By Sleep Science Guru
Sleep, Precious Sleep Parents spend so much time worrying about their little one’s sleep that often, they forget to make their own sleep a priority.
“In the event of an emergency, please put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others”. This is a familiar flight attendant announcement you hear on planes. This saying doesn’t just relate to flying though. By ensuring you get well-deserved sleep, you will be in a more effective position to take care of your little one.
Getting sleep is absolutely essential for your overall health and is the foundation of general wellbeing.
How much sleep should you be getting?
Everyone is different, and the amount of sleep you need might be different to what your friends need. In general, though, the average adult ideally should be getting between 7-9 hours of sleep per night. This can be especially difficult when you have a baby to care of.
Why is sleep important?
If you are not getting enough sleep it can really affect how you feel and put you at increased risk of mental health issues. The research shows that lack of sleep contributes to:
Low moodFatigueIrritabilityLess resilienceIncreased stressDifficulty concentrating
Poor sleep has also been linked to post-natal anxiety and depression. However, it is not the number of times a Mama is woken at night by the little one that puts her at increased risk of post-natal anxiety and depression, but how long it takes her to get back to sleep once she is woken.Healthy sleep habits have been shown to improve mood and general wellbeing.
Here are our top tips to help YOU get better quality sleep:
We understand that having a little one is hard work, below are some suggested ways that may help you catch some zzz's, when possible. You may only be able to realistically complete one of these tips, know that you are doing an incredible job no matter what!
1.Only go to sleep when you are tired. Only try to sleep when you actually feel tired, rather than spending too much time awake in bed. We cannot force ourselves or our baby to fall asleep at any given moment. Actively trying to go to sleep may paradoxically can make sleep more difficult.
2. If you can’t fall asleep, get up and try again. If you have been trying to get to sleep for 20 minutes or more, get up and do something calming or boring until you feel sleepy. Then try again.
3. Have a daily bedtime. Your body does well with routine. Going to bed and getting up at a similar time every day, lets your body know what’s coming, when. Try and align your bedtime with your little one's bedtime so that your little one's longest stretch of sleep occurs while you are also sleeping.
4. Avoid caffeine and nicotine. We know you are probably tired, but these stimulants will increase the time it takes for you to actually fall asleep. Do your best to avoid them for 4-6 hours prior to bed.
5. Avoid alcohol. While many believe that a glass of wine or two might make it feel easier to relax and drift off to sleep, it does impact the quality of sleep across the night. It’s best to avoid it altogether or have your last drink 4-6 hours before bed.
6. Bedtime routine. Just like babies and toddlers, you can set up cues that lets your body know, sleep is coming! Set up a consistent bedtime routine. Experiment with what works for you but some ideas to wind down might include, some bedtime reading or a cup of herbal tea in dim lit room, 10mins of breathing exercises, stretching or meditation.
7. Hot shower or bath before bed. This is a good one to add to your bedtime routine. Right before we fall asleep, we have a drop in body temperature. So having a warm bath or shower within an hour before bed, can bring your temperature up an8d induce a sleepy feeling as it falls.
8. Exercise regularly. Regular exercise can help with good sleep, but try not to do vigorous exercise in the 4 hours before bedtime. Exercise protects a parent’s mental health as well as physical health, promotes her sleep, and gives the baby opportunity for rich sensory stimulation. Try getting out with your little one for a walk in the fresh air and sunshine each day. Walks don’t need to be long and strenuous. Regular physical exercise throughout the day makes relaxation at the end of the day more likely.
9. Eat well. Enjoying a balanced diet can assist in improving sleep and general health overall, but timing is also important. An empty stomach at bedtime is distracting, so it can be useful to have a light snack, but a heavy meal soon before bed can also interrupt sleep. Bonus tip: try a warm glass of milk before bed. Tryptophan is an amino acid found in milk, that induces sleep. Now you understand “milk drunk”!
10. Spend time outdoors during the day. This is important for you and your little one. Getting some natural light throughout the day is important to regulate our bodies circadian rhythm (internal biological clocks). Exposure to light (particularly in the first part of the day) will help your body produce Melatonin, a hormone responsible for regulating this process.
11. Limit screen time. Blue light from screens interferes with our circadian rhythm by inhibiting the production of Melatonin. Keep lights low, screens to a minimum and allow yourself some screen-free wind-down time before heading to bed.
12. Keep your bed for just sleep. Just like a baby, you want your brain to associate bed with sleep. Working or watching TV in bed can confuse these signals.
13. Make sure you are comfortable. This is a no brainer but make sure you’re dressed comfortably. The optimal sleep conditions are lower outside temperature (between 20-22 degrees) and dressed nice and snug with adequate blankets. Also, make sure the room is nice and dark.