How to Get Better Sleep
Sleep deprivation is a form of torture and yet at times in our life, we are likely to have to deal with it. New parents, especially mothers, are especially susceptible to it.
During pregnancy, our bodies change so much and sleep becomes difficult. Later, healing from birth, feeding, babies waking and trying to manage all the changes and emotions.
As kids grow, some settle and sleep well, others need more help and some seem to struggle with sleep which means mum will not get to sleep much either.
Aside from parenting, mental health issues, troubles at work, stress in general and a number of other things can cause sleep issues leading to sleep deprivation.
I know when I am sleep deprived, I am a mess. No one should be near me!
So how can you deal with sleep deprivation and how can you get more sleep in general, especially as a mum or when dealing with mental health?
Disclosure: I am not a health professional. Always seek advice from your health professional for all health related matters. This article is based on my personal experience as a mother of 4 who has had PPD, PTSD and has ADHD, and what I have learned through my own research.
Also, this post may contain affiliate links to products and services I personally use and find useful. Read that full disclosure here.
How to Deal with Sleep Deprivation
Firstly, let’s tackle sleep deprivation since that is the state I was in for the past few years with 2 babies born close together (2021 and 2022). Learning how to handle it and get more sleep is crucial for your mental and physical health.
Here are some tips that helped me. Remember to discuss any matters such as this with a health professional too.
1. Take Naps
Before you laugh or say you can’t because you need to clean or whatever when the baby is napping, consider this: Sleep is essential for survival.
If you are suffering from severe lack of sleep it is dangerous to drive, you won’t be thinking clearly and all other aspects of life become much harder.
If you can’t nap because your baby doesn’t seem to sleep for long at all, that’s a different matter. For babies, toddlers or kids that aren’t sleeping, seek help from a professional, go to your local mums group for advice or get someone in to help watch the kids so you can nap.
Even a 20-30 minute nap can help you feel more rested, so if you can, try to sleep when you can. Find out more about naps and their benefits, how to do them etc.
Ideally, you would get a better sleep schedule but if you are sleep deprived from a newborn baby or something outside your control like that, take a nap as needed.
2. Ask For Help
Don’t be afraid to ask for help from your partner, family, or friends. They can help with tasks such as taking care of the baby, cooking meals, or doing household chores.
I struggled to ask for help most of my life but with these last two babies, it was impossible to do it all on my own. Fortunately, I had some help and after we moved, I was able to get my two youngest kids into childcare which helped immensely.
Along with asking for help, we made some changes such as getting meal kits delivered so I didn’t have to plan it all and my kids could cook easily. You can get a free box of HelloFresh and a free box of EveryPlate if you want to try them.
Getting my teens to ride their bikes to places they needed to go and learn to use the bus system helped significantly too. Since they had jobs and sports, they could also pop into the shops after their shift and get milk if needed (we have an account we all have access to so they aren’t spending their money).
Little things like that made a big difference and gave them a sense of independence while boosting their confidence and easing the pressure on me.
3. Prioritize Sleep
Make sure you prioritize sleep as much as possible, which can be difficult when the kids don’t want to sleep.
However, if you have a good routine and the kids do go down, try to go to bed early too and avoid staying up late watching TV or scrolling through social media.
If you have a partner, alternate who takes care of the kids overnight if you can. Look at ways you can get more sleep because we all function better when rested.
Right now, my toddlers go to sleep anywhere between 7pm and 9pm. I usually lay down with them (I have a queen bed in the room with their beds so I’m not squishing in bed with them).
Sometimes they fall asleep quickly, other times they don’t or they wake as I try to leave. This means sometimes I am sleeping earlier than planned and now I prefer it. Going to sleep earlier because they have means I have a longer and better night’s sleep.
4. Practice Self-Care
Take time for yourself to do activities that help you relax and recharge. Too often I hear about mums not even getting a shower that day or they can’t remember the last time they went to the bathroom alone.
Getting to shower or use the toilet alone is not self-care. Those are things you deserve to do without it being labelled as self-care or special.
Cover the basics such as personal hygiene and some time alone but also look at what fills your soul. Think about the things you enjoy doing, the things that make you feel happy, confident and yourself.
I shared 6 tips for self-care that covers how to do it as well as some ideas. Travel, exercise, sports, beauty, visiting the salon etc are all things I enjoy as forms of self-care.
5. Be Kind to Yourself
Remember that sleep deprivation is a normal part of being a new parent. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you feel tired or overwhelmed.
It’s important to take things one day at a time and focus on taking care of yourself and your baby.
With my last two babies, I struggled to accept this stage in life and be kind on myself. I pushed myself too hard and was a wreck.
Once I stepped back and accepted this stage of life is not the stage of life where I am travelling a lot, scaling my business or winning awards, but rather it is a stage about healing, taking care of my kids and simply being, I did much better.
My mental health improved, my physical health improved and my kids all settled more, slept better and the energy in our home became happy again.
8 Tips to Make Sleep Better
Sleep deprivation is one thing but when we collapse from exhaustion, the sleep often doesn’t feel great. Quality sleep makes a significant difference in how we cope and how we recover from sleep deprivation.
The following tips helped me improve my quality of sleep.
1. Set a Regular Bedtime Routine
We know the importance of a bedtime routine for kids and how much easier nights can go when we follow it. But what about adults?
Establishing a consistent bedtime routine can help signal to your body that it’s time to wind down and prepare for sleep. I’ve shared my evening routine before and I know when I do a wind down routine, I fall asleep easier.
