Today is World Sleep Day. It's a day to celebrate sleep and bring global awareness to help others get a better night's sleep. As a licensed mental health therapist, I know how vital a good night's sleep is to function properly. Getting enough sleep and quality sleep seemed to come easy before I was a parent, but how can parents sleep when there are so many obstacles in the way? How can a parent sleep when their kids don't sleep well through the night?
So let me ask you, as a parent, how do you self care and create overall wellness for yourself? And how much quality sleep do you get each night? Did you know that 40% of American adults don’t get the 7-9 hours of recommend sleep each night? As a parent, sleep is hard to come by, but it is imperative. As you know, I am a big advocate for better sleep habits, mental and emotional health, and overall wellness.
So I created my Top 10 Sleep Habits for Overall Wellness hoping it will help you get enough sleep and also quality sleep! For sleep training tips for your infants and toddlers, please visit this link!
Sleep on a Quality Mattress
A bad mattress can cause back-aches, headaches, and moodiness if you are constantly waking up from being uncomfortable. Without a good night's sleep our physical, mental, and emotional health suffers and we, as parents, become less patient with our children and more exhausted, overwhelmed, and irritable with everyday tasks. If we are well rested, we feel like we can take on the world!
Avoid Working in Bed
Avoid working in bed. Ever! Your bed is for sleep and your brain will get mixed messages if it’s used to stimulate your brain activity rather than soothe and slow it down for rest. Plus, it's helpful if you have "working hours" so you aren't constantly checking email after a certain time at night or even first thing in the morning when you wake up. We live in such a prominent technology driven world, we need to make an extra effort to stop scrolling, texting, and working where we aren't on call 24/7.
Avoid Screen Time Before Bed
Avoided screen time for at least 30 minutes before you lay your head on your pillow. I am guilty of this, but it’s so important to give your brain and your eyes time to adjust so you can fall asleep. Set an alarm on your phone or set your notifications off to come on automatically at a certain time. Better yet, unless you need it for an emergency, leave your phone downstairs so you aren't tempted to roll over and look at it if you are having trouble falling sleep.
Keep it Dark
Keep your bedroom dark and cool. Our bodies produce natural melatonin when it’s dark. This signals our bodies to sleep but if there is too much light it doesn’t work properly and we will not sleep deeply. And it’s better to have the bedroom at cooler temperatures for a better night sleep! This will help avoid nightmares, tossing and turning, and night sweats!
Stick to a Routine
Have a routine! Try to go to bed at the same time each night to get your body into a regular habit of when it will naturally fall asleep! It’s funny, I recommend the same thing to parents who are sleep training their babies!!
Whether you are anxious or stressed or just tend to think all night long with everything swirling around in your brain, write down your worries on a piece of paper before bed and mentally leave it for the morning. Externalizing the problem will help you not internalize and agonize over it while you try to sleep. Brain dump everything on paper and release all the negative tension in your body and cognitive thoughts in your brain.
Stay hydrated and drink plenty of water throughout the day and then before you actually go to bed, have a glass of room temperature water and take a few deep breaths and prolonged stretches to relax your mind and body!
You hear a lot of mental health professionals advocating for meditation practices to calm our brains and our bodies first thing in the. morning. and although I agree and believe this is beneficial, I also suggest you try meditating before bed. This will help calm the levels of our stress hormone, cortisol, and rid the stress of the day.
Avoid Alcohol and Caffeine
Yep, I said it. Alcohol and caffeine can have very adverse side effects on our brain and our body if we are trying to get a good night's sleep. Alcohol can tend to make us anxious and stimulate our brain where even if we get sleepy after a glass of wine before bed, we are more likely to have strartled sleep and wake up in the middle of the night wide awake. And caffeine is obviously a energy booster and stimulant that will keep us wired hours after our last sip, so if you enjoy coffee or an energy drink, partake in them at least 5 hours before you go to bed.
Supplements and Sleep Aides
Many people will turn to prescription and or over the counter sleeping aides to help them sleep, but before you do, I highly recommend talking to your medical doctor before you do. Even if you want to try melatonin before bed, which can help, I encourage talking to your medical doctor first, since these types of sleeping aides aren't for everyone and can have adverse side effects. But it might be worth a conversation with your doctor to see if it's the right fit for you.