I have never had a problem falling or staying asleep. I was one of those babies who slept through the night easily. As a child, I would go to bed, stay in bed, and sleep.
As I got older, I was frequently the butt of jokes as I could fall asleep anywhere. My dates knew better than to take me to the movies. I would fall asleep. Sitting around watching t.v.? Bad idea. I would fall asleep. Really, there was nowhere I couldn't sleep. I was known for even falling asleep at a rock concert.
Pregnancy was the first time sleep alluded me. It was a comfort issue more than anything. When you have a little person doing jumping jacks and loop-de-loops from 11:00pm-3:00am every single night, sleep is certainly going to be disrupted.
After I gave birth, I figured that I would be sleep deprived for a while but that eventually, Tiny would settle into a sleep pattern that worked for her and I would finally get some much needed shut eye.
My husband has sleep issues and it never occurred to me that my child would inherit these.
Tiny has never been able to easily settle into or stay asleep. At night, she wakes every couple of hours. She has done this since day one. She is now three years, and ten months old.
I am one tired mama! I am someone who NEEDS to sleep. And I get none.
As you know, I have been working with Lydia of Divine Health to address my health issues. I decided to enlist her support with some of Tiny's challenges, sleep included. Lydia has provided me with some stepping stones to help Tiny get a better night's sleep and I thought that this would be an opportune time to share some of the information I have gathered both from Lydia and from my own research. The fact of the matter is that most of us “do” sleep all wrong!
We all know how important it is to allow our body and mind to get adequate rest. Without sleep we are less productive, less focused, moody (cough, cough), and certainly not as energetic as we could be. Lack of sleep also lowers our immune system and does not give the body adequate time to heal from injuries or illness. Studies have also proven that lack of proper sleep contributes to obesity.
So what is the secret to a good night's rest? So glad you asked. (Links may be affiliate links. Thank you for your support.)
Below are 21 tips to help you get a better night's sleep.
While there is a lot of information out there about how to get proper rest, these are the 21 ideas that I feel are the most doable both for our family and for others. Some are obvious and some are possibly new to you. I know that a few were to me!
1. Get the room you sleep in as dark as possible! Use black out curtains, unplug electronics that emit any sort of light (especially blue light), and do not use a nightlight. When light hits your eyes, it disrupts production of the hormone melatonin. Studies have shown that even a small amount of light can cause a decrease in melatonin levels which can affect sleep negatively. Ideally, you should not be able to see your hand in front of your face.
2. Avoid watching television two hours before bed. I know, I know. For most everyone, watching your favorite shows is your way of unwinding. But studies show that watching television before bed stimulates your brain and nervous system, especially if you are watching a fast paced or suspenseful show. This is especially important for children. While Tiny does not watch television, the few times she has, it has been close to bed time and has definitely disrupted her already poor sleep.
3. If you do continue to watch television before bed, set the timer so it turns off automatically at a certain time. This way, if you do fall asleep with it on, it won't stay on long enough to cause a major disruption to your sleep!
4. If you feel the urge to use the bathroom in the middle of the night, do not turn the light on. Make your way to the bathroom using your limited vision and sense of touch. If you have a cluttered or messy home without an unobstructed route to the bathroom, perhaps this is motivation to clear a pathway for your safety!
5. Temperature can play a huge role in the success of your sleep! I always thought that it was better to have the room warm. Turns out that your bedroom should stay cool. 70 degrees F is the ideal temperature for sleep. Cool room temperature induces sleep as our bodies relax more when they are cooling down, not warming up.
6. White noise can be very beneficial to the “light sleeper.” There are all kinds of white noise machines, CDs, and phone apps on the market. Just make sure that the one you select does not emit any light. In addition, the white noise should be a sound that relaxes you. Tiny likes the sound of water. Humming (like that from a vacuum) bothers her. We use and love this white noise clock (affiliate link).
