Sleep Tips For Tired Mums
Remember the days when you woke up naturally, and felt amazingly rested and refreshed, like you’ve had just the right amount of sleep? Didn’t think so!
Being a mum of young kids is a 24-hour job, usually accompanied with broken sleep and early waking. Even as they start to get older and don’t need us so much in the night, we still tend to stay up late because there’s still so much that needs doing before the next day. Also, it is usually the only time of day to get some peace and enjoy some uninterrupted alone time to watch Netflix or read a magazine.
As a result, many mums are having to function with not enough sleep. Feeling tired and pushing through, maybe with a coffee or three and some sugary snacks, is our way of coping with lack of sleep.
Yet research suggests chronic sleep deprivation can affect your health, moods, relationships, and be the cause of forgetfulness and accidents. It’s a pretty serious topic.
If motherhood has stolen your mojo and you want to make a change, start with getting more sleep. Sleep is like nutrition for the brain – it allows you to concentrate better, you’re less likely to get sick, you’ll be more patient with the kids, it improves your mood, and it can even help you manage your weight.
Here’s Mummy Mojo’s 8 top reasons for why getting a good night’s sleep will set you up for more mojo-filled days:
1. You will Feel Happier
Waking up cranky and irritable is a bad way to start the day. When you are tired you are more likely to shout at the kids, snap at people or burst into tears. More sleep will put you in a better mood, give you greater patience and you’re more likely to have a smile on your face.
2. You will Accomplish More
It’s pretty hard to climb off the “wheel of life” when you barely have the energy to get through the day. Missing out on sleep could be costing you a lot more than you realise. Whether it’s testing the waters for a new career, embarking on a new healthy lifestyle, or even just trying out that hobby you’ve been shelving for so long, chances are it’s not going to happen when you’re frazzled and burnt out.
3. You will Focus More
Have you ever woken up after a bad night’s sleep feeling fuzzy and easily confused, like your brain can’t get out of first gear? Sleep loss affects how you think - it impairs your cognition, your memory, your judgement, your attention, your creativity and your decision-making. You are also more likely to make odd mistakes - like leaving your keys in the fridge by accident! Get enough sleep and you’ll get through the day feeling like you are winning rather than lagging behind. You will be more awesome and kick-ass at everything you do.
4. You will Cope Better
Overwhelm, worry and anxiety can cause mums to miss out on good quality sleep. But the more tired you are, the more stressed you become and the worse you sleep – it’s a vicious circle! A poor sleep cycle causes your body to release excessive cortisol in the evening. Stress hormones allow you to keep going, and are often the reason why you might suddenly feel awake in the evening after feeling tired all day.
With your central nervous system in overdrive, your “tired but wired” state keeps you buzzing all night long, you don’t get to bed as early as you should, and you are left groggy in the morning – so the poor sleep cycle continues. It is hard to unwind at night when you’ve spent the best part of the day jacked up on caffeine and sugar! A better sleep pattern will regulate your sleep cycle. This will help you to wind down and enjoy the benefits of relaxation in the evening, leaving you more refreshed in the morning and reducing your need for stimulants to keep you going throughout the day.
5. You will Glow More
There’s a reason why it’s called “beauty sleep”. Regular shut-eye actually makes you look healthier and more attractive. A chronic lack of sleep has an incredibly negative effect on the way we look. When we are asleep, our cells rebuild and repair themselves. If you don’t get enough sleep, your skin has less ability to repair and replenish itself. If you sleep badly, you are more likely to become stressed, and this can cause the capillaries to tighten up, affecting the flow of nutrients to the skin and scalp and causing the skin and hair to look dull. A good night’s sleep will do more to make you look younger, healthy and attractive than any expensive beauty treatment. Sleep is the most powerful rejuvenating treatment of them all.
6. You will Feel More Sexy
The better rested you are, better sex life you’ll have, according to research. The 2010 “Sleep In America” poll found that 20-30 per cent felt their family life and sexual relationships had been affected by their sleepiness. Whilst there are many factors at play when it comes to quality and quantity of bedroom activity, such as how attractive and confident we feel, being too tired to even consider it is not a good start.
