By Brittney Stefanic
The mama bear sleep struggle
Overtired moms, we need to chat… Getting a full night’s rest is vital to your mental and physical success because it is in the deeper stages of sleep that the body revitalizes and restores itself. During this stage, energy stores are rejuvenated and the immune system can be boosted.
Knowing all this, it’s no wonder that sleep is essential to keep the operations of your family (and the rest of your life) running smoothly, yet it is one of the first things we sacrifice in our day-to-day life.
With the holidays behind us, most moms are completely exhausted and burnt out. We’ve been running a million miles a minute, staying up too late, cooking for our visitors, eating more sweets, and bogged down by the demands of motherhood during the holidays.
It’s no secret that stress, lack of time, or a constantly running mind can all interfere with sleep. If you are struggling with a cycle of exhaustion and ready to make some big changes in 2019, give these five tips a read so you know what you can do now to get better sleep this new year!
Create your sleep sanctuary
Your bedroom should feel calming, relaxing and inviting. Making sure your sleep sanctuary feels this way can be very helpful for initiating sleep.
Removing clutter, laundry and anxiety-inducing triggers from your bedroom is a great first step. If you are anything like me, you are known for a giant pile of laundry (either clean or dirty) that lives on your floor or even on your bed. This mound of clothes may just seem like a small inconvenience, but chances are it stimulates some sort of stress for you, and it should not be in your room! Find another place for it – guest room, laundry basket in the closet or better yet… Get it put away! You may be surprised at how much a small change like that can impact your stress reduction and benefit your sleep!
Make sure the blinds in your bedroom are blocking out light. It is hard to sleep when the sun is rising, and if you live on a busy street or have neighbors with bright lights, that can trigger a sleep hormone imbalance in the middle of the night.
Finally, set the thermostat between 68 and 72 degrees an hour before bedtime to make sure that your sleep space is feeling just right. If you have a tendency to rise too early in the morning, 3 or 4 A.M., it may be because there is a biological temperature drop around this time in our bodies. If this is the case, having an automatic space heater in your room may be helpful as it will allow the room to stay the same temperature all night and may turn on just before your body temp drops!
Turn off your devices
I know, I know. It’s tough to imagine putting your phone down any earlier. You need it to stay connected to work, you want it to mindlessly scroll on social media, and you (like the rest of us) have a big time habit of taking it everywhere you go!
But, there is science here that we just can’t ignore. In addition to causing extra stress depending on the type of scrolling done at bedtime, the blue light that is emitted from our devices (phones, tablets, TVs) has been shown in recent studies to inhibit the production of melatonin. Melatonin is the main sleep hormone, and we need plenty of it to fall asleep at bedtime and stay asleep through the night. Your phone use is actually biologically changing the production of the hormones being produced by your body... YIKES!
My advice biggest piece of screen time management is to power down the electronics at least one hour before bedtime. This may feel like a HUGE stretch for you, and it did for me too, but guess what? YOU HAVE DONE HARDER THINGS! I know you have.
In order to minimize temptation, don’t charge your devices near your bedside. You can consider setting up a “charging station” in your laundry room or home office to minimize the temptation that comes with having your device within reach.
I suggest you pick up a new (mindless book) to distract you from the fact that you aren’t checking your email or scrolling before bed. This shouldn’t be a work book, a parenting book or a meal-prepping book. Think romantic beach read or something trending with book clubs! This new (or new to you) book should be a paper version so that you aren’t closing your Kindle App every few pages to “just check Facebook real quick”.
Prioritize your bedtime routine
Creating and implementing a bedtime routine keeps our minds and bodies happy. We always like to know what’s next which is why we crave consistency and resist change! There is a big misconception that bedtime routines are just for kids, but actually, a good sleep routine is essential for preparing all bodies for sleep.
Routines are not just about getting physically ready for bed. In fact, through routine, signals are sent to the brain that bedtime is approaching, and the brain starts shutting down in preparation for sleep.
This routine doesn’t have to be long and drawn out, but doing the same steps the last 30 minutes, or so, before bed can be a useful trigger for your mind. A few things you can include: stretching, reading, meditating, chatting with your partner, coloring/doodling and completing personal hygiene needs (teeth, face, shower, etc).
Be mindful of the time
When you feel like you have to do #allthethings, it can be REALLY hard to prioritize a scheduled bedtime. You feel obligated to take care of things around the house, you want to touch base with friends, you need to shower, and your only free time to binge watch Netflix is once the kitchen is picked up, the lunches are packed and the rest of the family is in bed. I GET IT! But, if your sleep needs are not being met, it is going to be hard for you to keep on keepin’ on. Your body needs sleep which means you need to make it a priority.
For adults, if you can hit the 7 to 8-hour mark, you are doing great. To do so, you may need to set an alarm to signal for yourself that it is time to start wrapping up your Pinterest use or folding that last pile of laundry and get yourself ready for bed. We use alarms to signal that it is time to wake up, so why not use one to remind us it is time for bed?
This hourly sleep goal might not be attainable every night, but if you can get into a habit of getting your family into bed a little earlier, you can find ways to get yourself into bed earlier, too, and within a few weeks, your bodies will learn to crave this sleep which will incentivize you to do it more often.
Make time for the outdoors
Spending time outside is a great way to burn off extra energy, soak up Vitamin D, spend quality time with your family, and boost production of our natural sleepy hormone, melatonin. If the outdoor time for an adult can total 60 minutes a day, that is most recommended for aiding in sleep quality, but any amount of time in the later afternoon or early evening can be helpful.
Tonight you may aim for a brisk walk around the block with your family. Or how about taking a part of your lunch break to walk a few times around the building? Or instead of meeting a client for coffee, suggest a leisurely walk to touch base. It is amazing what natural light and endorphins can do for syncing up our natural body clock and making sleep a little easier to come by.
What’s in it for me?
These tips may seem like a lot of work, and in reality, they can be. But, if you are expecting your family to function like a well-oiled machine, you’ve got to get everyone sleeping better, including yourself as we enter this season of resolutions and big changes.
Doesn’t it sound great to have a stress-free bedtime, a smooth morning wake up and an overall happy and well-rested family? That should be motivation enough for cleaning up the sleep hygiene in your house and prioritizing one of the most basic human needs… SLEEP!
You’ve got this mama. Keep dreaming the big dreams while you are sleeping the much deserved sleep.
Brittney Stefanic is a certified sleep consultant specializing in full-family sleep solutions. She gets that when our little ones don't sleep, you don’t sleep and then your family struggles to function! But she also believes in the power of education to change habits, especially in the new year! You can find out more about what she does to support clients at brittneystefanicsleep.com, follow her on Facebook and Pinterest for sleep tips and tricks @brittneystefanicsleepand see photos of what life could be like if you were a little more rested on Instrgram @brittneystefanicsleep.