Mom enjoying precious sleep with her daughter

Precious sleep. Where has it gone? Using sleep hygiene to get it back.

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Why am I not sleeping?

As new moms, sleep becomes a precious gem that we can never seem to find.  Moms really do not realize how precious sleep is until after we give birth. Many mommas are guilty of poor sleep hygiene.

It is easy to adapt poor sleep habits.  Especially when you are balancing many different roles.  For example, drinking caffeine, napping, or multitasking in bed.  Before you know it, the habits become necessary so that you are able to get some sleep at night.

Mommas who are adjusting to having a newborn are especially susceptible to poor sleep hygiene. Having a little one who demands your attention every couple of hours is both physically and mentally exhausting.

Some mommas struggle with Postpartum Anxiety which can further impact their ability to get appropriate sleep.

Postpartum anxiety is the increased fear and worry that women feel after giving birth.

Some anxiety is normal.  It can become a concern when mothers are preoccupied with something “bad” happening to their baby.  This can translate to little or no sleep for moms.  These moms are often up at night because they have debilitating thoughts about their baby being harmed.

Part of being a mother is the fact that your sleep is forever changed.  Making changes, developing good habits, and practicing healthy sleep hygiene is imperative for moms to be able to get restful sleep.

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Precious sleep for the new mom

There is not enough time in the day!

There is never enough time in the day to complete our endless to do list.  Between working and taking care of our families, sleep can sometimes become an afterthought.  In our quest to get some sleep, poor sleep hygiene begins to take over.

We have to learn to make sleep a priority.  When you are not sleeping, you are not functioning at your best.  You are not able to be attentive to your kids, your husband, or your job.

You find yourself operating in a haze.  A term I describe as mom fog.  Mom fog becomes a significant stressor if you are not getting enough sleep or if your sleep is not restful.

This makes you more susceptible to stress and all the negative effects of stress.  Stress can cause depression, anxiety, headaches, muscle tension, and others.

It’s important that you make the necessary changes and have the proper sleep environment so that you can get the best sleep possible.  It is recommended that you get between 7-9 hours of sleep at night.  This can be a lot easier said than done for some moms.

Mommas juggle many different hats and sometimes the only time they can complete their to do lists is when their children are sleeping.  As we talk about making a commitment to practicing self-care, proper sleep hygiene is key to being successful.

What is Sleep Hygiene?

Sleep hygiene is simply healthy sleep habits.  By practicing healthy sleep habits, you are preparing yourself to have restful and restorative sleep.  Sleep hygiene happens before you go to sleep.  It can also be small changes you make during the day in your routine and schedule to help prepare you to sleep better at night.

Our bodies have an internal clock that regulates itself based on environmental factors.  Poor sleep hygiene can disrupt your internal clock and impact your sleeping patterns.  This means that you are not able to get restful and restorative sleep.

What are some things that can be impacting your sleep?

Racing Thoughts

Some mommas struggle with racing thoughts at night.  Finally, when the house is quiet and you have accomplished all that you can for the day. You lay down to go to sleep and the thoughts start.  You become preoccupied with what you forgot to do, what is on your list for tomorrow, or something that frustrated you during the day.

All of these thoughts start to come to mind and prevent you from falling asleep because you are unable to resolve them.  One simple solution for this problem is to keep a journal next to your bed.

So, as these troubling thoughts come up, you can write them down and deal with them at a later time.  By simply writing your thoughts down, you are taking the thoughts out of your active memory. Your brain is no longer focused on solving the problem now.  Your thoughts are stored on paper until you can get back to it later.

Often times when it is quiet and those thoughts start to come, they seem like a major problem.  Later, when you look at your journal, you may realize that they really are not that big of a deal.  For whatever reason you start to go down this rabbit hole and your mind starts to make the problem much bigger than what it really is.

In the end, your memory is transferred to paper.  Taking it out of your working memory, so that you are able to focus on going to sleep.

Insomnia

If you find that you are laying in bed awake at night, get out of bed and go do something that does not expel a lot of energy.  Try to do something that will help you to feel more relaxed and go back to sleep.

An example is sitting in a chair and reading a book or completing a puzzle. You can also try listening to a couple of mindfulness meditations  that help your body to calm down and relax.

It is not recommended that you watch t.v. or use your phone because of the lighting.

So, what can you do? What changes can you make so that you are having healthy sleep hygiene?

First thing is to set a schedule:

We have been talking a lot in this series about setting schedules and planning self-care.  If you are able to map out your day and make better use of your time during the day, then you will not struggle at night to complete your tasks.