7. You will Feel Better
Health and wellness is the cornerstone of a life full of vitality, mojo and sparkle. Getting a good night’s sleep is vital to general health and wellness. Study after study has found a link between insufficient sleep and some serious health issues, like heart disease, heart attacks, diabetes, obesity and depression. It can even help you live longer – studies have found people who routinely sleep for fewer than six hours a night have a higher risk of dying sooner than people of similar age who sleep for seven or eight hours a night.
Lack of sleep can also lead to increased pain. Backache, tummy ache, headache, when you’re tired it seems that everything hurts. Physical repair takes place while you’re sleeping, and it happens in the first half of the night – generally around 10pm to 2am. If you miss out on those vital first few hours your body doesn’t have enough time to rejuvenate your muscles or cells.
8. You will Manage Your Weight
Getting enough sleep can help you maintain your weight - and conversely, sleep loss goes along with an increased risk of weight gain. In fact a recent study revealed the risk of developing obesity rose 23% with just 6 hours of sleep per night, 50% with 5 hours per night, and 73% with 4 hours per night.
Skimping on sleep sets your brain up to make bad decisions. It’s a little like being drunk – you don’t have the mental clarity to make good decisions. Plus, when you’re overtired, your brain’s reward centres rev up, looking for something that feels good, usually junk food. So while you may be able to quash comfort food cravings when you’re well rested, your sleep-deprived brain may have more trouble saying no.
These cravings are not just in your head. When you don’t have enough sleep your brain continually sends out urgent messages for quick energy. This is a survival instinct – it’s all about keeping you as alert and focused as possible. Willpower alone can’t override these cravings – not when you’re fighting your own physiology.
SO HOW MUCH SLEEP IS ENOUGH?
The recommended amount of sleep you should be getting a night is 7-9 hours (so long as you’re fit and healthy). Don’t obsess too much though; you’ll know when you’ve not been getting enough sleep. Apart from the obvious of feeling tired as soon as you open your eyes in the morning, other symptoms such as a foggy “hung-over” feeling, headaches, feeling over-emotional, or a general crankiness are all signs that you didn’t get enough sleep.
MUMMY MOJO’S TOP TRICKS AND TIPS FOR A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP
There are many factors that can interfere with a good night’s sleep. Even if we are no longer night feeding or tending to little wakers in the night, our hectic lives, pressure at work, family circumstances, stress and illness all play havoc with sleep.
For most of us it’s not possible to drop everything and implement drastic change, but the benefits of sleep don’t have to be a case of ‘all or nothing’. Increasing your sleep by as little as 15 minutes a night can immediately and drastically improve the way you feel and function. Just do what you can, as soon as you can.
Eat to Sleep
What you eat and when you eat during the day can have a big impact on how well you sleep at night. The first step is to eat a balanced, nutritious meal with snacks, evenly spaced throughout the day, as well as drinking 8 glasses of filtered water. Eat too little during the day, and you’ll overstuff yourself in the evening, leading to a night of tossing, turning, and indigestion. Eat too little for dinner, and you might find yourself lying awake, longing for a trip to the fridge.
Consume your main meal about four hours prior to bedtime. Include complex carbohydrates and foods rich in tryptophan. Tryptophan is an amino acid and an essential chemical, which helps to build protein. Consuming it late in the day will release melatonin and serotonin for good sleep. It speeds up the onset of sleep and decreases the level of spontaneous awakenings during your sleep. It is found in meat, fish, greens, and eggs.
Include a bedtime snack. Foods that contain calcium, magnesium and potassium are good choices, since these minerals support healthy nerve and muscle function and can help muscles relax. Some bedtime snacks you could consider to help you sleep include: Nuts and tofu; cheese and crackers; cereal with milk; banana slices on whole wheat toast; peanut butter sandwich; tart cherry juice; dried goji berries; fresh raspberries; almonds and walnuts. If you are being woken in the night to feed, try having a few of these snacks to hand if you get hungry.
