I seem to have been somewhere on the continuum between moderately fatigued and totally exhausted since my firstborn came onto the scene in early 2009. Of course, nobody with a small baby can realistically expect to have a decent amount of sleep, but somehow, even though my children reliably make it through the night without disturbing me, I rarely manage to get enough sleep. Most of this is my own fault – I’ve always been more of a night owl than an early bird and find it hard to get to bed before 11:30 even though I KNOW I’ll have emergency Playmobil repairs to make by 6am.
Even going to bed reasonably late I often struggle to get to sleep and wake easily in the night, and have had phases where it has been so tiresome I’ve dreaded bedtime. If you’re going through a period like this, I have compiled a tick list for the best night possible, which I adhere to occasionally and find really do make a difference. Of course, if you’re chronically stressed or there’s some other serious problem, no amount of lavender spray is going to get that sorted, so make sure you get the help you need. None of these suggestions are groundbreaking – I haven’t been involved in any cutting edge research – but it might be of help to some. This is very much a belt and braces approach, but I find a few really good nights’ sleep can stop a bad pattern of wakeful nights.
Action plan for a good night’s sleep:
Start early – don’t drink anything caffeinated after lunchtime.
Eat your dinner fairly early so you’re not stuffed – ideally 4 hours before bed. All that digesting raises your body’s core temperature and can interrupt the zzzs.
Try looking at https://sleepyti.me to work out the time you need to go to sleep to wake up refreshed. Sometimes I feel worse after 7 hours than I do after 5.
In the evening, avoid any sort of screen for as long as you can before bed. Something about the screens does something funny to your eyes and your brain which stops it producing melatonin which helps you nod off, but I’m sure you know this.
You’re going to need to treat yourself like a fractious baby. Have hot milk/herbal tea a bit before you go to bed. I find some herbal teas MUCH more pleasant to drink than others – my favourite is the Clipper Snore & Peace, but there’s a good summary of some of the best available here. Cherry juice is another drink that’s supposed to help sleep, if hot drinks aren’t for you.
You don’t want to wake up through hunger, so have a small snack of something like a piece of toast or a banana an hour before bed – bananas have magnesium and potassium in that help relax muscles, so I force one down even though I’m not a big fan. If you could be faffed with getting out a frying pan, these pancakes are another healthy option.
Make sure your bedroom is neither too hot nor too cold – the ideal is 16-18°C which might feel quite cool – a bit of fresh air is good too, though a cold draught won’t help.
Run a deep, warm bath. There are loads of lovely sleepy type bath oils and so on from Radox to Cow Shed to Neom, depending on your budget, but it is the change in temperature as your body cools after the hot bath that’s really going to help you getting off to sleep, so it doesn’t really matter what you put in.
After the bath, slathering yourself in Lush ‘Sleepy’ may help. I have heard of some amazing results using this on both adults and sleep-resistant rugrats, but I haven’t found anything quite so dramatic myself. I will persevere. Make sure you get straight into bed now. No emptying the dishwasher or painting your toe nails – straight into bed.
Pillow and room sprays – lavender is the classic of course, but there are loads of lovely ones – a friend of mine swears by Tisserand Sleep Better Pillow Mist. I have an electric essential oil diffuser which I use with these oils. It can be set to turn itself off after a specified time and does help with creating a relaxing atmosphere. Hard to come by in my house…
Read something good. Now isn’t the time to be reading anything that’s going to remind about something you need to be doing, but a notepad by your bed is handy if something does pop into your head. Apparently, just 6 minutes reading can have dramatically relaxing effects, I have recently finished Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman and cannot recommend it highly enough. It’s easy to read because the characters and story are so compelling, and it’s intelligent, funny and moving. It’s ace. You should read it. Other suggestions are here.
If none of this is conspiring to make your eye lids droop, then a podcast may be just the thing. There are any number designed to help you sleep: Sleep With Me talks increasing nonsense to trick your mind into switching off, Sleep Whispers is kind of how it sounds. If hypnosis or guided meditations are your thing, then podcasts such as Absolute Mind and The Meditation Podcast may be for you.
Sometimes, even with these epic preps, sleep can take some time coming. I always used to get stressed, watching the minutes ticking by, imagining how exhausted I would be in the morning. Now I try to convince myself that at least I’m getting some rest and remembering that I will get to sleep eventually…
Exercise is always good for sleep. Read this blog post for tips for people new to exercise classes.
Please let me know if I’ve left out something crucial – and please share if you think there’s anything here that may be of use to someone you know.
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