Set a time frame for when you want to wind down. Many moms start establishing nighttime routines with their children at a young age.  Mommas are no different.  One part of good sleep hygiene is having a wind down routine for yourself.

Establish boundaries and set limits.  If you have tasks that only can be completed after your kids go to bed, set a time frame on how long you will engage in your task before you start to wind down.

Don’t forget to engage in self-care prior to going to bed.  This can be accomplished in as little as 5-10 minutes.  Practicing self-care allows you to relax and disconnect from whatever stress you may be feeling.  This, in turn, allows you to be better prepared to sleep.

You want to be in bed for as long as possible.  This allows your body to progress through sleep cycles.  The goal is to get as much deep, REM, sleep as possible.  Which allows your body to recharge and process everything that occurred during the day.

Just like at night when we put our cellphones on the chargers.  Sleep is a charger for our bodies and it allows us to function better throughout the day.

Set the mood

Sleep hygiene includes being able to set the mood in your room so that you are able to sleep.  What does that mean? It means not having distractions in your sleeping environment.  Cut off your t.v. and all electronics.  Make sure there is no light projecting for your cell phone or other device in your room.

There are some studies that show that the lights we constantly expose ourselves to, negatively impact our abilities to sleep. We are constantly stimulated by energy in our environment.  Our tvs, cell phones, computers, and tablets all project light and energy.

When that happens, we are not able to drift to sleep as quickly or we are not getting enough deep sleep.  Lights do not allow our bodies to recharge in the way that it needs to. An example of this is when you are feeling exhausted when you wake up in the morning, even though you believe that you have slept all night.

There are several smart watch devices on the market, that allow you to track you sleep cycles.  These devices are helpful because they map out the amount of time you are spending in each stage of sleep.  This can help you to determine any issues and implement better sleep hygiene practices.

When you do not spend enough time in your bed or if you are not feeling relaxed, you are not able to appropriately progress through your sleep cycles.  The sleep analysis that come with the smart watch are really helpful with allowing you to determine what changes you need to make in you environment to get better sleep.

You also want to make your bedroom you sleep sanctuary.

Try to limit other activities that you complete in your bedroom throughout the day. By doing this, your body becomes trained to sleep when you are in your bedroom.

Multitasking in your room can confuse the role of the actual role of your bedroom. If it is necessary that you have to complete other tasks in your room, try not to do any of these tasks in your bed.

No lights, make your bed your sleep zone, try to make the room as comfortable as possible are all good sleep hygiene practices.  If necessary, purchase black out curtains, comfortable pillows, or whatever else you may need to make your bed and room as comfortable as possible.

To nap or not to nap?

This is the ultimate question.  Some people need a nap during the day so that they can recharge.  Most working moms do not have the luxury of napping.  Our little humans run our lives. When we get home, we are responsible for dinner, trying to cleanup, homework, and other activities.

Poor sleep increases the desire for your body to nap during the day.  Some people are able to nap without impacting their sleep at night.  For others, a nap can disrupt their ability to properly sleep at night.

If you are one of the lucky mommas who is able to nap, try napping for no more than about 30 minutes.  Short naps can give you the right amount of recharge.  Also avoid napping close to your bedtime.

If you find that you are having difficulty sleeping at night, try to avoid napping to see it helps you to sleep better at night.

Caffeine Maybe?

Many mommas swear by caffeine.  They feel that they are unable to function and make it through their day if they do not have caffeine.  Caffeine can be great, but of course in moderation.  If you are on a quest to practice good self-care, then caffeine may no longer become a necessity.

Incorporating regular self-care into your routine allows you to feel more relaxed and better able to handle your stressors.  This also helps you to sleep better at night and you may not even feel like you need caffeine.

If your favorite drink, or snack, includes caffeine, you want to limit you intake.  Cut it off several hours before you go to bed. If possible, only drink caffeine in the morning and early afternoon.  Too much caffeine will throw off your sleep cycle.

Cutting caffeine is difficult and may take some time.  Your body needs to adjust and get back into a natural sleep/wake cycle.  Just remember your goal is to practice better self-care and improve your sleep hygiene.  The adjustment period is well worth it momma.

Getting appropriate sleep is very important self-care.  Mommas who do not get enough restful sleep, are not able to efficiently function in their roles.  Adapting positive sleep hygiene practices, can help to relieve some of the stress you feel. Making you a much happier and engaged momma.

What are some of your negative habits that impact your sleep? What are some changes that you have made to help improve your sleep? Join us in Confessions of Professional Moms and let’s continue this conversation.

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