Avoid Afternoon Slump
How we handle afternoon slumps can make or break your sleep routine. Even if it were possible, an afternoon nap is bad news, no matter how good an idea it might seem at the time (what mum has time for an afternoon nap?!). Unless you are suffering from night-time sleep deprivation with a newborn, you should try to avoid afternoon naps at all costs.
But that doesn’t mean reaching for sugary or fatty foods to give you a pick-me up – the boost is short-lived, followed by a slump, and in turn will lead to poor quality sleep. If you struggle mid-afternoon, try a 10-minute relaxing meditation, or a walk around the block. Both are great ways to increase your energy naturally.
Limit your intake of caffeine and alcohol. Caffeine can disrupt normal sleep patterns. You may be able to fall asleep, but you don’t stay asleep. And that makes it harder to reach the deepest (and most restful DELTA) stage of sleep. The general rule of thumb is to avoid caffeine after 2pm.
Move your Body
You need to ensure you have moved your body during the day to ensure that you are physically tired as well as mentally tired at bedtime. Apart from relieving stress (which can trigger insomnia) exercising in the afternoon or early evening can also help you fall asleep by raising your body temperature a few hours before bed, allowing it to fall as you are ready for sleep later in the evening (a fall in body temperature is one of the triggers for sleep).
Stick to a sleep schedule by consistently waking up and retiring at the same time every day. Yes, even on weekends! Your best bet is to pick a schedule that will allow you to sleep for at least 7 hours a night. So, if you like to get up at 5am to go for a run or get a head start on the day, you need to get to sleep earlier. Do whatever you can to get to sleep at your chosen time each night, including getting the kids to bed at a regular time, and keep practicing until it becomes a habit. In time you will be able to train your body to get tired, go to sleep and wake up at the required time feeling refreshed. You may not even need an alarm clock!
Relaxing Bedtime Ritual
Don’t let that rascal, cortisol (the stress hormone), get the best of you! Have a routine every night that relaxes you and cues sleep time is coming. If your bedtime is 10pm, try switching off TV, mobile phone and other electronics at 9pm. Make yourself a night time camomile drink that is conducive to sleep, take a warm bath with lavender oil, remove make-up and brush your teeth, dim the lights, take stress herbs or a magnesium supplement, write in a journal, do some yoga stretches or read a book. To raise melatonin – your sleep hormone – turn off the laptop and instead listen to a guided meditation before bed to help you get mentally ready for sleep.
Save your bedroom for sleeping (and sex). Think relaxation and release rather than work and entertainment. This means not watching TV, texting, working or scrolling through Facebook. Make sure the room is cool. When it’s time for lights out, make sure that the room is completely dark. Darkness cues your body to release the natural sleep hormone melatonin, which is crucial for falling asleep, while light suppresses it. Even the smallest amount of light will affect your release of melatonin. If you have to have an alarm clock or phone plugged in, try turning them away from you or covering them to black out the light. The darker it is the better you’ll sleep throughout the night and wake up feeling refreshed.
Mumsomnia and Night-time Waking
If you find you can’t get to sleep within 20 minutes of getting into bed, get up again. Go into another room, read a book or fold laundry, just do something in a different space. If you’ve got stuff on your mind, get them out of your head or onto paper by keeping a journal in your bedside drawer. When you feel yourself getting sleepy go back to bed and try again.
If you wake up in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep, stay in bed. Conserve your energy by lying still and being calm and relaxed. Be mindful and welcome your thoughts and emotions.
Have you ever wondered how men can go from enthusiastically doing the deed to a deep sleep in minutes? It turns out that the oxytocin that’s released during an orgasm can work better than the best sleeping tablets! So it’s worth giving sex a go, even if you’re tired, because it might just help you sleep like a baby. And don’t forget, sex also fights aging, improves your mood, tones your body, boosts the immune system, alleviates stress levels - and it improves your pelvic floor – so what are you waiting for!