Look, I know you want to sleep well. You want to wake up feeling rested, relaxed and ready to start your day.
Maybe you work full time outside the home and need to wake early to prep things.
Maybe you work part-time, but still know that you need to be sleeping normally to get those creative juices flowing (or at least not fall asleep at your desk).
Or maybe you’re a SAHM and have a list from here till tomorrow of things to do… that you just can’t seem to actually crank out because you’re so tired.
Whether you’re expecting, have a newborn, or your youngest really should be sleeping through the night by now, if you’re a mother, it can be hard to really figure out HOW to just. get. Sleep.
The great thing is — those Five Habits You Didn’t Know Your Baby Needs to Sleep Well? Guess what – those habits are for you, too!
So let’s dive in to some details: how to get those working for you – not just your baby.
First: a story. It’s true. A couple was once hosting a dinner party for a few of their close friends. In the middle of the party, some red wine spilled on the host’s shirt; not wanting to look like a shlemazel, he went up to his room to change into a new shirt.
He got upstairs, took off his shirt… then put on his pajamas, brushed his teeth, got himself into bed, got comfy… and went to sleep. Till his wife came looking for him, wondering why it took him so long to change his shirt.
(I should be quoting a source, but I’m not 100% sure which of the many many books on sleep that I’ve read I saw this in.)
The point is not to spill wine on yourself when you host a dinner party so you have the excuse to go to bed (am I the only introvert here that would do that?); the point is: routines are powerful.
So use them.
Yes, for yourself. (Use them for your baby, too – but that’s for another time).
What does a good bedtime routine look like? It’s pretty simple: screen free, 20-30 minutes, the same steps in the same order every single night.
So maybe you’ll chat with your husband, put on PJs, get into bed, read a bit and go to sleep.
Or maybe you’ll take a shower, put on PJs, brush teeth, chat with a friend, get into bed.
Or maybe you’ll take a bath, brush teeth, put on PJs, go to bed, read a book, do some deep breathing.
It doesn’t really matter what you do (so long as your phone, tablet, computer or TV are not part of the routine), what matters is the length of time (20-30 minutes) and the sameness: every night do the same thing. (Of course, some nights you won’t be able to bathe or shower, so if that’s part of your routine, you can replace that on Shabbos or Yomim Tovim with some deep breathing, self-guided relaxation, or maybe some light reading.)
And yes, you’re going to have to carve out some time in your night for this routine to happen — trust me, it’s worth it. Even if you only take 20 minutes, you’ll fall asleep so much easier and sleep so much better by having a routine before bed.
Tired but not overtired
Overtiredness is a big bad bully. In theory, it’s a great idea (a second wind! I can get more done!) but in reality — it’ll make your sleep lighter, less restful, and will also make you more likely to have difficulty falling asleep, wake up in the middle of the night, or even wake in the early hours of the morning and not be able to fall back asleep. (Ouch!)
So you want to hit that sweet spot: tired, but not overtired.
So listen to your body’s cues: when do you start to feel that fuzzy, tired feeling? Is it the same time every night? Do you have a dip and then go back up? What’s going on?
If you’re getting a dip earlier in the evening, around 6-8, that means you’ve got a bit of sleep deprivation going on there. What can you do to get a nap in so that you’re able to be awake and chipper during that time in the evening?
If something’s keeping you up at night – say a child, the phone or other obligations: what can you do to make your sleep a priority? What can you say no to? What can you change? How can you keep yourself accountable to making that happen.
(And if it’s a kid keeping you up — let’s talk! I can definitely help you with that… 😉 )
Did you know that your body will know it’s light even if you wear a blindfold? Yes, really.
And did you know that you’ll sleep best in a room that’s on the cooler side? Yep – around 67° is your best bet.
And both of those are important for your sleep.
A sleep sanctuary – or an ideal sleep environment – will enable you to not only fall asleep easily, but sleep well, sleep through the night and wake up well-rested.
An idea sleep sanctuary is:
- Uncluttered. Close all drawers and closets, clear horizontal surfaces, sweep up any mess on the floor. It’s best to have nothing on the walls, but if you do have something there, try to keep it as minimalistic and not-busy as possible. The image you get when you enter the room makes a difference in how well you sleep.
- Cool & Cozy. Like I said above, 67 is your goal temp for the room overall, but you’ll want to keep yourself cozy under blankets.
- Very, very dark. Cover up those windows so the streetlights don’t flood your room, turn out the light in the closet and the hallway, and cover any lights on electronic devices – baby monitor, AC, power strip, etc. – especially if they’re blue. You may want to consider covering up your alarm clock, or turning it face-down, again, especially if the numbers are blue.
- Screen free. Keep your phone out of the room, and don’t bring in a tablet, laptop or any other device. Simply having your phone nearby can mess with your sleep – so it’s best to keep it charging in the kitchen.
Drop the props, know your Sleep Buddies
When we’re making the journey into sleep, we all have things that we use to help us fall asleep. Some of those are problematic — those are props. They attempt to replace proper sleep hygiene and interfere with our natural ability to sleep well.
Some of those, though, are simply needs based on how Hashem’s created the world – so, for example, having a sleep sanctuary – or what you sleep best with because of what you’re used to. Some people sleep best with a feather pillow; others like the polyfill. Some can sleep with any weight blanket, and will choose their blanket based on the temperature of the room to keep them comfortable; others would prefer to crank up the AC and turn on a fan in the summer so they can sleep with a heavy down blanket year-round. Some like socks on, some like windows open.
And those aren’t props; those are sleep buddies.
Why should you know what your sleep buddies are? So that you can sleep as well as possible – whether you’re at home or away from home (yes, you’re allowed to take your pillow with you to your mother-in-law’s!).
Props for adults will usually take the form of sleeping pills (unless there’s someone rocking you to sleep in which case — I want to hear about that because that’s downright FUNNY!). Unless you’re on another medication that makes it hard for you to fall asleep, you should be able to fall asleep on your own without taking any sort of sleep-inducing substance.
By relying on sleeping pills, you’re using those as a crutch to help you fall asleep instead of building healthy sleep hygiene (just like a baby that uses rocking to fall asleep!), and can become a slippery slope of insomnia, middle of night wakings, etc.
Use the tips here, plus some relaxation, deep breathing or guided meditation to help you prep your brain and body for bed.
And, as always – consistency is key. Like I tell my clients: 100% consistency 100% of the time is your best bet to making things go as smoothly as possible.
When you press the right buttons, your body can run like a well-oiled machine; when things are off kilter, though… things don’t work as you’d like them to.
So here’s what I want you to do: have a bedtime.
Choose a time that it makes sense for you to get into bed at every night. It’s okay if you don’t go to sleep at *exactly* that time – a half hour swing in either direction is ok – but you’ve got to have something to aim for. So for an example: if your bedtime is at 10:30, aim for 10:30, and some nights, it’s ok to go to bed at 10, and some nights at 11.
What you don’t want to do, though, is go to bed at 1 am one night, then at 9 the next night to compensate, then at 11 the next night, at 10 the next… you get what I’m saying.
Having a regular bedtime will enable your body to preempt you actually getting into bed by creating all the lovely sleepy hormones that you’ll need to sleep well. (And, it’ll also help ensure that you get a full 8 hours of sleep — because if you don’t need 8 hours, you probably need 9 or 10!)
Wondering how you’ll have time and energy to implement this all? Let’s talk about that… next week.