Sleep…who has time for sleep? Don’t most mothers live by the mantra “I’ll sleep when I’m dead”? As a busy mom, I get what it’s like to be pulled in five different directions at one time. To be the one to run the household, juggle the kids, their school and all their activities, do the laundry, cook the meals, shop to have groceries for those meals, go to work or stay at home. Or maybe you’ve hit the stage where you’re not only caring for your kids but also your parents. If we’re lucky we manage to fit in some exercise, or maybe it’s not luck, but instead, sheer stubborn determination to do something good for ourselves. Some of us might even manage a little quiet time, but it’s often during those fringe hours of 5am or 11pm when everyone is in bed that we get those rare moments of peace and quiet. The TV is off, no one is asking you 20 questions and it’s long past business hours to take care of any pressing task on your To Do list.
However, that then begs the questions: When do you sleep? How much sleep are you getting on a regular basis? And what can you do right now to make sleep a priority for your health?
The National Sleep Foundation recommends we get an average of 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night. But according to several polls including the CDC, just under 40% of women get the recommended minimum of 7 hours sleep during the week. That’s nearly half of us walking around with some level of sleep depravation. Not to mention I speak with countless women who either can’t go to sleep when they’d like because their head hits the pillow and suddenly their mind starts racing and everything they didn’t get checked off their to do list starts running through their head, or they’re thinking about tomorrow’s to do list, or they venture down the horrifying rabbit hole of “what if’s” and “if only”’s. Or they consistently wake up between the hours of 2 and 4AM. To top it off our most restful sleep falls between the hours of 11pm to 7am but if we aren’t going to bed until 11 and waking up at 5 then we are missing the mark by a long shot.
So what are five things you can do today for a night of more restful sleep?
- Quit your caffeine habit. I know, I know, I said the four most dreaded words of any sleep-deprived woman. Followed closely by step away from the wine. But hear me out. Caffeine is only a Band-Aid fix when what we really need is a lifestyle fix. Drinking caffeine messes with our hormones, specifically those that help regulate blood sugar. Thus, we live on this perpetual rollercoaster of exhausted lows that we up with caffeine, driving us to then have energy highs, only to plummet once again a couple hours later. So we continue the cycle. If you must have that morning cup of coffee, make sure to first drink a glass or two of water first. This rehydrates your body and can actually give you a bit of an energy boost. After you’ve had your glass of water then you can enjoy a cup of coffee, preferably before noon. Of course this may not happen overnight. You are reading the words of a woman who relied on coffee for way too many years. I’m now down to 1 cup 3 or 4 days a week…if I can do this, so can you.
- Set up a sleep routine. It works for babies and toddlers, why should we believe it wouldn’t work for us as adults? When you start to wind down and go through the same rituals every night your brain starts to say, “Hey! It’s that time for me to go to work. It’s time to rest and repair!” Maybe your routine looks like a cup of chamomile tea after you’ve washed your face, a good book on your favorite chair, and a simple prayer of thanks for another day spent with those you love. Or maybe it looks like dinner with the family, then bath time for the baby followed by a story and a sweet cuddle, and once he’s down for the night then you catch up on your favorite show, write a bit in your journal and head for a warm bath yourself before crawling into bed.
3. Stop your screen time. Turn off the TV and stop scrolling Facebook and Instagram at least an hour before bed. Shoot for hitting the sack by 10pm. If our most restful sleep occurs between the hours of 11pm and 7am, this gives you ample time to wind down. Who knows? Maybe you’ll get lucky and have heavy eyes by 10:30 giving you plenty of wiggle room to be asleep before 11, because let’s be honest: Who really gets to sleep in until 7am?
4. Journal your thoughts, your triumphs and shortcomings. Brain dump whatever is on your mind. Maybe it’s bad. Maybe it’s good. Either way once you get it out you can often stop replaying whatever the scenario is. Several clients have told me this is one of their biggest helpers to getting to sleep faster. By journal I do mean pen to paper. Not the little Notes app on your iPhone. See number 3.
5. Practice an attitude of gratitude. We have been hearing for years how gratitude changes our perspective. “Gratitude changes your attitude.” Yes, this ties into journaling and you can certainly document your blessings, after all it is fun to look back on past prayers and blessings to see what progress and changes have come. However, when you’re trying to sleep and can’t calm your mind, especially if it’s something negative you’re dwelling on, one of the best things I’ve found is to start a laundry list of what you’re thankful for. Just run it through your head. No light or pen and paper needed. Maybe you’re thankful for something as simple as a sweet text from your husband, or as big as your mom getting cleared of her cancer diagnosis and she is now in remission. Maybe it’s somewhere in between like getting through dinner without one single child complaining about their veggies. It might be 5 things or it might be 20. Embrace these as your last thoughts before you drift off to sleep.
Which one of these five steps is easiest for you to put into place? Which one is the hardest? What would your day look like if you woke up refreshed and focused in the morning? How would it be easier and less stressful? Nothing makes for a great day like a great night of sleep. Let me know what you try and what works best for you.