If you struggle with sleep, you’re in good company.
As moms, we face a never-ending list of demands on our time.
And while we try to keep our kids well rested, our own sleep often gets put on the back burner.
The thing is, it’s hard to squeeze in a good night of slumber when our days—and sometimes nights—are already jam-packed.
But there’s good news. We can take steps towards staying well rested.
Eager to know how?
Read on to hear my top 7 sleep tips—intended to get you, mama, the sleep you deserve.
1. Timely sleep helps keep you well rested
It’s important to stick to a regular sleep schedule.
This means getting up and going to bed around the same time every day including on weekends.
Why should we take this step?
Our bodies crave consistency. Sticking to similar bedtimes and wake-up times makes it easier to fall asleep at our desired bedtime. And when we fall asleep in a timely manner, we’re more likely to get enough hours of nightly slumber.
As a busy mom, I know it’s hard to stick to a sleep schedule. There are lots of potential disruptions including sick children, holidays, unexpected deadlines, and other emergencies.
Our sleep needs also fluctuate from time-to-time, necessitating changes to sleep schedules. For example, if you’re unwell or under a lot of stress, you’ll likely benefit from more rest.
The point here is to create healthy sleep routines we can follow most of the time but to give ourselves a good dose of self-compassion when life inevitably gets in the way.
The ideal level of consistency?
Try the 80/20 rule, which means aiming to be consistent 80% of the time. Applied on a weekly basis, this means staying on schedule roughly six out of seven nights a week.
Some people are able to get away with less consistency than others. So, it’s important to learn what you need, personally, to stay well rested.
2. Napping dos and don’ts
Napping isn’t for everyone.
For some, daytime sleep is invigorating. But for others, naps are a sure-fire way to sabotage bedtime. This is especially true if you suffer from chronic sleep difficulties.
If you’re already a napper or would like to try napping, here are two key tips to make these daytime snoozes helpful rather than a hindrance.
- Don’t nap too late in the day; after 3pm is likely too late
- Keep naps short, in the realm of 10-20 minutes
Want an additional pro tip?
Try drinking caffeine right before you go to sleep. Research suggests that this strategy—known as a coffee nap—provides a needed energy boost just as you’re waking up.
And if you’re a parent of an infant, stolen moments of daytime sleep help make up for fragmented overnight sleep. So, nap away when you can!
3. Choose relaxing activities in the hours before bedtime
How we spend our evening matters when it comes to a restful night’s sleep.
Relaxing activities settle our bodies, preparing us for sleep. Stressful tasks, on the other hand, are activating—making it harder to fall asleep.
So, which evening activities help—and which ones interfere—with keeping well rested?
- Some yoga poses may be soothing but going for a run tends to rev up the body
- Crafting is calming but tackling your yearly tax return, not so much
- Spending time with loved ones may relax you but not if you discuss anxiety provoking topics like an upcoming move
Also be mindful of what media you consume before bed, keeping content light-hearted. So, maybe a comedy but not a thriller nor the nightly news. And regardless of the content, turn screens off at least an hour before bedtime.
Other great ways to relax in the evening? Take a warm bath, read, write in a journal, or listen to music.
And in addition to these activities, try gradually dimming or turning off lights over the course of the evening. Low lighting tells our brains to make melatonin, the sleep-inducing hormone.
4. Rock the bedtime routine to ensure a well rested you
Our kids aren’t the only ones who benefit from bedtime routines—the set of activities we do, in the same order, in the 30 minutes before bed.
When we follow a consistent set of nightly steps, we train our bodies and brains to feel tired when bedtime rolls around.
As parents, we’re often well acquainted with bedtime routines. You may already have one in place for your kids including activities such as taking a bath, brushing teeth, getting on PJs, and reading stories.
An adult bedtime routine often contains similar components.
How do you design a good bedtime routine for yourself?
Start with what you’re already doing in the 30 minutes before bed. Is there anything you can add or take away to make the final 30 minutes before sleep more relaxing?
Once you have a set of activities in mind, make an effort to stick to the same tasks in the same order going forward.
5. What you eat and drink before bed matters
Some evening visits to the kitchen are more helpful than others when it comes to a good night’s sleep.