Create a bedtime routine that works for you. We are all different so play around with recommendations to find your ideal evening routine.
Many people find switching off screens an hour or two before bed, meditation or evening yoga (even some simple stretches for bedtime or sleep can be good), a bath or shower, brushing their teeth and so on are great for getting ready to sleep.
2. Create a Relaxing Sleep Environment
Make sure your bedroom is cool, dark, and quiet to promote restful sleep. Get block out blinds or curtains if you can and if you can’t try an eye masks.
The past few homes I lived in did not have block out options and it severely impacted my sleep. Hence why you’ll see me recommending eyemasks as they do help when you can’t make changes to the home yourself.
A comfortable bed, quality linen, nice pj’s, the room scented how you prefer e.g use some aromatherapy oils, some plants and keeping it clean make sleep easier.
As mentioned, I have a queen bed in my toddlers’ room to help with sleep. Instead of squishing into their beds (they each have their own bed in the room too), I get a proper sleep in a bed if I need to sleep in there with them.
I realise not everyone has the space to do this but if you do or can make some sort of arrangement to do similar, it can make a world of difference to your sleep.
3. Limit Caffeine and Alcohol
Avoid consuming caffeine and alcohol in the evening, as they can disrupt sleep. Drinkwise has details about how alcohol can impact sleep even though some people use it to fall asleep, you won’t get quality sleep.
Alcohol in general is a poison and has numerous negative effects on the body. If you’re struggling with sleep, stress, anxiety, depression or any other issue, I highly recommend cutting out alcohol and seeing how you feel.*
*If you are an alcoholic, do this with the help of your doctor!
More and more people are finding out the benefits of an alcohol-free lifestyle. I was raised without alcohol, then did drink it on and off as an adult. Now, I am sober and much prefer it.
My capacity to cope with life, get up easily in the morning and function, in general, is much higher without alcohol. Sleep is deeper and significantly better. I cannot think of a reason I’d want to drink ever again.
And this is coming from someone who has travelled and written about wine, whisky and gin on those travels. It isn’t worth it to me anymore.
As for caffeine, for most people, it will keep you up. Research shows this is not the case for neurodivergent people (like me). However, I found my sleep is better if I avoid caffeine a few hours before bed.
Find out more about caffeine and sleep or for those who are neurodivergent, I found various conflicting research so I would suggest you do your own and also try things out to find what works best for you.
4. Avoid Electronics Before Bed
The blue light from electronic devices can interfere with your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle, so it’s best to avoid them for at least an hour before bedtime. In general, scrolling on social media, watching movies or doing work are not great ways to wind down and get yourself to relax for bed.
For me, keeping my electronics in another room helped with this. I am not tempted to scroll or watch anything and because my phone is charging elsewhere, I have to get up in the morning to get it instead of being able to lay in bed. For someone who used to struggle to get up (for many reasons), this little trick helps a lot.
My preference is no screens 2 hours before bed. Experiment for yourself and see how much easier it is to relax and get to sleep with no screens for at least an hour before bed.
5. Take a Warm Bath or Shower
A warm bath or shower can help relax your muscles and promote relaxation before bed. In our house, most of us do a cold shower in the morning and a warm one at night.
A study from the University of Texas outlines the benefits of a warm bath or shower 1 to 2 hours before bed. Combine it with switching screens off, reading and trying some relaxation techniques and you should easily be drifting off to sleep.
Unless your kids decide they don’t want to sleep, that is. Then it’s harder but if you get them to have a bath before bed too, it helps them fall asleep easier as well.
For my toddlers, they have dinner, have a bath, get into their pj’s and we read some stories, have some meditation music and they often drift off easily. My teens have their own evening routines, both have a shower, do skincare and some stretches, along with reading then they sleep easily.
6. Exercise Regularly
Exercise can help improve sleep quality, but avoid vigorous workouts close to bedtime. Get active during the day, especially if you have a job that is mainly sitting down.
Working out first thing in the morning is ideal for me and definitely helps me fall asleep easier in the evening. Walking everywhere possible and increasing the amount of incidental exercise throughout my day also helps.
For example, I’ll do 10 squats, pushups, a bear hold or something before I shower, whenever I am heating something in the microwave or waiting for anything. These things all add up and the more active I am throughout the day, the better I sleep.
Close to bed, I do yoga or some other bedtime-style exercise to help relax but never an energetic workout.
7. Try Relaxation Techniques
Techniques like deep breathing, meditation, or yoga can help calm your mind and body before bed. My preference is to do both yoga and meditation.
Yoga when I am first starting to wind down, sometimes with my kids sometimes on my own. Mediation I do when I am trying to get my kids to sleep. With the meditation music playing, we all relax and they usually fall asleep easily.
8. Keep a Sleep Diary
Tracking your sleep patterns and habits can help you identify areas for improvement. This includes tracking alcohol, caffeine, exercise, what you do before bed and how you feel the next morning etc.
Keeping a sleep diary made it easy for me to identify exactly what helped and what hindered my sleep. I also saw other patterns in terms of how I felt when I woke up and how I functioned the next day.
Changing habits without knowing what to change or knowing if they help is difficult. By analysing it all, you can see the areas that need improvement, what helps and what doesn’t.
Here is everything linked to or mentioned that you might find useful.
Information on napping
Get a free box of HelloFresh
A free box of EveryPlate
6 tips for self-care
7 things that improved my mental health
12 tips for happiness
My evening routine
Silk pillowcases (quality linen)
Caffeine and sleep
A study from the University of Texas