It is amazing how much energy children can suck out of us some days, and what is worse is that having kids in the house makes it more difficult to get to sleep! Getting adequate sleep is, by far, one of the most important aspects to living a healthy, happy life. It is hard to be a good parent when you are tired, irritable, and distracted, yet so many of us struggle to get the sleep we need. Unless you have a serious health condition, medication can be a dangerous option and is not ideal for most.
Having a small baby around kind of makes all of this null and void, but it won’t last forever. Here are some tips on how to get a good night’s sleep once all the kids are on a regular sleep schedule of their own.
Wind Down Before Bedtime
It is important to get your mind out of its hectic daily-life-flurry and into calm mode before bed. Try to reserve an hour before bed time where you can relax. Dim the lights if possible, and no screens. The artificial light emitted from televisions, computers, and smartphones inhibit your brain’s ability to release melatonin, and even mundane activities like watching television or checking email and social media keep our brains locked in busy mode.
Spending time with electronics is common for most right before bed, but there are much more beneficial activities, like reading, listening to calming music, or simply spending time chatting with your family (but keep it upbeat: don’t talk about frustrations or work.)
There are few better times to sneak in some exercise than after you have put the kids to bed. It is a common myth that vigorous exercise late at night can keep you up, but that is not the case. However, if you are prone to getting wound up, do yoga or tai chi.
If you are a late-night snacker, there are lots of things you can enjoy to promote healthy sleep. Vitamin B3 promotes REM sleep, and vitamin B6 helps your body produce the relaxing hormone serotonin, so eat foods high in vitamin B complex like leafy greens or lean fish. Magnesium deficiencies have been shown to contribute to insomnia, so eating things like bananas and nuts (walnuts, cashews, or almonds are the best) can help. Lastly, cherries are one of the few natural sources of melatonin.
Have a Dedicated Sleep Space
It is essential to make sure that the environment in which you sleep helps instead of hinders. If you are sensitive to sunlight or often have to sleep during daylight hours, blackout blinds can make a huge difference. If you can sleep without any lights on, do. If not, make sure you use a gentle, non-fluorescent bulb.
You also want to make sure that your bed is for sleep (and intimacy) only. It is best to keep work, hobby, and family time completely out of the bedroom, but if you must utilize your bedroom space for work, get a desk or table to sit at. Watching television, playing video games, or doing school or office work from your bed will detract from its relaxing appeal and will make it difficult for your brain to settle into calm mode every time you get in it. You want your sleep space to be a peaceful oasis, so keep whatever you can of your waking life out of it.
Co-sleeping is a somewhat controversial issue, but for the most part, it just depends on your family. Some benefit from co-sleeping, while others have issues with it. You know what is best for your family and you should trust your judgement.
It is often difficult to get our minds to wind down and stay down once we are tucked in. The first thing you want to consider is keeping noise down. If you have older children that stay up later than you, make sure you you let them know how important it is for them to be respectful with their noise levels.
A good way to calm your mind at night is aromatherapy. Aromatherapy can be soothing and helpful for inducing sleep. Essential oils are safer than burning candles all night, and can be used in several ways, including oil lamps and burners, humidifiers, and topical application. Some of the best scents for relaxation are lavender, vetiver, valerian, and Roman chamomile.
Having a family can be extremely stressful at times, so if you find yourself lying there thinking, hoping, worrying, planning—as many of us do—it’s time for some meditation. There are so many benefits of meditating in your daily life, and while it may seem complicated, you can do it anywhere, anytime, by just focusing on your breathing.
There are lots of other techniques you can use to quiet your mind, like focusing on positive things or activities that relax you. As a parent, it is very important to have some “me” time every day, and it is probably a good thing to spend some time before bed thinking about yourself and what makes you happy instead of focusing on your family. They are always at the forefront of your mind, which is why it is so important to focus on other things from time to time.
All awesome days start with awesome sleep. Trying out some of these tips will help to ensure that you start each day off in a good mood, which will (usually) rub off on your children. Being the best parent that you can be always starts with a good night’s sleep.