When I was a new mom, I experienced sleep deprivation that I hadn’t seen the likes of since finals week my freshman year of college. With a newborn, sleep was a luxury along with a hot shower and fresh laundry.
I never thought I would take for granted these simple pleasures until they were in such short supply. But sleep is so essential to being and feeling great for our kids it’s something we can’t miss out on.
When we’re sleep-deprived, we can’t be as alert, patient or clear-headed. We are already suffering from mommy brain because of all the hormones, and the lack of sleep impairs our memory even more. If poor sleep becomes chronic then it can lead to a host of problems.
Some of the more severe problems we can face from sleep deprivation include high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attack, stroke, obesity, depression and decreased sex drive. I think we can all agree that sleep is necessary for our well-being, but how do we get quality sleep when we have an infant or two to care for?
Newborn babies sleep up to 14-17 hours a day. They need it for their growth and development since human growth hormone is released when they sleep. New moms are often advised to sleep when the baby sleeps, but that’s easier said than done.
Though I was exhausted, I often wanted to get that shower I’d been craving or do a load or two of laundry. I wanted to catch up on the things I had put off, but that came at a price. Cranky and achy was not a good look for me. Over time, I realized that getting good sleep paid off. I was in a better mood and more productive throughout the day.
Regardless of how much sleep you get, you want to get the most out of that delicious respite. For the best sleep of your life, it’s essential to practice good sleep hygiene. These 5 simple ways to improve your sleeping will make it a more effective experience for your body to recover and restore itself.
Make sure your room, and really any room you sleep in, is sufficiently dark. The goal is total darkness. If needed, get a nightlight that emits a red light because the long wavelength of red light has been shown to be less disruptive to sleep. Remove as many electronics as you can because the blue light they emit can delay the release of melatonin.
Another way to reduce the light is to wear an eye mask. When the brain senses darkness, it produces melatonin. An eye mask is an easy way to tell our brain it’s time to rest. Also, there are now gentle alarm clocks that stay dark while you sleep and slowly become brighter to wake you up. Don’t worry about not sensing the gentle alarm clock if you wear an eye mask. Our skin senses the light’s warmth.
The best temperature to sleep at is between 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit. I’m sure we’ve all experienced how impossible it is to sleep in a room that is too hot or too cold. Our bodies thermoregulate to keep us alive, but this system is less efficient when we sleep, making us wake up if we are too warm or cold while sleeping.
It may seem obvious but many of us have background noise that disturbs our sleep. Some noise can’t be eliminated, like the train that passes by a couple of miles away or a snoring spouse. So noise reduction is a good alternative. Whether it’s a white noise machine or earplugs, do what you need to do to reduce the noise that keeps you up.
Get to bed as early as possible since we sleep our deepest from 10pm-2am. When we sleep earlier in the evening, we can take advantage of the natural wave of neurochemistry that is already well on its way before 10pm, and you get the added support of the metabolic changes that occur at that time. When we get better sleep, we wake up feeling more refreshed and ready for the challenges of motherhood.
The bed is for sleeping and sex. We want our body and mind to associate beds with rest and intimacy. But what about breastfeeding in bed? Sure, you could make an exception; but sleep experts encourage the bed to be a stress-free, stimulation-free zone so that when we look at a bed we know it’s a safe haven for relaxation.
Once you’re done breastfeeding, if you are experiencing insomnia, consider an herbal remedy to help your body fall asleep. Hemp seeds and extracts are a great way to help you fall asleep and sleep soundly while regulating potential hormonal imbalances to bring balance back to our sleep-wake cycles. However, it’s not encouraged to take hemp extract while breastfeeding as the effects of hemp may pass from mother to infant.
About the author
Erika Long loves corgis, curry, and comedy. Always searching for the next great snuggle, flavor or laugh, she inspires people to live their best life now. When not writing, Erika can be found at her local brewery dominating Harry Potter trivia night.