No matter how long your sleep exhaustion lasted, the baby’s sleeping now! Maybe you hired me as a sleep consultant, maybe you got a miracle – but now you’re the one who can’t sleep! If you’ve gone months without great sleep, your mind and body likely have forgotten how to do it well. The following tips will help you find your best sleep again.
“Darkness, Darkness Be My Pillow.” *
I’m always helping parents get babies aligned with circadian rhythms, the light and dark of the planet spinning on its axis – and it is just as important for adult sleep.
- Don’t sleep in late – sleeping early in the day while it is light outside confuses the cortisol and melatonin production in the brain and can set us up for having a hard time falling asleep the next night.
- Get outside as much as you can during the day, exposed to sunlight. Get outside at dusk for a walk so your retinas can sense that the sun is going down and start making melatonin.
- Spend the hour before bed making the house dark by turning off or lowering lights and getting curtains closed. Try to relax in the dark or lower lighting for an hour before bed. If you need to fold laundry etc, see if you can do so by a pink, red or amber light like a Himalayan salt lamp instead of LED and blue lights.
(This is especially great for moms of young breastfed babies – they get natural melatonin delivered directly through milk which is great for the bedtime feeding.)
Your Own Bedtime Routine.
One of the few concrete scientifically proven ways to help infants and children sleep is a short, consistent bedtime routine. The same is true for adults. If you can find a 10-15 minute routine with 3-4 items in a row that you always do in the same order, you now have a routine that becomes a cue to your body to begin quieting down for sleep. This might just be 1) brush teeth, 2) sip water, 3) put on aromatherapy lotion 4) listen to a calming song.
No Mo Netflix!
No more Instagram scrolling either! Being on your phone, computer or TV before bed activates your neural networks, and make it much harder for your mind to settle down to sleep. If you must use screen to complete work (many of us mompreneurs find ourselves working at night), do it on a computer away from your bedroom and then come back to bed so that bed is associated with sleep in your brain and not work.
If you need to read before bed to settle, try to read a real book with a moderate amount of yellow incandescent lamp lighting rather than LED or blue screen. Or you can get blue-blocking filters for iPhone, computer as well as blue-blocking glasses. It is still better not to Netflix at all. Skip right to the “Chill” then? Orgasm is excellent as part of your bedtime routine!
Watch What You’re Drinking.
Avoid caffeine after 4pm, alcohol may make you sleepy but still have a hard time falling asleep; sugar can also make it difficult to fall asleep. I personally crave caffeine late in the day just to get through the rest of the day parenting – but I usually fight the urge, knowing my sleep will be destroyed. I personally recommend quick exercise (like jumping jacks) and then some bubbly water for a tiny late-day/evening pick-me-up instead.
Conversely, this one drink may help you sleep longer: Tart Cherry juice. A recent pilot study shows it increased sleep time by 84 minutes taken twice daily.
Write Your Blessings
Write down 10 things you are grateful for before bed. This is scientifically proven to help you sleep better. What may seem a silly practice can help you let go of your worries, putting them aside just long enough to feel positive right before bed. You can get back to saving the world again in the morning.
Learn How to Breathe.
Meditation is one of the most well known cures for insomnia – particularly Vipassanā / Insight Meditation where you are not focused on having zero thoughts. Instead, we let all of the thoughts show themselves but learn how to not attach to them or let them drag us off into their direction. This way we are able to let the mind “discharge” without dwelling on our worries. Here I am guiding you through my super parent-friendly version you can do even when your kids are crawling on you. If you aren’t into meditation, know that simply taking 10 deep breaths before sleep also shows huge benefit for letting go and falling asleep.
Talk to Your Doc.
Talk to your doctor sooner rather than later. Sleep deprivation is cumulative and it may seem strangely fine until the threshold suddenly breaks when you’re not expecting it. Know that you don’t have to take any medication prescribed if you aren’t excited about it, but it is still a good idea to tell you doctor. Find a new doctor if you don’t trust yours, or find a naturopath who may have more suggestions for your sleep. Or discuss with your doc the possibility and dosage for a short course of synthetic melatonin to get you over the hump while you’re learning to align your body with the planet’s circadian rhythms.
*Darkness, Darkness (be my pillow)” is a beautiful 1969 song by the Youngbloods, covered by many.
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