Kristy provides support for pregnant and laboring mothers and for transitioning families after the birth of their baby.See all posts »
Functioning and Thriving on Little Sleep
I woke up today wondering if I ever went to sleep. My 5 month old was up most of the night wanting to nurse and be held. Not that I can blame him; both are wonderful and needed things. While I am happy to oblige him, a lot of his waking comes from him not yet liking his transfer into the crib. This makes for a very restless night for both of us.
There were 6-8 weeks where he was sleeping through the night. I remember feeling nervous at first. I would wake up and check to make sure he was breathing and in a good sleeping position. I quickly got over this anxiety when I knew he was perfectly fine and peacefully resting. I then started to enjoy my new found slumber. Acquiring a full night of undisturbed sleep gave me more energy and enabled me to get things done throughout my day. Unfortunately this didn’t last long. Even though the baby was sleeping through the night, my 3 year old and 6 year old would inevitably wake up for something; having to go pee pee, a bad dream, or wanting to come into bed with me and cuddle. If it wasn’t my boys waking me, it was my cat. When I would finally lull back to sleep after my interruptions, my husband would snore or begin to toss and turn. It felt as though the world was against me getting sleep.
There comes a point to stop complaining about it and resolve it. One of the best things I have done to help myself is placing a basket at the end of my bed that has all my yoga gear in it. When I would awaken and not be able to get back to sleep, I would get down on my mat and do some restorative yoga that relaxes the body and helps turn the mind off. Then I would be ready to return to a good night’s sleep. If I was agitated by waking, I would lie in bed and do some pranayama (breathing exercises) to relax and feel more at peace. The deep belly breaths would help me to settle down to sleep. I’d place the bolster from my yoga basket under my back and breathe air in slowly filling my entire belly, expanding it in all directions. Then I would hold my breath briefly and then let it out very slowly so every part of my body felt like it was melting.
Here are some other techniques I have found helpful and students and clients of mine have too. I hope they work well to help you get a better night sleep and feel more rested and energized for your days as a busy mom.
- Set a regular bedtime; preferably by 10pm. It helps set your internal clock without restarting your system by staying up late. Create a bedtime ritual for yourself that helps you to wind down and relax.
- Wake up at the same time every day. Trade sleeping in for early afternoon naps or a nice brisk walk.
- Start the day with yoga stretches and deep breaths. Lay your yoga mat out at night next to your bed. As soon as you wake up, roll out onto your mat and do a few stretches and sun salutations. Just 10 minutes does wonders! If your baby is awake, bring him or her onto the mat with you. He or she will love listening to your deep breathing and watching your yoga moves.
- Nap to make up for lost sleep. Put your list of to-dos aside for a while. Lay down with the baby and your little ones at naptime. If you have older children set them up with an activity or quiet play in their room. Napping earlier in the day instead of later allows you to catch up on sleep without disturbing your natural sleep/wake rhythm.
- Spend more time outside during daylight. Try to take a brisk walk early in the day, take your work breaks outside, have the kids help you weed and garden, take your yoga mat to the park with the kids and get on the mat. Let the morning and afternoon sun flood into your space at work or at home.
- Manage your stress. Take time out for you and keep yourself as a priority. If you are finding it hard to fall back asleep or have a high stress day then try a relaxation technique such as visualization, deep breathing, foot soaks, meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, tapping, and herbal serenity baths (chamomile, lavender, lemonbalm and rosemary are calming while spearmint, clove and orange essential oils are invigorating). Rest and relaxation help rejuvenate your body.
- Avoid stimulating activities directly before bed or during wakeful nights. Keep the lights dim and avoid computer, phone and TV screens so as not to stimulate the brain. Record favorite TV shows so you can watch them earlier in the day.
- Have a light snack or a cup of herbal tea before bed or at high waking moments. These may help to satiate the body and relax you. Try eating low sugar yogurt, raw almonds, cottage cheese, a hardboiled egg, some high fiber cereal with milk or warm oatmeal with raw honey.