How to Get a Good Night’s Sleep Naturally-
Especially for Moms
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Does your alarm go off in the morning and you feel like you just went to bed? Are you exhausted the entire day and walk around with brain fog? Do you snap easily at your family and feel cranky? All of these things can be a result of sleep deprivation. Being a mom can be exhausting, but when you are running on an empty tank from not enough sleep, it’s even worse. Throw homeschooling into the mix, and you could be at your breaking point. I have some simple solutions on how to get a good night’s sleep naturally so you can have a better day.
Most of us don’t do a good job of taking care of ourselves, but sleep is one of the most important things we can do. It affects so much in our body and directly determines the kind of day we will have. I have some suggestions below that can help. Many of which you can try today.
Most people know by now that staring at devices before bedtime is not a great idea, although many of us still do it. The kids are finally in bed and we have some time to ourselves, so naturally, we pull out the devices. We are usually checking email, working on something on the computer, or are on social media.
These screens all have blue light, which has a dramatic effect on our sleep. In fact, they interfere with our circadian rhythms (body’s internal clock) and diminish the production of melatonin two times longer than any other type of light wavelengths. Melatonin is a hormone that helps our body know when it’s time to go to sleep and wake up.
Melatonin is at its lowest levels during the day. As we approach our bedtime, it starts to increase to prepare us for sleep and then hits the highest level in the middle of the night. If this release of melatonin is reduced, our circadian rhythm is altered and sets our body’s natural clock on a delay and makes us think it’s not time for bed yet.
- Can take longer to fall asleep
- More alert during the night and not going into the deep restorative sleep
- Much groggier in the morning and not able to wake up as easily
If you are waking up several times through the night or not able to sleep as long as you should, most likely, this is a result of blue light exposure. If you think this isn’t a big deal, think again! When our body isn’t getting good sleep, there are a number of adverse effects it can have on the body:
- lower body temperature which keeps you from going into a deeper slee
- mood changes
- brain fog
- suppression of the immune system
- issues with the metabolic and cardiovascular systems
In other words, not only are you going to have a miserable day, but you are also setting yourself up for health problems down the road. So what can we do to block blue light? There are a few steps you can take.
Reduce Screen Time
The first obvious solution, if at all possible, is to stop using devices with blue light at least two hours before bedtime. I know this can be extremely difficult when there is work to be done and deadlines to meet. Cutting out blue light from 9-11 p.m. can make a big difference in the quality of sleep you get.
Blue Light Blockers
There are a few ways to help block out blue light exposure if you have to be on a device before bedtime. The first is to control the light coming from your computer. There is a great software program called f.lux that controls the light on your screen to match the time of day. It’s free and easy to install. There are a few simple settings and then you can forget about it. There are links on the homepage for Android and iPhone users as well, but it appears as if iPhone users would have to jailbreak their phone and that’s probably not something most are interested in doing.
If you have an iPhone, there is a built-in iOS feature called Night Shift that is supposed to change your screen according to the time of day automatically. I have read this may not be as effective as they say it is, but may be worth a try to see what it does for you.
There are glasses on the market you can wear that block out blue light as well. Yes, your family may laugh at you or look at you strangely, but if it helps, it may be worth it. I have listed two different pairs below from Amazon that are rated pretty well.*
Our body goes through cycles while we sleep at night. Each cycle lasts about 90 minutes. The further along you are in one of those cycles, the harder it is to wake up. This is why it’s hard to shake that groggy feeling when your alarm go off in the middle of one.
There is a really neat site I found called sleepyti.me where you can enter the time you are going to bed, and it will tell you the best time to wake up so you aren’t in the middle of a cycle. Or you can enter in the time you need to wake up, and it will give you suggested times to go to sleep to end up at the end of a sleep cycle. In order for this to be effective, you need to make sure you are in bed and trying to sleep within at least 10 minutes of that time.
