5 Steps That Will Restore Your Family’s Sleep and Sanity

Sleep is essential to our body’s rest and repair. While adults need anywhere from seven to nine hours of solid sleep, there is also evidence to suggest that women need a slightly longer amount of sleep due to their more complex brains. Sadly, women, and especially mothers are typically expected to get by with the least amount of sleep of anyone in the family. Mothers are also most likely to receive interrupted sleep, which one study showed is actually as detrimental as no sleep at all!

“Our study shows the impact of only one disrupted night. We know that these effects accumulate and therefore the functional price new parents — who awaken three to ten times a night for months on end — pay for common infant sleep disturbance is enormous,” said the study’s lead author, Professor Avi Sadeh of Tel Aviv University.

The disturbance of sleep affects all of us and is especially detrimental to children. The National Sleep Foundation recently changed its sleep recommendations for various age groups. They now recognize that, depending on their age, children need anywhere from eight to 17 hours of sleep.

1. Turn off devices

For many of us, the constant connection to our electronic devices, seen now as almost as essential to our daily lives as eating and breathing, is stealing our sleep.

The bluish-white glowing light of electronic devices like laptops, smart phones, and e-readers sends a signal to the brain that it is important to still stay awake. Studies have shown that the wavelength-enriched light from our devices actually interferes with our body’s signals to make melatonin, the hormone that helps us sleep.

If you must use a computer in the evening, there are a few things you can do.

  1. Dim the screen so that it emits less light.
  2. Make use of programs that change the text from dark to light.
  3. Turn it off at least a few hours before lying down to sleep.

Ideally, you should aim to put all devices aside at least three hours before bed. If you still need downtime to chill before hitting the pillow, try reading a paper book or magazine, without using a glowing screen.

2. Reduce your caffeine

Caffeine is a stimulant. If needed, it should only be consumed in the morning or it will interfere with sleep. It takes about 45 minutes for caffeine from a drink to be absorbed into our body’s system and the half-life effect is around four to six hours.

Keep in mind that breastfeeding mothers may want to consider drinking in moderation because caffeine will end up in breast-milk and can affect your baby’s mood and sleep as well. The caffeine that ends up in your milk, even in diluted amounts, can make routines and sleep difficult for your babies and toddler.

It can be tempting to over-compensate for the unrelenting fatigue by consuming large amounts of caffeine, but resist the urge. There is a lack of scientific research in this area so proceed with caution.

Some alternatives for healthier and more naturally energizing pick-me-ups in the morning include fulfilling smoothies or preparing all-natural fresh fruit juice.

3. Sound waves

Current fringe sleep research around listening to certain sound’s frequencies, like Delta waves, as we sleep indicates that it may be helpful in promoting deeper and more relaxing sleep cycles. Tapping into your body’s own natural waves and beats, and enhancing them with certain sound frequencies, like pink noise, may be helpful for some.

You may also want to consider a white noise machine, or play tracks of waves on the beach. Soundscapes can be a relaxing way to slide into a meditative experience as you drift off to sleep.

We’re also huge fans of the website MyNoise.net, which offers an amazing range of customizable free sounds for all personalities and needs. Your newborn may particularly like the In Utero sound generator that mimics sounds that make you feel like you are still in the womb!

4. Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy and the use of certain age-old scents to help promote restful sleep is another way to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. Soothing scents like lavender, lemon, jasmine, and frankincense can help quiet the mind, ease depression, and aid in deeper sleep.

You may want to consult an aromatherapy expert for contraindicated scents while pregnant or breastfeeding. Also, remember to never use essential oils directly on your skin, or the skin of a child. For a room-permeating experience, consider putting essential oils in a diffuser or placing fresh herbs or incense around your home or bedroom to help you sleep.

5. Indulge in naps 

As any ragged mother will tell you, it’s important to sleep when the kids sleep whenever possible, especially in the first year of life. Backward schedules and frequent meal habits make it near impossible to get any amount of long rest, let alone complete a full sleep cycle without being interrupted.

Especially for breastfeeding moms, the constant needs and demands of a child can get exhausting. It’s no surprise that many new mothers get less than four hours of sleep per night.

If you get tired during the day, it’s best to nap alongside your baby to get caught up on sleep. Our natural sleep cycles are roughly 90 minutes, so when you sleep, aim to complete only as many full sleep cycles as possible in the allotted time, otherwise you may be rustled from a deep sleep and wake up not feeling as rested as possible.

If you take the steps needed to make your home life as calm and relaxing as possible, utilizing the sounds, scents, and lights that are most conducive to sleep, and avoiding extra stimulation before bed, you are sure to see some positive changes in your sleep patterns, energy, and mood.

For more ways to get a better night’s rest, check out 6 Ways to Get Better Sleep

Sources: Independent, Time, Florida Hospital for Children, Scientific American, The Atlantic, The Guardian

Photo Credits: Pixabay

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