A good laugh and a long sleep may be great medical advice, but most moms don’t get enough sleep and we’ve known this for years. Yet still we remain chronically sleep deprived.
Yes, it comes with the turf: Motherhood means not getting enough sleep for about a decade or more. Even when our kids hit the teenage years, we listen for the sound of the door or the steps in the hallway (which is partly teenagers need a curfew).
Most of us need seven to nine hours of sleep a night, yet the average woman over age 30 is getting about six-and-a-half hours each night. Here are five smart tips to improve our slumber, soooo critical for health and well-being:
Resist the urge to sneak a last peek at your smartphone, tablet or laptop just before bedtime. The blue light emitted from devices makes our brains think it’s daytime. This is really important and really hard to do, said Patty Tucker, a sleep expert in Sonoma County, California. Even the professionals occasionally mess up on this one. As she confessed in a late-night email, “Hey! It’s nearly my bedtime and what am I doing right now?”
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Get your partner to help you understand that sleep is important. Get him to remind you it’s time for bed. And if he can adjust his schedule so you can go to bed together, that makes it even nicer, Tucker said. “Exchanging a relaxing shoulder or foot rub in the half-hour before bedtime is really smart instead of returning email or checking text messages,” she said. “And yes, a little hoochie coochie, or whatever you want to call it, is an excellent soporific.”
Exercise is critical and is often neglected on the sleep health checklist. “Include in your schedule at least some walking (or regular heart-pumping exercise) a few days a week, but schedule it in a realistic way,” Tucker said. “It should not be so early that you have to cut your sleep time to less than seven hours – nor should you be exercising so late at night that you’re trying to go to bed before your body has had a good chance to cool down.”
If you wake up during the night, don’t despair. “Try to change position, be certain you’re cool or warm enough, then concentrate on your breathing. Count your ‘in breath’ – one, two, three, four – and then your ‘out breath’ – one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight,” Tucker said. “Making the exhalation longer than the inhalation can help with relaxation.” The counting helps distract your brain from the other thoughts churning around.
If you can’t get back to sleep after about half an hour, take action. “Get up, go to a dark room, and sit quietly until you feel sleepy enough to go back to bed, and try again.” Here is what’s key, stressed Tucker: “Do not start watching the clock and going through calculations on how long you’ve been awake or asleep, how much longer before you have to get up and how terrible the next day is going to be. That only adds to your stress and makes it harder to get back to sleep.”