Moms. Your baby is not a baby anymore and your children now sleep through the night. You’ve long awaited this day (night) to come because it means you, too, can join the “sleep through the night” club. But you notice something new. Something maybe no one warned you about. Sleep doesn’t come back like it did pre-baby. WHAT?!
It’s the mom-brain. Nighttime now means the perfect opportunity to think about (in many cases, worry about) anything and everything. Did little Sally remember to pack her project for science tomorrow? Did your husband call his mother to wish her happy birthday like you reminded him three times today? Is your young teenager going to make safe decisions at their first co-ed party this weekend? Did your mom just forget her doctor’s appointment today because we all forget things sometimes or because there is some Alzheimer’s you should be worried about? Suddenly, it’s been an hour and you still can’t fall asleep. Now you’re annoyed. Getting wound up. Wondering if you should stay in bed trying to fall asleep, calculating the zz’s you can still get before the alarm gets off, or if you should get up and be productive. You’re growing more awake by the minute. *Sigh* Another night down the drain….
What if I told you I had a FREE way for you to ditch this cycle, or at least alleviate it? And if this way also meant increased energy, focus, mood, and memory? You don’t need to give me your email address, sign up for something that requires shipping and handling, or even leave your house! And, to top it all off, elastic waistband pants are preferred!
Sign you up immediately, right?
Want in on what it is? Sleep hygiene.
Before you give your eyeballs a workout by rolling them, hear me out.
I know we’ve all heard that good sleep has a plethora of benefits for physical and mental health. I know that sometimes people make it sound sooOOooOoo easy. And sometimes you want to say to them “but do you even know my life?”. I get it. There are a lot of mitigating variables when it comes to our ability to get good sleep. However, good sleep is absolutely within reach and can be the difference that makes the difference.
To some degree, you probably know the basic tips and tricks to getting better sleep. Yet, I hear all the time how hard it is for people to sleep through the night, or to wake up feeling refreshed, or to actually get their feet on the floor in the mornings. Which tells me that there is room for improvement in our sleep hygiene. So my gentle challenge to you is to give your sleep hygiene a makeover. As you read on, consider what aspect of sleep hygiene you can give a consistent try for the next week or two. Once you master one tip, add another. Before you know it, you'll be sleeping like your babes.
The JV Basics
1) Use your bed as much as possible for sleep only. Not watching TV. Not reading a book during the day on the weekends. Not catching up with your mom or a friend from college on the phone. Not scrolling through Instagram stories. Our bodies memorize and respond to triggers. So the more frequently our beds are used for sleep, the better the association between your brain and sleepy-time.
2) Have a bedtime routine. Even if it’s five minutes. Or less! I’m talking your basic bedtime routine: brush, floss, moisturize (I’m learning the game-changing step that is nighttime moisturizer!), maybe a little nighttime reading. Make sure you have clothes specifically for sleeping (also known as: pajamas). I know a lot of people that change into comfortable clothes when they get home from work, even if that’s as early as 5:30 and bedtime not until 10. Make sure you differentiate the clothes you sleep in for the same associative reason explained above 😊
3) Cut the screen time at least 30 minutes before lights off. I cannot stress this enough. If you want a surefire trick to better sleeping, this is one I emphasize a ton! I’ve personally experienced a poor bedtime routine in my own life over the past several months and this is the rule I have been breaking; I have noticed a significant difference in my ability to drift quickly and peacefully, and I am worse for the wear! In fact, my new goal is to not only cut screen time 30 minutes before bed, but to have my phone outside of my room while I sleep.
4) Ensure good window treatments. Blackout curtains are truly amazing. Think about any nights you’ve slept in a hotel. Besides the mental relaxation that comes from not having to wake up and immediately start tending to house chores, what’s the best part? How dark it is! This is especially important if you have night-shifts for work or any other sleep schedule that occurs when the sun is up.
Varsity Level Tricks
1) Keep a bedside notebook/journal. Anyone ever start reviewing all the mistakes they’ve made since the 3rd grade on a really difficult falling-asleep-night? Oh, just me? Wait, I’ve seen the memes—I know there are others of you out there!! Here’s a trick I recently learned that I.am.loving! Keep a small journal or notebook next to your bed and write down three things you would have preferred you had done differently in the day--and what you would have preferred you had said/done instead. It makes those moments much more objective and really, helps minimize them-which is the EXACT opposite of what happens when they float into your head in the dark while you’re trying to sleep. Now, this is not to say that you do three things wrong every day. And this is NOT the time to start nitpicking yourself. But on those bad days where you feel like you did everything wrong, this is a constructive and productive exercise to take control.
2) Use white noise. A small sound machine often does the trick. Sound is a sense that we should absolutely use to our advantage to aid our ability for a good night’s rest. Think of those nights it’s raining out—close your eyes and think of the rain. You feel your body start to relax, right? That’s a feeling you can get every night with a small sound machine! Also, rhythmic noise helps our physiology get to a more relaxed state so... science.
3) Beware the mom juice. Now, before you get mad, I’m not trying to take it away! Trust me. I’ve seen the “witching hour.” And if you need a glass of wine at the end of a day of work or at home to power through the laps your kids are literally running through the house, this therapist is not going to come through the laptop to judge. But maybe have the wine earlier in the evening, or reconsider that holiday pour. And for sure follow up with water. The whole point is to get better sleep which is the real mom juice you want and need. You will experience a serious difference in sleep if you elect to try this tip! (Please note: if there is a more serious consumption issue, give me a call! I can help you explore what else might be going on for you and tools to cope.)
4) Don’t let yourself have more than one snooze. This could potentially be a really hard one. But it’s important. It can really start your day in a manner that lets you feel like you are master of your day, not your alarm. It can affect your mood and your sharpness. With this one, give yourself some time to implement this. Gradually decrease the amounts of the “snooze” button until you are able to master the alarm.
There are many more tricks to good sleep hygiene but these are a good place to start. I’ll compose additional recommendations in the upcoming weeks, for those of you who may need additional assistance or if you are looking to implement all the tricks! The physical, emotional, and mental benefits of sleep are enormous, and I’ll write a fun list of those soon. For those experiencing insomnia, I also have a post coming up for you!
In the meantime, happy sleeping! and…
Talk to you soon!