Sleep Awareness Week: What about YOUR sleep?
Sleep, precious sleep... Parents spend so much time worrying about their little one’s sleep that often, they forget to make their own sleep a priority.
“In the event of an emergency, please put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others”. This is a familiar flight attendant announcement you hear on planes. This saying doesn’t just relate to flying though. By ensuring you get well-deserved sleep, you will be in a more effective position to take care of your little one.
Getting sleep is absolutely essential for your overall health and is the foundation of general wellbeing.
How much sleep should you be getting?
Everyone is different, and the amount of sleep you need might be different to what your friends need. In general, though, the average adult ideally should be getting between 7-9 hours of sleep per night. This can be especially difficult when you have a baby to care for.
Why is sleep important?
If you are not getting enough sleep it can really affect how you feel and put you at increased risk of mental health issues. The research shows that lack of sleep contributes to:
- Low mood
- Less resilience
- Increased stress
- Difficulty concentrating
Poor sleep has also been linked to post-natal anxiety and depression. However, it is not the number of times a Mama is woken at night by the little one that puts her at increased risk of post-natal anxiety and depression, but how long it takes her to get back to sleep once she is woken. Healthy sleep habits have been shown to improve mood and general wellbeing.
Here are our top tips to help YOU get better quality sleep:
We at ergoPouch understand that having a newborn and children is hard work. Below are some suggested ways that may help you catch some zzzzz's, when possible. You may only be able to realistically complete one of these tips, know that you are doing an incredible job no matter what!
1.Only go to sleep when you are tired. Only try to sleep when you actually feel tired, rather than spending too much time awake in bed. We cannot force ourselves or our baby to fall asleep at any given moment. Actively trying to go to sleep may paradoxically make sleep more difficult.
2. If you can’t fall asleep, get up and try again. If you have been trying to get to sleep for 20 minutes or more, get up and do something calming or boring until you feel sleepy. Then try again.
3. Have a daily bedtime. Your body does well with routine. Going to bed and getting up at a similar time every day, lets your body know what’s coming, when. Try and align your bedtime with your little one's bedtime so that your little one's longest stretch of sleep occurs while you are also sleeping.
4. Avoid caffeine and nicotine. We know you are probably tired, but these stimulants will increase the time it takes for you to actually fall asleep. Do your best to avoid them for 4-6 hours prior to bed.
5. Avoid alcohol. While many believe that a glass of wine or two might make it feel easier to relax and drift off to sleep, it does impact the quality of sleep across the night. It’s best to avoid it altogether or have your last drink 4-6 hours before bed.
6. Bedtime routine. Just like babies and toddlers, you can set up cues that lets your body know, sleep is coming! Set up a consistent bedtime routine. Experiment with what works for you but some ideas to wind down might include, some bedtime reading or a cup of herbal tea in dim lit room, 10mins of breathing exercises, stretching or meditation.
7. Hot shower or bath before bed. This is a good one to add to your bedtime routine. Right before we fall asleep, we have a drop in body temperature. So having a warm bath or shower within an hour before bed, can bring your temperature up and induce a sleepy feeling as it falls.
8. Exercise regularly. Regular exercise can help with good sleep, but try not to do vigorous exercise in the 4 hours before bedtime. Exercise protects a parent’s mental health as well as physical health, promotes sleep, and gives the baby opportunity for rich sensory stimulation. Try getting out with your little one for a walk in the fresh air and sunshine each day. Walks don’t need to be long and strenuous. Regular physical exercise throughout the day makes relaxation at the end of the day more likely.
9. Eat well. Enjoying a balanced diet can assist in improving sleep and general health overall, but timing is also important. An empty stomach at bedtime is distracting, so it can be useful to have a light snack, but a heavy meal soon before bed can also interrupt sleep. Bonus tip: try a warm glass of milk before bed. Tryptophan is an amino acid found in milk, that induces sleep. Now you understand “milk drunk”!
10. Spend time outdoors during the day. This is important for you and your little one. Getting some natural light throughout the day is important to regulate our bodies circadian rhythm (internal biological clocks). Exposure to light (particularly in the first part of the day) will help your body produce Melatonin, a hormone responsible for regulating this process.
11. Limit screen time. Blue light from screens interferes with our circadian rhythm by inhibiting the production of Melatonin. Keep lights low, screens to a minimum and allow yourself some screen-free wind-down time before heading to bed.
12. Keep your bed for just sleep. Just like a baby, you want your brain to associate bed with sleep. Working or watching TV in bed can confuse these signals.
13. Make sure you are comfortable. This is a no brainer but make sure you’re dressed comfortably. The optimal sleep conditions are lower outside temperature (between 68-72 degrees) and dressed nice and snug with adequate blankets. Also, make sure the room is nice and dark.
14. Monitor your sleep with an app. This can help you objectively assess your sleep. You might feel like you’re getting barely any sleep when in fact you’re still getting the minimum 7 hours each night.
15. Assess your expectations. The average sleeper takes 30 mins to fall asleep and will still consciously wake up a minimum of twice per night. It’s also very common to have difficulty sleeping during times of high stress.
16. Get help from friends and family. Getting help is so important. Try and have a support network around you. If others can help with chores like making dinner and washing, it will leave you more time to really rest.
17. Get your partner or a close family member to care for your little one sometimes. Sometimes knowing that someone else is taking care of the baby can help Mama’s relax and fall asleep more quickly.
18. Try not to be controlled by unhelpful thoughts and feelings. The way parents think about sleep can often make it harder to get back to sleep once they have been woken up at night. Thoughts like “I won’t be able to function tomorrow” are likely to be unhelpful, because these thoughts increase anxiety, making it more difficult to get back to sleep. Get in touch with a Clinical Psychologist for more help with difficult thoughts and feelings.
19. Be more mindful. Mindfulness has been linked to improved sleep. Mindfulness is being able to keep our attention in the present moment without judgement. We know that the things that bring us the most fulfilment and satisfaction in life (like having a child) can also bring us sadness at times too. Mindfulness involves noticing and accepting our thoughts, feelings and sensations, as they come and go. Mindfulness promotes healthy sleep by changing our relationship with our anxious thoughts and feelings, thus making us feel calmer and more relaxed.
20. Take control. Mama’s, please remember it is completely normal to feel sleep deprived and exhausted if your little one is waking frequently during the night. Sleep deprivation is not a joke. It is a form of torture used in a prisoner of war camps. It is normal to feel some resentment, and anxious. Help is available. The first step to feeling empowered is to build awareness. The second step is to take action.
The Sleep Science Guru team would love to help you and your family get better sleep! Please contact Sleep Science Guru today for your complimentary 15-minute consultation so they can help you shape healthy sleep habits for you and your little one. Click here to find out more.
This blog post is for general information only. It is not intended to be and should not be relied on as a substitute for specific medical or health advice. Sleep Science Guru disclaim all responsibility and liability for any direct or indirect loss, damage, cost or expense whatsoever in the use of or reliance upon this information.
Written by: Jenna, the Sleep Science Guru.