A light snack, such as a piece of fruit or yoghurt, can help prevent hunger from interrupting sleep. But leave heavier options such as fast-food take out and pork roast leftovers for another time. No one wants indigestion or a bad bout of acid reflux prior to or during sleep.
The same goes with beverages. A non-caffeinated chamomile or lavender tea can help you relax before bed. But a mug of coffee or glass of wine, not so much. While alcohol can make you feel relaxed and sleepy, it negatively impacts both the quality and quantity of sleep.
And watch out for hidden sources of caffeine. Drinking Red Bull before bed may be an obvious no-no but steering clear of Mountain Dew may not. Yet both beverages contain a similar amount of caffeine on an ounce-by-ounce basis.
Chocolate also contains caffeine—alas—as does green tea. So, it pays to do your research before indulging in an evening snack or drink.
The recommended time to call it quits on caffeine? Six hours before bed. And some people need an even longer caffeine-free stretch before sleep. Observe to see what works best for you.
And it’s worth noting that any beverage can disrupt your sleep if it prompts multiple overnight trips to the bathroom. So, drink wisely!
6. Make your bedroom an oasis of calm and tranquility
Keep the hustle and bustle of daily life out of your bedroom.
Assuming you have the space, limit your bedroom for rest, relaxation, and intimacy only—rather than as a secondary living room, home office, or family train station.
Other useful bedroom accessories?
Room darkening blinds can help block out light, as can eye masks. If you’re on a budget, there are inexpensive curtain options at hardware stores.
If you like to read, try using dim lighting. And keep electronics out of the bedroom. Not only do screens emit melatonin suppressing light, but they can disrupt sleep even when turned off.
If sounds within or outside your home interfere with sleep, white noise may help. There are a variety of devices and smartphone apps that can accomplish this feat. Regular home appliances like fans, dehumidifiers, and humidifiers can also do the trick as can a good set of ear plugs.
Snoring bedmates, horizontally sleeping children, and oh so cute but restless pets pose additional challenges to staying well rested. Chronic snoring may indicate sleep apnea so encourage noisy bedmates to seek help for their own sake as well as yours.
Children can be taught to remain in their beds—they really can—and for help accomplishing this feat, consider reaching out to trusted health care provider or sleep consultant.
As for pets, Fido may need to spend his nights on the couch rather than on your bed. Don’t worry, he’ll still love you in the morning.
7. Stay well rested with good AM and daytime routines
We often think of sleep as ending when we wake up.
But really, the whole day matters when it comes to staying well rested. This includes a morning routine that connects us with the natural 24-hour light-dark cycle—otherwise known as our circadian clock. A good morning routine cues our bodies that sleep time is over and daytime has begun.
Helpful morning activities include getting light exposure (natural, if available, but artificial works, too), taking a shower, getting outside for some fresh air, listening to energizing music, and eating breakfast soon after awakening.
And don’t stop with the morning.
So, try to pepper a little outdoor time and movement into your days whether this is popping outside to drink your morning coffee, walking the dog, cleaning the house, or hitting the gym for a work-out.
And a note of caution—while regular physical activity during daytime hours helps with sleep, vigorous activity is best avoided in the hours before bedtime.
We’re all different, so keep track of what enjoyable morning and daytime activities help keep you well rested.
Need further help?
Hopefully these tips have you well on your way to better sleep.
But if you’re still struggling to stay well rested, it’s worth considering whether medications or an underlying medical disorder may be contributing to your difficulties.
Adult sleep disorders are common and often go undiagnosed and untreated. And many medications, including over-the-counter and naturopathic remedies, can negatively impact sleep.
So, don’t hesitate to reach out to a trusted health care professional if you need further assistance to get the rest you need.
Make gradual changes
Making changes to our sleep can be difficult. And it takes some experimentation to figure out what works best.
I suggest starting small and choosing one of the above tips to focus on first.
Perhaps this is keeping electronics out of the bedroom or drinking your last caffeinated beverage before 3pm.
And remember that life happens.
Kids get sick, we get sick, and deadlines loom before us.
But take heart knowing that healthy sleep habits will see you through these temporary hiccups.
And that with each small change, you’re one step closer to a well rested you.
You’ve got this, mama!
I’d love to hear from you!
What next step can you take towards staying well rested? Share it in the comment section below!
And please share these sleep tips with another mama who’s in need of better rest.