself from tasks that still need to be done. Get the rest you need to do it all over again tomorrow.
Laying in bed, mentally running over your to-do list definitely won’t help you sleep! If you need to create a list of things to do, set aside time to do so before you get ready for bed, or before you make dinner — just make sure it’s finished and out of your head before you get in bed.
5. Create a Sleep Ritual
Tell your body and mind it’s time for sleep by creating a relaxing pre-bedtime ritual. This could be drinking a cup of your favorite (decaf) tea, taking a bath or practicing a short meditation. Try this ten step mindfulness for better sleep meditation, or download the headspace app — some users report it’s cured their insomnia.
The key to this method is staying consistent. Once you’ve been doing it for awhile, that cup of tea or 10-minute meditation session will tell your brain it’s time to shut down and get some rest.
6. Hide Your Clock
Staring helplessly at your clock when you’re trying to sleep, or wake up throughout the night to check on the kids, just makes sleeping even harder. It’s been proven checking the time worsens insomnia. If you’re someone who can’t stop watching the clock, get rid of it! At least turn it away or cover it up with a towel so you aren’t tempted to check the time every five seconds.
7. Recognize Hormonal Imbalances
Pregnancy hormones seriously affect your sleep due to rapidly changing hormone levels. Even after pregnancy, your body is still getting used to different amounts of hormones, and when your body starts to cycle again after pregnancy, your PMS symptoms could ruin a good night’s sleep too.
According to a study by the National Sleep Foundation, 30% of women report disturbed sleep during menstruation, and 23% experience sleep issues a week prior. With all these issues related to changing hormones, what are you supposed to do? There’s no definitive answer, but you can plan for the times when you know you’ll be feeling under the weather because of your cycle. Don’t schedule anything early in the morning, and take other steps mentioned in this post to increase sleep.
You don’t have to go to a weekly crossfit class or hit the gym at 5 a.m every morning — even just ten minutes of exercise can help you get a good night’s sleep. Early morning and afternoon exercise tends to be the best for increasing sleep quality, and exercising outdoors is even better so your body absorbs natural sunlight.
9. Opt for Natural Remedies over Sleep Medication
While over-the-counter sleeping medicine will help for a few nights, prolonged use of it can have the complete opposite effect. If you take it for more than a few days and quit, your insomnia could return worse than it was before. Plus, sleep meds leave you feeling groggy the next morning.
A few of the best natural sleep remedies to try: magnesium rich snacks such as oatmeal and cherries, essential oils and valerian root tea.
Being a good mom doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice good sleep forever. The tips on this list should help you fall asleep faster, and wake up feeling well-rested!