As Mamas, our sleep is often compromised. For years. And I am here to tell you that it takes its toll, in case you don’t already know. I mean really. We need our healthy sleep.
Back when I had a toddler and a baby, I remember thinking that lack of sleep was just par for the course. It came along part and parcel with motherhood. Waking at night to nurse babies, to attend to a crying child, to use the bathroom, and these days, to see if teens are home…these all come with being a mother.
While interrupted sleep may be necessary for short periods of time though, I honestly believe that our bodies cannot withstand lack of sleep for years on end. Lack of sleep and stress compound to lead to health issues.
My own health has suffered. For me, it’s been autoimmune disease. And while there have been other contributing stressors in my life, for sure, I truly believe that lack of sleep has been one of my major issues. Often, one of the ways I know that I am trying to do too much is that I wake at 3:00 am feeling anxious, night after night.
So, how do we get healthy sleep and reduce stress?
Here is what’s currently working for me. As of now, I’m pretty successful with 10 out of 11 of these! I recommend just starting with one at a time. As I said to my husband this morning, I tend to go all out when I’m working on a solution. I get comprehensive and do research and come up with a whole bucket-load of ideas!
But when implementing, pick one. Start small and build from there. You’re much more likely to experience success this way!
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11 Solutions for Healthy Sleep:
- Movement – Getting in healthy movement during the day is critical and for me, and it can’t happen late in the day or I’m too wide awake to sleep. I am learning the importance of movement throughout the day from Jen at Healthy Moving. Small doses more often is really better for us than big workouts. I also use my rebounder mini-trampoline for just five minutes at a time, and have this new stand up desk so that I can do stretches while working on my laptop.
- Outdoor Time – Outside every day is my motto. And this has been one of the few practices that has held for me for almost 20 years! A daily morning walk makes a huge difference in my life in so many ways, and when I skip it, I don’t sleep as well. Even in suburbia, a daily walk is healing!
- Happy Light – Especially since it’s so grey here in NE Ohio for much of the winter, I use a full-spectrum light called the Sunbox for just 15 minutes each morning. This helps with both mood and sleep.
- Silk Eye Cover – The darker our sleeping space is, the better our sleep. I’ve tried room darkening curtains, but the best solution for me is this silk eye cover. It even travels well!
- Calms Forte – This is the homeopathic remedy that I take when I wake up and cannot fall back to sleep, Calms Forte. This or a cup of chamomile tea usually does the trick. Unless of course I’m trying to do too much, like I said before, and then I need to scale back!
- Meditation – I’ve shared before about my walking meditation that I do from Belleruth’s guided Meditations to Relieve Stress. I have also started listening to Jon Gabriel’s nighttime visualization that my bodywork practitioner introduced me to. Jon is the author of The Gabriel Method for weight loss. I don’t have tons of weight to lose (ok, maybe 10-12 pounds), but his is a mind-body approach and I am finding that his work really helps to soothe my overactive immune system, as well.
- Magnesium & Vitamin D – I have read that many of us are deficient in magnesium and vitamin D. For magnesium, I take Natural Calm in the evening; you can get it with or without calcium. Learn all about the importance of magnesium from Lauren at Empowered Sustenance, including how to make this homemade magnesium spray. And these are the Vitamin D Drops that I take.
- Yoga – My favorite form of yoga is called restorative yoga. It involves lots of props and blankets and deep relaxation. I find that my Mama alert radar needs some calming after all these years. Two poses I work on daily are a modified downward dog with a chair, and legs up the wall. I know this is similar to strategy #1, Movement, but I think yoga is so important it deserves its own category!
- No Caffeine – Yup, I had to give it up. All caffeine, even decaf teas. Here’s my favorite caffeine substitute, Dandy Blend.
- Bliss – As mothers, we are always giving. While I feel honored (most of the time) to be of service, I also believe in the importance of finding what lights me up as a person. Finding our bliss. What brings you joy? For me, it’s reading poetry and walks in the woods and singing. SO, I am committing to doing at least one of these daily! Yup, every. single. day. Or handwork, or artistic pursuits…whatever it is that makes your heart sing, find the time to do it today.
- No Screens – This is the hardest one of all for me! Now that my youngest is a teenager and my laptop can go anywhere! I am really working on this one and trying to limit this to only a few nights a week,if at all. A work in progress!
