As a working mum, sleep is often the first thing to go out of the window, but is actually the single most important element to keep us firing on all cylinders.
I have always loved sleep, it’s been one of my favourite things for like, forever. I am someone who prior to having children, couldn’t function on less than 7 hours….My husband used to tease me for my love of sleep and would proclaim ‘sleep is for wimps’.
Roll forward 9 years and it’s a completely different ball game. I still love sleep….. I just don’t get any…. recently I took an online test to measure how sleep deprived I am. After two back to back pregnancies with babies who are poor sleepers, my figures came in at 5,319 hours, which equates to 222 days or 7 months!! And honestly some days I feel like I could go to bed and not wake up for 7 months…..Anyway, this little revelation led me to do a bit of research about this elusive thing called sleep as I’m now a little obsessed with understanding the impact of sleep deprivation on us mums and how it affects our ability at work and at home.
I’m sure we all recognise that we can feel pretty grumpy and low on energy when we haven’t had enough sleep, but did you know that sleep deprivation impacts our ability to recall information and manage our emotions, our reaction times (just a deficit of a few hours can reduce our reaction speed to a level comparable to being drunk!), our hormones, leading us to crave sugary, carb loaded food and reduces our immune systems ability to fight all those nasty germs we pick up from our kids! (Ok, so that explains why I was feeling crap on so many levels??!)
So, regardless of whether you have kids who rudely interrupt your sleep, or insomnia caused by anxiety or too much caffeine, here are my tips for getting more shut eye and as you’ll see, the preparation starts as early as lunchtime.
1. Set yourself up for sleep:
- Limit your caffeine intake after noon. So many of my clients complain of poor sleep and then when you look at their caffeine intake, they are charging themselves up with coffee and diet coke all day long!
- Don’t eat too late, your body needs to use your sleep cycles to regenerate your cells, not get distracted by trying to digest your food.
- Try and get some exercise during the day – as little as 15 minute brisk walk (or pacing around your living room) could be enough to aid a restful night.
2. Make sleep a priority:
- Aim to be in bed, with lights (and gadgets!) off by 10pm for one week and see how you feel. Depending on your normal bedtime, you could rack up an additional 14 hours of sleep in a week, just by this one action.
- Don’t take your electronic gadgets into your bedroom. We’re all guilty of complaining about how tired we are and then sitting up in bed scrolling mindlessly through social media (you know you do it, right?). If you do use your gadgets in the evening, turn the setting to ‘night shift’ which reduces the blue light which can impact our brain’s ability to switch into ‘sleep mode’.
- When you really are feeling exhausted, arrange one night that you can either get an extra early night or have a lie in the next day. Leave the washing pile, the work emails, the dishwasher and whatever else is niggling you and get into bed, snuggle up and sleep. Lie ins are a thing of the past in our house, but apparently the most rejuvenating sleep cycle happens between 7am and 9am. Make a deal with your partner to alternate lie ins at the weekend, you should both benefit!
- If your childrens’ sleeping patterns are consistently impacting your sleep, consider getting a sleep consultant in to help with whatever the problem is. It can be pricey, but I found it was worth every penny when I hit the wall of 3 years without a full night’s sleep (look out for a separate blog post on that one!)
3. Switch off from the day:
- Get into the habit of keeping a notebook by your bed. If your mind is racing with what you need to do the next day or worries about something that’s going on at work, jot it down and park it for the night. This also works well if you wake up in the night worrying about something.
- Try doing a few stretches and deep breathing before you get into bed. This should help ease both your body and mind into a more relaxed mode and let go of any tensions from the day.
As with all my tips, not one size fits all, so see what takes your fancy and make small adjustments where you can. Hopefully you’ll see some benefit over the coming days and weeks. I’d love to hear what works for you, so please share your tips for getting a good night’s sleep in the comments section below. As for me, I’m taking my own advice and am off to bed now…. N’Nite x