By Lori Strong, Certified Child Sleep Consultant
Almost every mother has had that moment when someone turns to them and shares the parenting advice, “Oh just sleep when the baby sleeps.” It may make you want to roll your eyes at the person. But, it could honestly be the best advice a mom follows, if you can find a way to do it. Fitting sleep into your day will not only help you, but your family too. While sleep is critical for babies and young children, it’s also essential for moms and can make being a mother an easier task.
Why is sleep important?
Sleep helps to do so many things for our bodies and minds. For example did you know that sleep helps to:
- Regulate hormones (which is not only important postpartum but also as you and children get older)
- Restore muscle and tissues
- Regulate appetite (let’s be honest, this is important if moms are trying to stay healthy and lose baby weight. Without sleep, it’s going to be much harder to drop those stubborn pounds!
Sleep is also critical for memory preservation and creation. One of the reasons moms feel like they have a “mom brain” is because the aren’t getting enough sleep and therefore their bodies and brains can’t process information as well, or hold on to it.
Sleep is necessary for carrying out everyday tasks like driving. Operating any vehicle while extremely sleep deprived is dangerous. When we put our babies and children in our cars with a mom who hasn’t slept, well that’s a dangerous and actually scary thought!
Understanding why sleep is important is great, but how can we put this information into practice to get better sleep as new parents and moms in general?
Here are 5 tips to help moms get better rest:
Make a plan
Plans are important, especially if you are going to try to follow new procedures at bedtime with a newborn or child in transition. The first step is to understand WHEN to go to bed. Timing is is key. Lots of moms like to stay up late because it’s the only time when they can get the dishes done, catch up on emails or watch a favorite TV show. However, if you know your child is going to wake up at 2 o’clock in the morning, it probably isn’t a good idea for you to be going to bed at midnight or 1 AM. Common sense, I know, and we’re all guilty of it. Instead, make a plan that fits your family’s needs. That may mean watching Netflix at some other point during the day or even putting that on the back burner for a little while. Lack of sleep is only temporary.
Create a routine
Set aside a time for a routine each night. If you can get your mind and body used to carrying out a relaxing and easy bedtime routine for yourself, then you will have an easier time falling asleep at night. This will allow you to get a higher quality of sleep. I recommend setting an alarm to go off about an hour before you plan on going to bed so that you can wind down, brush your teeth, take a bath, read a book, or do whatever you need to do to get yourself to bed around the same time every night. Consistency is key.
Shut off the screens
The emissions of blue and white light from screens are stimulating to our brains. This can make it hard to fall asleep after you have been scrolling through Facebook, reading blogs, or skimming Pinterest right before bedtime. Even though it might feel relaxing, it’s actually stimulating your brain. You may need to turn the devices off and try reading a book or magazine before going to bed instead of focusing on those screens.
Help your children sleep better
If you are waking up 5 or 6 times a night because your children aren’t sleeping well then we want to help your children sleep better, so you can too. Keep in mind this amount of waking might be normal if they are newborn, but if your children are older, then you want to work on helping them in order to help yourself. If we are feeling confident about our kid’s sleep, then we are going to get better sleep ourselves as parents and as moms.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
We often think that we have to do it all as new moms. Asking for help is seen as a sign of weakness, but if you can get the help that allows you to get some extra sleep, then you will be better off in the long run. Maybe enlist the help of a babysitter to come over to assist with your child’s bedtime routine. Or have a friend or neighbor play with your kiddos in the afternoon so you can take a nap.
The next time a family member comes to visit ask them to help with dishes instead of playing with the kids so you can relax. You may even want to consider a house cleaner so you don’t have to worry about keeping the house tidy while you rest and recuperate. Try to find some small ways that you can get the help that works for your family. Asking for help is ok. It really does take a village!
Put these tips into practice
This all may sound great on paper, but it’s all useless if you don’t put these techniques to work. Practice, practice, practice, and see what works for you and your family. Being a good mom means first taking care of ourselves, so we can take care of our kids. If we do that, everyone will be better in the long run!
Lori Strong is a certified child sleep consultant and owner of Strong Little Sleepers. She transforms families by educating and empowering them to restore their sleep. Learn more at http://www.
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