The most important reminders? It’s a process. Start small. Pick one.
If you’re working on taking better care of yourself, check out Tools for Self-Care for Homeschooling Mamas.
Are you in need of more sleep? Which solution will you try? Please let me know how it goes.
Before I became a mum I could sleep virtually anywhere, through anything, and only rarely had trouble falling asleep. I certainly don’t remember having any problems with broken sleep. Then came the night feeds and a baby who woke every 50 minutes – every night, for almost 2 years (even without night feeding). Today I don’t know how on earth I survived that because by the time I managed to get back to sleep myself again I had maybe 15 minutes before the next 50 minutes was up. I remember praying every night, “Dear God, please let tonight be different. Please let him sleep through the night,” but it never was. It was hell. Finally it stopped completely when he gave up napping in the day. Just like that, as if we’d flicked a switch.
Then we had noisy neighbours (we moved), a child with sleep apnea (tonsillectomy solved that one), neighbours whose motion-sensor outdoor light shone like the sun into my bedroom and went on and off all night long (blackout material)….it’s no wonder I wound up with a sleep disorder (plus now I’ve got hormones to deal with, but that’s a whole other story).
I like Bach flower remedies so use their Rescue Sleep if I don’t manage to fall straight to sleep. If I wake in the night I don’t allow myself to think. I’ve trained myself not to start the mind chatter. Sometimes I struggle with that, but I’m fairly successful with the self-talk, telling myself I’ll think about that in the morning. I also use white noise – a fan in the summer and dehumidifier in the winter. It helps a lot because motherhood made me super-sensitive to noise and now I’m not being called in the night I need to retrain myself to stop listening out for that.
I absolutely can’t use the computer in the evenings and if I use it a lot during the day I find it impacts my sleep. But TV doesn’t have that effect on me and – I know it’s not very Waldorfy – watching a movie or favourite show is the one thing that really helps me to wind down because it’s so passive. I don’t drink coffee EVER anymore and have a law – no tea after three, although even that might need some adjustment. And my one treat – a glass of wine a couple of nights per week – is out too because it clearly doesn’t mix with the hormonal changes I’m going through and the pleasure is just not worth the pain of broken sleep. I love my sleep more than my nice glass of red!
At the moment I’m doing a “Brain Dump” and I’ve found it’s helping me to sleep too. More info here:
A bit of a long comment, but hopefully something in here might help someone who’s struggling with sleep too.
Cathy, thank you so much! Isn’t is amazing how many of the same issues or circumstances we share as Mamas? I too could sleep well anytime, anywhere before children. And then my first child was a poor sleeper…thus began the cycle of awakenings. So, twenty five years later…! I think sleep challenges are something many of us experience but don’t talk about much. But it’s such an important conversation. I haven’t tried Rescue Sleep but I definitely will. I am also hyper-sensitive to noise and have to use ear plugs whenever I sleep away from home. So good to hear each other’s stories. And what an amazing coincidence, I too am working through Simplified Organization and really like Mystie’s brain dump video. Thanks for sharing.
I could totally relate to this!!! I am still new when it comes to the ‘mom-business’, and I am really having a hard time coping up with my lack of sleep. It’s a good thing that I stumbled upon your article! I can’t wait to try each one on this list. I know you said that we should try one thing at a time, but do you think it will be a good idea to combine movement with tart cherry juice? Thank you!
Thanks for your comment and question, Emily! Oh how I remember that lack of sleep as a new Mom. It’s not easy during this phase, but good for you for trying to improve your sleep. Yes, I think trying movement and tart cherry juice would be a great combo really. The point of one at a time is to know which things work for you but also keep it simple enough that you sustain the practice! I so appreciate your comment here because I realize that the tart cherry juice had fallen off my radar because my sleep had been so solid for awhile. But now that school has started back up, I find myself waking at 3:00 am with so much on my mind and having a hard time falling back to sleep. So I’m off to the grocery today to pick up more tart cherry juice and add that back in to my daily habits. Thank you for reminding me! Also, know that these habits will need to grow and change as you and your family do. I hope you’ll pop back on here and let me know how the movement and cherry juice combo work for you:)