Limit Caffeine Before Bedtime
Who doesn’t like a good cup of coffee or tea? When we are sleep deprived, it’s really needed during those dreaded afternoon hours when we are dragging. What’s helping you stay awake during the day, may be part of the reason you aren’t sleeping well at night. No, I am NOT telling you to get rid of your caffeine. Who in the world would do that?!? However, you may want to think twice about when you drink it and how many cups you have.
We are back to the melatonin thing again. Caffeine also suppresses melatonin even more than bright light does, which goes back to directly affecting your sleep cycle. Caffeine is a drug, and that’s one thing to keep in mind. It can be addictive and it stays in your body for several hours. Research says it takes six to eight hours before the side effects decrease by half. Also, the more you drink, the more you will need to have that alert feeling you are looking for.
Every person is different and their tolerance for caffeine may vary. You may need to experiment a little to see what is the best time for you to have your last cup in the afternoon and how many to stop at. To have enough time for it to wear off before bedtime so you can sleep, you generally need to stop at least six hours in advance.
Don’t forget that caffeine can come in other forms such as soda, chocolate, and energy drinks. You’ll be glad to know that the recommended amount of caffeine in a day for a healthy adult is 400mg, which the equivalent of four cups of coffee, six cans of soda, or two energy drinks. That seems pretty generous to me, and if you are drinking that much and staying awake, you may want to cut out one or two.
Don’t Hit the Snooze Button
Sometimes that snooze button is our best friend. We hit it over and over again trying to get a few more minutes of sleep. I’ve been known to set my alarm 15-20 minutes earlier than I need to get up so that I can hit the snooze button a few times and feel like I slept a little longer. That was until I learned that it was making it even more difficult for me to get out of bed and affecting me for the rest of the day.
I have mentioned sleep cycles several times already, but I am going to mention them again. Are you starting to get the idea of how important they are yet? Because our body sleeps in 90-minute cycles, when your alarm go off, your body wakes up and ends the sequence you were in. When we hit the snooze button and fall back asleep, we are starting another sleep cycle but we don’t complete it and therefore never make it into REM sleep. It confuses our body and brain and causes something called sleep inertia. That is the cause of the groggy feeling we have that can last all day long.
Hitting the snooze button can become an addicting habit that is hard to stop. Using the site sleepyti.me I mentioned earlier can help you wake up at the end of a sleep cycle when it is much easier to get up as opposed to the middle of a cycle when you are in a deeper sleep. Over time, this can alleviate the need for the snooze button.
Use the 5 Second Rule
If you have not heard of the book The 5 Second Rule* by Mel Robbins, it’s a great read. (Caution: there are a few curse words in there, but if you can skip over them, the concept of the book is fantastic and can be life changing!) The whole concept behind the book is counting backward 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 and then doing whatever it is you don’t want to do.
It takes your brain about five seconds to start coming up with excuses as to why you don’t want to do something. By counting backward, we have been programmed to have a natural response to do something when we reach to the number one. If you act immediately (and that’s the key), you are not giving yourself time to think.
In Mel’s book, the very first thing she recommends trying the rule on is getting out of bed. When the alarm go off the FIRST time, you count backward 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 and then get yourself out of bed. She also suggests putting your phone or alarm clock out of reach or even in another nearby room or bathroom so you have to get out of the bed to turn it off. This will stop you from hitting the snooze button. You may think this sounds crazy, but it actually works! I have used it myself. It’s so simple, yet so effective!
Go to Bed and Wake up at the Same Time
While it may seem strange, going to be and getting up at the same time each day has a significant impact on how well you sleep at night. This even includes the weekend. Your body’s rhythm will start to recognize when you should get up and when you should go to sleep and adjust to it.
Once your body has recognized this pattern, your sleep will be much better. You will also have less desire for that cup of coffee during the day, as well as many other benefits that include a stronger immune system, less irritability, a happier mood, and being more alert.
