I distinctly remember a day in the early stages of being a mum to two, a newborn baby and toddler in tow, going for a walk at 5am! We had been awake for an hour and I had been up several times through the night feeding.
I needed some fresh air, my newborn was unsettled and my toddler was restless. Walking around our neighborhood as the sun was coming up I recall with clarity the dreaded thought ‘How am I ever going to get through this day’!
But I did and I am sure you have had or are in the midst of having these days yourself. The fact is at certain stages of motherhood getting enough sleep is impossible and you have to dig deep to get just the basic mama chores done.
Often our biggest sleep disturbances as mums are our children but there are many other factors that can affect sleep including stress, anxiety, worry, pain or discomfort, certain medications, toxin overload, caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, certain foods and your sleeping environment. It is important to look at the factors we can control, here are my top tips for getting the most out of your sleeping hours as a mum:
What’s for supper?
What you eat in the evening can influence your ability to get to sleep and your sleep quality. If you eat sugars and refined carbohydrates, found in pasta, bread and rice, sweets, cakes and chocolates in the evening your blood sugar levels rocket, which makes it hard for you to fall asleep. If you do get to sleep, the lowering of your blood sugar levels through the night can wake you and make it hard for you to get back to sleep! It is a no win sleep situation! It is best to have a protein based meal such as fish, chicken, lean red meat or eggs, with plenty of salad or vegetables in the evening. If you are after an evening snack opt for a handful of unsalted nuts such as almonds or walnuts and a cup of relaxing herbal tea. These protein containing foods have the added benefit of being high in Tryptophan, an amino acid which is an essential ingredient in seratonin production. Seratonin is a neurotransmitter which helps to promote sleep.
Routines and Rituals
Your children have a bedtime routine – right? In our house its bath, book, story and song. In the same way it works to help settle our children a bedtime routine can help to settle us. Too many of us are going to bed with our IPad, working on our computers or watching television right up until bedtime. We see it as relaxation time but being in front of a screen stimulates our brain and can negatively affect our sleep patterns. Establish a soothing bedtime routine for yourself. Take a bath, burn some essential oils, read a book or listen to a guided mediation. Avoid screen time in the hour leading up to bedtime, that includes televisions, computers, tablets and phones and keep these devices out of the bedroom. Create a harmonious environment in your bedroom. It should be dark, quiet, cool and well ventilated. Ensure your mattress, pillow and bedding are comfortable and clean. All of these things can add up to a more restful night’s sleep.
Waking up and winding down
Many of us have forgotten that our bodies have the amazing ability to wake up and wind down by themselves! Reaching for a coffee first thing and relying on a glass of wine to make us sleepy at night interrupts our natural waking and sleeping cycle and makes it harder and harder to do these natural daily activities without assistance. Try and at least have breakfast before a coffee, limit it to one a day and avoid it for at least 6 hours before bedtime. While alcohol can help you get off to sleep it often causes you to wake in the night and reduces the quality of your sleep.
Natural Nocturnal Helpers
There is a huge array of supplements out there that claim to help promote a restful sleep. As a naturopath I believe that what we eat and how we live creates the foundation of our health (and our sleep) and nutritional and herbal supplements can be helpful to fill in the gaps. My top choices are
- Magnesium, especially when combined with glutamine and taurine, improves sleep by promoting relaxation.
- Herbal medicines such as zizyphus, valerian, chamomile, passionflower and hops can be beneficial. Naturopathy can help determine which herbs would be best suited to you.
- Calm and clear bush flower essences help to quieten a busy mind and slow down the body.
One final thing, if you have had a sleepless night, up with a baby, toddler or sick child remember to be gentle on yourself. Take it easy, have a nap if possible and if you need to get through a day at work remember you will survive! My favourite motto and a good reminder to all of us mums is “This too shall pass”! There will be a time when you will get a full night sleep again!
Jessica created her free guide ’10 mistakes mums make that keep them overwhelmed, exhausted and out of balance’ to help mums feel great again. Grab your copy here http://energeticmama.com