It’s one thing when we are waking up all night to feed baby. It’s a whole other thing when we are waking up just to *check*on baby and are exhausted from the worry. Here’s how moms can train themselves to sleep through the night.
There are two main circumstances moms find themselves in where they are waking more at night MORE than their baby… and don’t know quite what to do about it.
#1 – Baby’s finally sleeping through the night
Maybe you finally have that magical first morning where, at 7am, you realize your baby didn’t make a peep the entire night. After you check to make sure he’s still breathing and that your monitor wasn’t just off all night, you are hit with the most amazing realization.
HE DID IT.
He slept all the way through the night.
#2 – You wake up and compulsively check baby is okay because you’re anxious
This happened to me for quite a while. Baby would be sleeping and *I* would wake up over and over again.
Either way, if you want to want to begin having restorative sleep, I will get you there.
How to train *yourself* to sleep through the night
Whether you’re waking up all night to check on baby from anxiety or simply waking up because you’re used to night wakings… these tips will help.
If baby is snoozing away and has stopped night wakings, there’s no need for you to carry them on. Mama needs her rest too.
1) Optimize Your Sleep Environment
Just like with your own little lamb, your sleep environment should be optimized in every way. This is a great act of self care for you.
It should be:
- Always in the same place. Don’t move around to different places like the couch or guest room. Same room, same bed, even same position.
- Dark. Very dark. Get those black out curtains or wear an eye mask.
- Boring. Just like for baby, no screens or light up toys. Keep your phone out of bed with you- beds are for sleeping, not watching shows or checking email. Retrain your brain.
- Quiet. Or, if you can’t control external noises, use white noise. The latest research is finding that sleeping with white noise actually helps you sleep more deeply as it helps you tune out other noises and “relax” as you sleep.
- Comfortable. Deal with anything in your sleep environment that isn’t optimizing your comfort and contributing to making it hard to sleep. If you have an uncomfortable mattress, get a new one. If you can’t afford a new one, get a cheap pillow top or egg crate.
- Cool. Wear Ideal temperature should be 66-68 degrees. Wear light weight, comfortable pajamas.
Get my cheat sheets (newborn up to elementary aged kids) and find your family’s groove. Use them for nap times, meal times, bedtimes, chore times, play times AND more!
2) Create A Relaxing Routine
Your body and mind depend on routine to settle down just like your kids.
Set a routine of about 15-20 minutes, the same each night, of activities that include a mix of getting ready for bed combined with relaxing activities like prayer, reading a (calm, not over-stimulating horror filled tragedy laden) book, breathing exercises, and a hot shower with lavender soap or essential oils.
Turn off all overhead lights by 8pm and, I know this is a hard one but it needs to be said again- TURN OFF THE SCREENS.
Read a book, talk with your spouse, play a board game, anything but having that blue light right up in your nose. I promise you it definitely interferes with melatonin production and will certainly inhibit your ability to fall asleep and sleep soundly.
Turn them off- it’ll be worth it. For more reasons than just sleep.
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3) Set An Age-Appropriate Schedule
At your adult age, you really do still need 8 hours of sleep.
Don’t convince yourself that you actually do fine on 6.5 hours. If that’s all you’ve gotten, you almost certainly have a major sleep debt that you’ve grown accustomed to. This will still show up in your slowed reaction time, impaired memory, negative mood, and even your declining health.
- Wake up at the same time every day. Ideally around 7am, or with the sun. And, if you can, go directly outside into the sunlight at this time as it’ll help set your circadian rhythm and encourage your body to produce more melatonin at night.
- Go to bed early. At least 8.5 hours before that wake up time, to allow yourself some wind-down time and alleviate some of the pressure to “get to sleep”.
- Follow your sleep schedule every day. Even on the weekends. Sleeping in late on Saturdays is like giving your body jet-lag every weekend. It takes a few days to recover from and prevents your body from getting in a nice, smooth homeostatic and circadian rhythm.
- Don’t allow yourself to nap. I know, I’m cruel. But if you keep giving your body a chance to make up for missed sleep during the day, it won’t be as motivated to sleep during the night. As much as siestas are a great part of some cultures, if you’re having trouble sleeping at night and want to fix it, don’t allow yourself to make up for the lack of sleep during the day.
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4) Have an arsenal of meditative and breathing exercises.
There are many examples out there. Here are some of my favorites.
- Counting Breaths
- Slowly take in a breath and count “1” in your head at the top of the breath, let it out and count “2” at the end of the breath. Breathe in again and count “3”, let it out and count “4”. Aim to reach 100, or some other really high number. If you lose track or your mind starts to wonder, start over again at 1.
- Drink organic herbal tea
- This will help calm your body. When I drink herbal tea I notice I stir less at night as well.
- The Full Body Squeeze
- Starting at your toes, squeeze tightly for 10 seconds, then relax them for 10 seconds. Count slowly, and move up to your ankles, your calves, your hands, your quads, etc. all the way to your face. This is similar to labor practice as well.
- Recite Scripture or a peaceful phrase
- Choose a positive, faith-filled message to repeat to yourself, like “Trust in the Lord with all your heart” or “He will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast because he trusts in Him.” Or “Gratitude in (breathe in), anxiety out (breathe out)”.
- Discipline your mind to name 50 things you’re thankful for.
- “I’m so thankful I have a comfortable bed to lie on. I’m so thankful I have a nice pillow and sheets and temperature control. I’m so thankful I have a house to sleep in, a spouse to lie next to, children to wake me up in the morning, etc”
Don’t end the day with anxiety, stress, and a full mind.
This evening brain dump journal sheet will help you get in a peaceful mindset so you too can sleep peacefully through the night.
5) Pick Your Method.
You can’t exactly let yourself “cry it out”, but you can choose a plan for how to respond when you realize you’ve been laying in bed for 15 minutes but still aren’t asleep.
The most important thing is to break the habit of laying in bed for hours, whether it’s at bedtime or in the middle of the night, when your body springs awake, expecting to have a baby to attend to.
If you’ve been laying in bed awake for longer that 15 minutes, get out of bed and have a plan to do something very boring: read with a very small reading lamp, listen to calming music, pray in a corner.
After about 10 minutes, or when you start feeling sleepy again, go back to bed and do your breathing exercises.
This will be hard at first, but in time, your brain will know that your bed is for sleeping, not for lying awake.
Do you forget to sleep, bathe, eat, relax, etc.? NO MORE. This tracker will help you consistently live within your limits so you have more love to give to your family.
More DON’Ts (and a DO):
- DON’T regularly rely on Melatonin. As tempting as it is to rely on sleep-inducing medication, melatonin in particular will interfere with your body’s natural melatonin production and cause dependence, where you will need to gradually increase the dosage over time to achieve the same effect. It’s best to avoid, but definitely talk to you doctor about other options.
- DON’T have caffeine after 12pm.
- DON’T exercise after 5pm- the endorphins can make it hard to settle yourself down.
- DO talk to a therapist if you’re really struggling with anxiety/insomnia.
It’s a lot of little things to implement all together, but if you commit to this plan and stick with it, you’ll be sleeping like a baby again in no time!
And now that your baby is sleeping, that’s a good thing. ;)