7. Electronic devices, cordless phones, and cell phones are all sleep disrupters. Aside from causing major health issues from prolonged exposure, they disrupt the production of melatonin and serotonin. You want to keep these at least 5 feet from your bed.
8. Make sure you allow yourself the opportunity to get into bed before 10:00pm. (cough, cough again). Our most restful sleep (the sleep that is important for our adrenal glands) occurs between 11:00pm and 1:00am. Therefore, you want to BE asleep during that time, not just getting into bed.
9. As most parents quickly learn, sleep begets sleep. If you are overtired and rundown, sleep is actually more difficult. Sure, life happens. There are special events and other reasons why we may shortchange ourselves on sleep now and again but it is best not to make a habit of burning the candle at both ends. It catches up with you very quickly!
10. For some people, naps can backfire! A power nap of 20-30 minutes is ideal if you are feeling especially rundown and unable to focus. More than this will actually reset your sleep cycle and you will have a more difficult time falling and staying asleep at night. Growing children certainly need naps but be diligent about their needs as they get older. Most children no longer need 2-3 hour naps once they hit a certain age (which varies from child to child).
11.While exercise is certainly beneficial to your overall health, exercise before bed will make settling into sleep much more difficult. It takes your body up to three hours to come off the exercise high. Schedule exercise at a time where it won't stimulate your body and prevent restful sleep.
12. Avoid eating a heavy meal close to bed time. The topic of “dinner” is a long one but in short, we have grown accustom to having our largest meal at the end of the day when in fact, we should have our largest meal at the start of the day. Eating a large, carbohydrate rich meal close to bedtime sets up a blood sugar crash later on at night. To optimize sleep, try not to eat 2 hours before bedtime. If you must have a snack or a meal, try to make it protein heavy and skip the sugars and simple carbs (like bread and grains). Protein provides a source of the amino acid tryptophan. The body converts tryptophan to serotonin and melatonin, hormones that are important for sleep.
13. Drinking a lot of any beverage too close to bed can set you up for a midnight bathroom run. Try to go to bed with a fairly empty bladder and allow yourself a small drink of water, not an entire glass.
14. It goes without saying that caffeine is not a good idea close to bedtime. This includes all caffeine, even that found in chocolate! One dose of caffeine can last up to 6 hours. Since it is metabolized at a different rate in everyone, some people can be effective for up to 12 hours. Know your body and know how it responds to caffeine so you can partake accordingly.
15. Alcohol is a tricky thing! While it makes you drowsy for sure, it actually disrupts sleep as it is metabolized by your body. Again, every person is different. If you do imbibe, track how long it takes you to fall asleep, how long you sleep before waking, and how restless you are. This will help you better understand your limits.
16. Stimulate your brain throughout the day. Just like any muscle, your brain needs a workout to get tired! Work a crossword puzzle. Do a word search. Play Trivial Pursuit! Step away from the computer and television and do some real brainwork. Shoot, even try some math problems!
17. Meditation before bed or earlier in the evening can allow your body to begin relaxing. In addition, stretching or light yoga can be beneficial as well.
18. Journal as a means to let your negative energy release. Holding in frustrations, angry thoughts, or worries will only keep you awake. Try writing down your feelings and letting them go for the night.
19. Take a warm, not hot detox bath with Epsom salts, seaweed, or clay before bed. Pulling the toxins from your body will free up space for your body to replenish itself at night.
20. Give your skin a massage with essential oils that promote sleep. Lavender, chamomile, valerian, and sandalwood are just a few of the essential oils that promote sleep.
21. There are a lot of supplements that we should be taking throughout the day to promote overall wellness. Since I am not a medical practitioner, I will not dispense advice in this post, but do some research to see how things like fermented cod liver oil, magnesium, calcium, and amino acids play a role in a better night's sleep.
I hope this list of tips gives you some pause as to how you “do” sleep in your family. What are some of your secrets to a good night's sleep? Share here!