Mom can’t fall asleep? You may be overtired. Take care of yourself and ensure a good night with these tips.
By Chaya Shifra Sadoff
It’s the end of a long day (what day isn’t long?) and you finally fall into bed.
You close your eyes, and wait for sleep to draw you into its warm embrace.
Hello? Anyone out there?
You peek your eyes open and glance at the clock. It’s been 20 minutes.
You roll over, and try to make yourself comfortable.
Why can’t I fall asleep? You wonder.
Becoming frustrated that you can’t fall asleep is going to only be counterproductive (it’ll keep you awake!), but there ARE things you can do to help you fall asleep more easily.
- Have a Bedtime Routine
A real one. Just putting on your PJs doesn’t count.
The key to a good bedtime routine is: about 20-30 minutes of the same activities in the same order every single night.
Take a shower or bath, brush your teeth, change into PJs, journal, read a book, write/think about 5 good things that happened that day, say krias shma – it doesn’t really matter what you do. The more important thing is that you choose your routine and stick to it!
One thing you should be sure not to include in your routine is screens of any kind – even if you have a blue light protector. Both the blue light that screens emit and the inherent stimulation of screens send a message to your brain to WAKE UP, which will, of course make it harder for you to fall asleep.
The goal of your bedtime routine is to give your mind time to wind down and cue your systems that you’re about to go to sleep.
Even if you feel like you don’t have time for a bedtime routine, you will get more ROI from doing a quick 15 minute routine every night before you go to bed rather than just dropping into bed and spending those extra 15 minutes (or more!) trying to fall asleep.
2. Create a Sleep Sanctuary
The place that you go to sleep, and what that environment looks like is important, too. When you enter your sleeping place, your brain should know that you’re about to go to sleep there. Ideally, you should be going to sleep in the same place every night, and it should be a place that is reserved for sleep.
What your room looks, sounds and feels like is also very important. A sleep sanctuary is a place that is clean, dark, quiet, and cool. Here are some ideas of how turn your room into a sleep sanctuary:
- Remove clutter from surfaces
- Make your bed
- Close the closet door and any drawers
- Keep the room dark (a 9-10 on a brightness scale of 10)
- If you do need to have any lights (like an alarm clock) they should be red or orange (not blue)
- Keep it quiet
- Ideally the room should be on the cooler side (about 67 degrees) for optimal sleep
I know that the visual pieces may feel silly—after all, your eyes are closed when you sleep, right? But having the right setup beforehand can make a big impact on how you feel when you get into bed.
Try it one night—make sure the room is clean and beds are made before you get into bed, and see if you feel any different.
3. Know Your Sleep Buddies, and Get Rid of Props
We all have things that we need to take with us on our journey to sleep.
Some of them are props—if you’re using melatonin or a sleeping pill, that’s probably a problematic carry-on that you take with you. If it hasn’t been prescribed by a doctor, it’s best to drop it and instead rely on good sleep hygiene to help you fall asleep and stay asleep easily.
But then there are also Sleep Buddies—those are the good things that you need to take with you. Things like a dark room, a noise machine, a specific pillow.
Why should you know what your sleep buddies are? Well, if you know that having your sleep buddy (like a dark room) will help you fall asleep easier, and you don’t have it there all the time, then get it there all the time. If you know that a specific type of pillow helps you sleep better, but you don’t have one, get it! Even if that means investing a bit of money to make that happen, it’ll pay off very quickly!
The best way to enable your body to fall asleep quickly and easily every night is to let it know what to expect by creating a consistent sleep environment.
As I mentioned above, having a consistent bedtime routine is one piece; another piece is going to sleep in the same room as much as possible.
It’s also best to go to sleep and wake up at the same times every day. If one night you’re going to sleep at midnight, and the next you go to sleep at 9 to compensate, that’s going to send a very confusing message to your body.
5. Make sure you’re not overtired
Yes, there is a difference between tired and overtired. Tired means that your body is ready to fall asleep easily. Overtired means that your body has reached “tired” and then passed it. To compensate, your brain’s going to start cranking out some “revving up” hormones like cortisol.
But here’s the thing about hormones: they don’t just magically disappear once you decide to go to sleep. They hang around in your bloodstream and keep doing their thing.
So then when you try to go to sleep, you’ve still got those revving up hormones running through your system, working really hard to rev you up… and working against your falling-asleep efforts. Whoops.
So how long can you go without becoming overtired? Depends.
It depends on a bunch of things, like:
How sleep deprived are you?
Are you pregnant?
Waking up during the night to feed a baby?
Waking up during the night for something else?
Most adults need about 8 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period; so that means that for every 2 minutes we’re awake, we owe our bodies 1 minute of sleep.
If you’re sleep deprived, you’ll probably need more than 8 hours so your body can start to catch up.
If you’re expecting, you probably cannot go a full 16 hours without needing a nap.
The best way to figure out when you need to go to bed is to pay attention to your body. You know what you feel like when you’re tired—so when that feeling hits, that’s the ideal time for you to go to bed. Letting yourself stay up past then will likely make you overtired.
But what if you can’t just go to sleep when you want to? Or you go to sleep, but then one (or more) of your children wakes you before you can get the restful sleep you need, and you end up feeling tired (or overtired) the whole day long?
If that sounds like you, here’s what I want you to do:
First, scroll up, look at the five habits I’ve listed above—those 5 tips are the foundation for your child(ren)’s sleep too.
Wondering how to apply them? I’ve got just the thing for you – a comprehensive, customizable, easy-to-follow (and totally free!) guide on the Five Essential Habits Your Child Needs to Sleep Well.
About Chaya Shifra:
Chaya Shifra Sadoff is mom of twins and a miracle worker (under the guise of a Certified Sleep Sense Consultant and Lactation Counselor). She works with mothers across the world to build the motherhood they dreamed of by transforming their children (newborns, infants and toddlers) into superstar sleepers. She would also would love feedback from YOU! Shoot her an email firstname.lastname@example.org, call 847-868-9465, find her on instagram @kinderwink or check out www.kinderwink.com for more great tricks, tips, and info. Download her free guide Five Essential Habits for a Good Night’s Sleep HERE.