Sleep deprivation sucks. When I’m tired, I lose patience, have less mental clarity and overall I’m just not very fun.
In 2010, a survey done in the UK revealed that parents lose an average of 6 months of sleep during the first 24 months of a child’s life. Woah – that’s a crazy amount of lost sleep! Quality sleep is critical for health and longevity. During sleep, our body heals and rejuvenates our organs, muscles, tissues and cells. Plus, sleep deprivation is linked to a weak metabolism, compromised immune function and a reduction in our mind’s ability to manage emotions and make rational decisions.With all of these negative consequences, why are there still so many mommies out there using caffeine to keep them awake and makeup to cover the dark bags under their eyes?
In some cases, lack of sleep boils down to our kids’ habits. My son would consistently wake up in the 4-5 AM range before I finally made some changes. Though I can’t promise your kids will sleep any better (that’s for another post!) there are a number of simple solutions to help you maximize the sleep you’re getting. Plus, all too often moms tell me: “the kids are sleeping fine, it’s me who doesn’t sleep well.”
Below are three evidence-based recommendations for improving your sleep. I encourage you to pick one and consistently try it for a week.
Three Simple Sleep Tips for a Busy Mama:
Let your brain rest and your melatonin kick-in.
Most devices, like the computer, iPad, smartphone and even the TV, emit blue light that’s been shown to restrict melatonin production. Melatonin is the hormone released by the body to encourage sleep. Without adequate melatonin production, it’s more difficult to fall and stay asleep.
Give your digestive system a couple of hours to work before hitting the hay.
Think of your digestive tract as an engine. It’s the machinery responsible for breaking down our food and absorbing nutrients into our bodies. Meals can take up to 5 hours to move from the stomach to the small intestine depending on the amount of fat and the size of the meal. Digestion keeps the body stimulated and not relaxed enough for sleep. If you throw alcohol into the mix, the liver has to kick on, which also disrupts your sleep.
Create a nighttime routine that encourages relaxation.
Our technology-driven, 24-7 society keeps us constantly stimulated night and day. Though our bodies are very adaptable, this constant buzz interferes with proper functioning. Just as a newborn’s body needs to learn the difference between night and day, our bodies need to constantly be reminded of when it’s time to rest. At bedtime, we may feel exhausted but our body hasn’t necessarily gotten the message that it’s time for sleep. To keep your body’s sleep system on track, adopt a 10-15 minute routine that promotes healthy sleep. Here are some of my favorite natural remedies:
- Inhale lavender oil. Rub a few drops of pure essential oil in your hands, cover your mouth and nose for a few minutes and breath in. Or, better yet, add a few drops to your humidifier.
- Drink German chamomile tea. Don’t drink too much or you’ll be up peeing! Drinking a small cup of tea an hour before bed will promote relaxation.
- Do legs up the wall pose. This is my favorite pose because it stimulates the thyroid, which is in charge of regulating melatonin production. Spend 10 minutes doing this simple pose in a dark room and you’ll be visiting the sleep sheep in no time.
- Listen to yoga nidra. Yoga nidra is a mix between yoga and meditation that is practiced laying down. Listening to this short guided meditation will have you drifting off to sleep in less than 10 minutes.
- Use a white noise machine. Many moms find that they can’t relax and sleep because they innately want to be aware of a stirring or crying child. Masking common sounds like the heater and cars outside is an effective solution to help you sleep while not limiting your ability to hear your little ones at night.
These are just a few of my favorite healthy bedtime habits. There’s plenty more to choose from in my book 52 Small Changes for the Family. What helps you achieve high-quality sleep? If you’ve tried any of these recommendations, how did it go? Comment with your tips and experiences!