So your baby is now sleeping well but you are struggling with sleep. Sound familiar ? You are definitely not alone. If it has been months of difficult sleep with your little one, it can take your body and mind a while to get back into sleeping soundly at night.
Here are my 7 top tips to help you fall asleep quicker and get more quality sleep:
1. Unwind before Bedtime
Most parents are on the go from the moment they wake up until the moment they collapse into bed. It can be hard to find the time and the energy to put away some time for yourself before bed. But if you can, get into the habit of going into your bedroom or another room where you spend 10 or 15 minutes unwinding from the stresses and strains of the day. This can make a huge difference to the quality and amount of sleep you get. Having a wind down ritual before you go to bed, like burning essential oils, such as lavender oil (which has been shown by some research to increase deep sleep) or rose oil (which can help reduce anxiety) and dimming down lights can help your mind get into a relaxed state before you go to bed. All of this can help to prevent night wakings and make falling asleep easier.
Some gentle yoga or stretches can really help your body and mind to get in that state where you are ready to fall asleep and let go of the stresses and strains of the day. Try this video called ‘Time for Calm’ (scroll to the bottom) by Roisin , a yoga pre and postnatal yoga teacher which is perfect for unwinding before bed.
If you find that you can’t wait to get to bed but the moment your head hits the pillow, your mind is buzzing, try this guided mediation by Claire Dugan (a hypnobirthing coach).
2. Have a Bedtime Routine
It also helps to have a consistent bedroom routine which involves doing the same activities in the same order every night. For example, brushing your teeth, using the same night moisturiser (the smell can act as a strong sleep association) and reading or listening to a podcast before sleep. A consistent bedtime routine can help to send the message to your brain that sleep is coming which should make falling asleep much easier.
3. Set up a Sleep Environment
Having a pitch black bedroom is essential in supporting the sleep hormone, melatonin. Investing in blackout blinds or a decent eye mask is well worth doing in order to avoid early wake ups and support deeper sleep.
4. Keep Moving
Exercise, moving your body and getting outside can really help sleep. Going for a walk with your little one in the carrier or pram or doing something like buggy fit (I used to do this one and loved it) can really help to regulate your circadian rhythm (internal body clock) and lift your mood.
If you do high cardio exercise, consider the time of day you do this as often if we do it too close to bedtime it can make falling asleep harder, affect sleep quality and cause night wakings. Those suffering with insomnia are usually advised to stick to light-to-moderate exercise at least four hours before bedtime.
5. Nutrition and Sleep
What we eat impacts our sleep quality and duration of sleep. Caffeine is well known for making it more difficult to fall asleep so to avoid it as much as possible. This means avoiding coffee and tea as well as energy drinks and chocolate close to bedtime.
Eating too close to bedtime can cause sleep disruptions because the body needs time to digest, especially after big meals. Try having dinner earlier in the evening. I usually eat with the kids for this reason, and because it means less time spent clearing up!
Check that you are getting key vitamins and minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and vitamins A, C, D, and E from your diet or by taking a supplement as these all benefit sleep.
6. Reduce Screens Before Bedtime
As tempting as it might be, using your phone before bed is a no no when it comes to supporting your sleep. Studies have shown that devices such as computers, tablets and phones which emit blue light can reduce the amount of time you spend in slow-wave and rapid-eye movement (REM) sleep, two stages of the sleep cycle that are vital for cognitive functioning. These devices may also suppress the production of melatonin and decrease feelings of sleepiness. Therefore aim to stop using blue screens at least 30 minutes before bedtime. The National Sleep Foundation also recommends making your bedroom a screen-free zone.
7. Check your Bedtime
Check that the time you are going to bed suits you. Just like little ones, adults have different sleep needs and these can vary widely with some adults needing 9 hours of sleep and some only needing around 5 hours of sleep. As much as possible aim for a consistent bedtime as this will help to regulate your circadian rhythm.
I hope you found these tips useful, my online course for adult sleep is coming so watch this space!