If you decide to sleep in a few hours later on a Saturday morning instead of getting up at your usual time, it will make it more difficult to fall asleep later that evening. It’s the equivalent of going to bed two hours earlier, and even if you can get to sleep, you could end up waking in the middle of the night. This can cause something called Sunday Night insomnia.
Pick a time that works well for you and stick with it. Just because we’ve all heard “the early bird gets the worm” doesn’t mean you have to get up at the crack of dawn. You might be someone that does better staying up late and sleeping in a little in the morning. That’s okay as long as you are consistent.
I don’t know about you, but there is nothing more irritating than being woken in the middle of the night from sleep you are getting for once to have to go to the bathroom! Luckily there are some simple steps you can take to fix this.
The most obvious solution is to stop drinking at least 2 hours before bedtime. However, when you aren’t following the tips I’ve already mentioned, your body isn’t going into a deep sleep. When we go into a deep sleep, our body makes a hormone called antidiuretic hormone (ADH). This ADH helps us to hold more fluid. By not going into a deep sleep, we’re not making this hormone, which is causing our kidneys to give off more water. The result is needing to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night.
As we age, usually over 60, the body does make less of this hormone, and our bladders can’t hold the same amount as they used to. Unfortunately, that means we will most likely have to get up at least once during the night. But there is no reason that needs to start right now!
It’s a great feeling when you wake up in the morning refreshed and ready to face the day. Your bedroom plays a part in helping with that. It’s more than just the place you sleep. It needs to have a relaxing environment that helps you unwind before bed. So how do we do that?
Sleep in a dark room
Use darkening shades to block out any sunlight from entering and keeping the room as dark as possible.
Block out devices or clocks with bright lights
These little lights can feel like a spotlight shining in a dark room and keep you from a deep sleep. Turn them around so they aren’t facing your or put something over them at night. In addition, sometimes getting up in the middle of the night is unavoidable. If you do have to get up, try to function with as little lighting as you can.
Choose gentle lighting
Bright overhead lights glaring before bed are going to trigger your body into thinking it’s time to get up instead of going to bed. You could install a dimmer switch on them to lower the lighting at night or use a lower wattage bulb with a softer light. Even better would be a using a lamp with a shade to help diffuse the light.
Keep room temperature comfortable
Being in a room that is too hot or too cold can make sleeping difficult. Make sure you adjust your thermostat before bed to a temperature that is good for sleeping. 65 degrees Fahrenheit is suggested as the ideal temperature. We run a ceiling fan in our bedroom year round because we like to have some air blowing on us while we sleep. If I get hot, I can take the covers off and the fan cools me. If I get cold, I can just put the covers back on.
Some people need to have some noise going while they sleep. It helps to block out any sounds that could wake them up at night. This can be anything from a sound machine to a box fan running.
Having too many blankets on the bed can make it hard to move around at night. A pillow or mattress that is uncomfortable can be miserable as well. Buying a new mattress may be out of the question, but a cheaper solution could be a mattress topper that gives it a makeover.
Get Enough Sleep
Just going to bed consistently and in a relaxing room isn’t going to be the answer if you aren’t getting enough sleep. The quality of sleep can have an impact on your mood, how productive you are, physical well being, immune system, weight, and even creativity.
Without enough sleep, your body doesn’t have time to go into restorative sleep, which is when it repairs itself. This means it isn’t able to prepare for what is required of it the next day. You are setting yourself up for misery. There is no way the body can handle a full day’s work when it hasn’t had the time to recover from the day before.
Here is a video with a few more suggestions for helping with your sleep schedule.
It’s amazing how many little factors can affect your sleep and how that affects your body. It is one of the most important things you can do to take care of yourself. By making some minor adjustments, you can drastically increase your ability to get a better night’s sleep, which in turn is going to make considerable improvements in how you function during the day.
Your issues with sleeping probably didn’t happen overnight and therefore, can take a while to work through. Give yourself some time to break those old habits and your body to adjust to these new patterns, and soon you will reap the benefits because you know how to get a good night’s sleep naturally.