How to maximise sleep as a Mum*
“Pretty tired” is probably my default response whenever anyone asks how I am, but I’ve found some ways that help me maximise sleep…
There are so many things that can cause sleepless nights – stress, anxiety, work and temperature to name a few, but I’ve found that the way I sleep has changed since Dougie was born. I’m sure other parents will agree that you never sleep in quite the same way once you have a baby, it’s like I’m constantly on alert, sleeping with one eye open. I don’t totally remember what it’s like to feel truly rested, but I’ve definitely found some things that help me!
Know your child’s routine
Baby and toddler routines change a lot. When Dougie was newborn, during the night he was waking for a feed every 2-3 hours, but between those feeds he would sleep really well. For parents, the constant waking and sleep deprivation is unbelievably difficult, I really struggled when I wasn’t sleeping for more than two consecutive hours at a time. As he got older and his needs changed, I learnt that when he went to bed, he would wake for a feed around 11pm, and then (on a good night) sleep through until 6am. On these nights I tried to relax and rest until his 11pm feed, and then go straight to bed – for me it was better to get the solid post-feed sleep rather than trying to sleep earlier and being woken up. The older your child gets, the more regular their routine will become, and you can adjust your bedtime accordingly – if they’re an early riser (hi, 5:30am) then you should try to go to bed earlier.
Turn down the monitor
This was something that I wish I’d done sooner. I’ve always been quite a light sleeper, and when Dougie was in our room, I would wake at the slightest noise. Once he moved into his own room, around 6 months, I became even more of a light sleeper, and I would have his monitor next to me, turned up at full volume in case he needed me. The problem with this was that Dougie is a wriggly baby. Babies tend to make noises, murmurs, groans, babbles etc, but this doesn’t mean you need to leap up and rush to them. Having the monitor turned up meant that I still woke up every time he stirred. Now I’ve turned it down, and it picks up crying and morning babbling, but I’m no longer woken up every time he rolls over.
Create the perfect bedroom
I think sliding into clean, fresh bedding is one of the loveliest, cosiest feelings in the world. Having a good, supportive mattress is key, and you can take advantage of some of Groupon’s amazing bedding deals if you’re looking for a new mattress or want some new pretty bedding. I find putting new bedsheets and duvet covers on one of the most stressful things ever, so if you’re changing the bedsheets, do it in the morning to avoid getting cross in the evening! We have fairylights around the mirror in our bedroom which make it look really cosy, and we finally got around to putting curtains up a few months ago which have made such a difference.
This is true for both kids and adults. When we were working on getting Dougie into a routine, we would repeat the same things every night – bath, bottle and book. We would also switch on his white noise and read his book with just a lamp on. We’ve done this since he was around six months old, and he understands that this signals night time. The same can be applied to adults. Whether you choose to sink into a bath or shower before bed, have a skin regime or enjoy a comforting drink, it can be a signal to your body and brain that this is bedtime and time to power down and switch off.
Switch off those screens and pick up a book
I used to just lie in bed, mindlessly scrolling through social media, and I would always find that my brain just wouldn’t switch off, even when I had put my phone down. When Dougie was a newborn and I was feeding him every couple of hours, I would use my phone to keep myself awake as I was so anxious about falling asleep with him. This usually led to some unnecessary online shopping at 2am (though I stand by my purchase of a handheld hoover and a skipping rope), or I’d find myself in a deep hole of parenting forums and convince myself that I was doing something wrong with Dougie and then I wouldn’t be able to get back to sleep once he was asleep. I couldn’t keep doing that, so I switched to reading on my Kindle during the night time feeds which was much better (yes, I know it’s still a screen but I wanted to keep myself awake here, and trust me, it’s much easier to read a Kindle than a proper book when you’re breastfeeding in the dark!)
This year I’ve challenged myself to read 50 books, and so I’ve been leaving the phone on my bedside table and picking up a book instead. It makes me feel cosy and sleepy and I find it much easier to fall asleep if I’ve been reading a book rather than reading my Twitter feed. I’ve also, in the last week or so, made the (wise) decision to stop reading psychological and crime thrillers before bed, I started having weird nightmares and panicking that something would happen to us, so maybe pick a book you love instead!
(Disclaimer: If your kid is ill/overtired/teething/having some sort of sleep regression or growth spurt or just doesn’t want to sleep then unfortunately I can’t promise these tips will help…)
What are some things that help you get a good nights sleep?
*This post is written in collaboration with Groupon. All opinions are my own.