Sleep strategies for tired mums
Feeling rested, energized and ready for the day is a long lost dream for most mums.Waking up for babies, sick kids or suffering plain ol' insomnia plays havoc with our sense of wellbeing.
Lack of sleep makes us tired, cranky and can contribute to depression. Physically, not getting the rest we need impairs our body's ability to repair and rebuild, and weakens our immune system.
So how do we balance the reality of our lives with children, the daily needs of running a household or working outside the home, and our physiological need for rest? Here are a few ways we can make the most of the sleep we do get, while taking into account the unique demands most mothers face.
Find your circadian rhythm.
We all have an internal biological clock that sets our days and nights into a cyclical rhythm, and is controlled by a series of hormones and external cues. Often called the circadian rhythm, the energy of our waking times and restorative nature of our sleeping times are maximised when we work with this natural clock.
The thing is, habit and pattern will reset this clock, even if it varies from what the body ideally wants. This means we can condition ourselves to be night owls, even when our body may need us to sleep earlier - and it means we can condition ourselves back to a preferred internal rhythm by making new habits around sleeping and waking. Great news!
Your best times
We've often heard that most adults need somewhere between eight to ten hours of sleep a night, but what may be even more important is the time we go to sleep and the time we wake.
Imagine a night when you go to sleep at 2 am and wake at 10 am. Now imagine a night when you go to sleep at 10 pm and wake at 6 am. Most of us know intuitively that when we sleep eight hours and wake at 6 am, we'll have more energy. Waking at 10 am can make most of us drag through the afternoon.
Generally speaking, earlier to bed is better as it more naturally fits with our body's preferred daily rhythm. How much earlier varies between each person, but a good rule of thumb is to shoot for a bedtime between 9 pm and 11 pm.
Adults need bedtime routines too!
We all know that kids sleep better with a solid bedtime routine in place, and the same applies to adults. If you engage in work, conversation or activity right up until you plop yourself into bed, how can you expect to turn off like a light?
Give yourself a bedtime routine that includes cues to help you mentally and physically unwind and prepare for deep sleep. Intentionally transitioning into sleep with a nighttime routine can help prevent those middle-of-the-night insomnia bouts. This allows more relaxed and restorative sleep and brings a calming closure to the day.
Some things to consider for an adult bedtime routine are:
- Dimming the lights around the house
- Forgoing television late at night
- Sipping a cup of calming herbal tea, like chamomile
- Jotting down your thoughts with a journal writing session
- Reading material that helps you tune out engaging thoughts and calms your mind
Calm down your bedroom
In addition to your bedtime routine, the surroundings inside your bedroom can promote or prevent restfulness. One of the most neglected rooms in a home is the master bedroom. We tend to focus our attention on the areas visitors will see and leave the behind-the-scenes rooms in disarray.
Put some thought into how you can create a place of retreat, renewal and comfort in your bedroom. Swap out the TV or computer for soft lighting and speakers for soft music. Hang soothing pictures.Buy the best sheets and pillow you can afford.
Close your eyes, and imagine walking into a room at a retreat or a bed and breakfast that completely delights you. The elements in that room might be surprisingly easy to duplicate. Could it be the tidiness of its space, the colour on the walls, the style of decor? Use this as a guide to making your bedroom a room that replicates those feelings.
Watch the energy crutches
Check your amount of caffeine and sugar intake. How we each respond to these things varies, but think of caffeine and sugar as energy loans. We know that financially, it's not wise to rely on loaned money day in and day out, because it will set us up for financial ruin. Similarly, when we rely on caffeine and sugar day in and day out to meet our energy needs, our body is going to pay the price - usually in the form of burnout, sickness, sleep disruptions, and mental stress.
Work with it.
Let's face it, there is no strategy that will guarantee the rest you truly need every night.
While navigating the waters of raising young children, most of us will have many days when we are more tired than energized and need to cope with inadequate sleep. When that happens, we need to be gentle with ourselves and creatively find ways to rest. For those with only one child, sleeping when your kids sleep during the dayis a good tactic. The other thing is to try to give yourself a break after an interrupted night's sleep - be kind to yourself and don't do too much. The housework, the shopping and the washing can wait until you've put your feet up and recharged your batteries. Oh, and your family will thank you - it's much nicer to deal with a rested mummy than a tired, cranky yelling mummy, right?
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