As a parent, hearing that you need to consistently get 8 hours of sleep to function properly can seem like a cruel joke.
Could it be possible they meant to say 7-9 hours per week instead of per night? Because that seems more doable.
From our tiny babies needing fed every two hours, to toddlers having nightmares, to children wetting the bed, to teenagers coming home well after curfew. Every parent is well-acquainted with the impossibility of proper sleep.
So how can a sleep-deprived, stressed parent pack in more Zzzs?
Check out these 5 tips for parents on how to get better more consistent sleep:
Make sleep a priority
Why should sleep be a priority? Sleep is vital to your mental and physical functions, when you don’t get enough of it you can’t think well, and you don’t feel good.
Your symptoms might include not remembering words for common things. You might put the milk jug in the pantry and the cereal in the fridge. And you probably get angry and cranky more easily.
Sleep is the number one thing you can do to have the capacity to remember things clearly, to be in a good mood, to fight off sicknesses and disease, and to maintain a healthy weight.
Since you are a parent, you may not be getting uninterrupted sleep for a few years, but you can get more sleep when you make it a priority.
Put getting sleep above…
- watching TV.
- checking off more to-do items.
- midnight snacks.
- scrolling through your phone.
- and me-time.
You. need. sleep.
You will be happier and healthier in the long run when you consistently choose sleep over other less-vital options.
Make Healthy Choices
Getting some exercise every day can help you go to sleep faster and get a better quality sleep.
Eating healthy foods and cutting out stimulants can too. Stimulants like caffeine in your diet can wreak havoc to your hormone balance and your ability to get some shut-eye. It can also make it hard to stay awake when you need to because your body becomes dependent on higher and higher doses.
Likewise, eating heavy food before bed can make it hard for your body to rest while it’s working hard to digest.
Schedule your sleep
Just like children, adults need to keep a consistent bedtime, this allows your internal clock to do wonders for you.
When you consistently fall asleep (or even just lie down in the darkness and rest your eyes) at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning, your body will pick up on the cues and send you the right hormones at the right time.
These hormones will make going to sleep and waking up easier.
Try not to vary this schedule more than an hour either way, even on weekends. When you mess up your sleep schedule, your body’s hormones get out of whack too.
Even if you are up nursing a babe or cuddling with your sick kid, dim the lights and help your body get in the right mode for when you can lie down and sleep.
Set the bedroom up for sleep success. Make sure it is a dark, comfy, and quiet place to rest.
To achieve this, you can cover your windows with light-blocking curtains, put on a loud fan or other white noise, and get a comfier pillow and bed.
I HIGHLY suggest a shredded memory foam pillow because it can form under your neck and be really cushy while still being supportive.
Find something that helps you get really comfortable in bed and you will go to sleep faster and sleep deeper.
If you can’t sleep because you need pain relief, try out different options until you find a solution that works for you. You can try using heating pads, essential oils, or using a supplement like melatonin to help you sleep.
Prepare Yourself for Sleep
Keep an evening routine that helps you wind down and de-stress. For me this includes doing my personal care routine, praying, and lying down in bed in the dark while chatting with my husband. It is just that simple.
Whatever you choose to do, it should be simple and relaxing.
Avoid electronic light from computers, phones, and TVs before sleep, and the same is true if you wake up in the night and are trying to get back to sleep. The artificial light from these screens signal to our bodies that it is time to be awake.
I can’t tell you how many times my friends have been complaining on facebook in the middle of the night that they can’t sleep. Maybe if they weren’t staring at their bright phones, they could have gotten back to sleep more easily.
If you have trouble falling asleep, include things that are relaxing or downright boring to your evening routine. Reading (a non-page-turner) with a soft light on, or listening to gentle music or talk radio, or taking a warm bath should do the trick.
Also, avoid coffee, alcohol, heavy meals, and naps in the late afternoon and evening; these can make it harder to fall asleep and have quality sleep.
Help Your Little Ones Get Sleep
Sometimes, no matter how tired your are, you just can’t get sleep because your babies and children aren’t sleeping well.
My kids (ages 5, 3, and 1) are good sleepers, and this didn’t happen by accident. I’ve shared what has worked for me in these articles:
Teenagers and Sleep
I’ve yet to have a teenager or a young adult child, but I’ve been one, and I know that everyone needs to learn good sleep habits.
Teenagers need to log in more sleep hours than adults, and they are sometimes getting much less because of school and staring at their phones at night. No wonder they can be so snarky!
Helping them make good choices for better sleep will go a long way for their health and happiness, and yours.
Set up expectations in your home to make sure they are following the same tips as those above for adults- especially by not letting them have electronics in their rooms at night.
As with any habit you want to teach your children, start by setting a good example and give them consequences when they disobey.
If you are looking for more tips to get your teens to have better sleep, check out nap.edu’s post, 10 “No-War” Ways to Improve Your Teen’s Sleep Habits for Optimum Health, Learning, and Living. This website includes an entire book’s worth of content dedicated to helping parents teach their teens good sleep habits.
If your issues with teens and lack of sleep lie more with them stressing you out and disobeying you, I suggest reading this post from How to Parent a Teen, What to do when your teen won’t follow your consequences.
Know when to get help
If you don’t have a crying baby or child to blame for your lack of sleep and you are still not getting better sleep after trying the tips above, then you might want to consider talking to your doctor about your lack of sleep.
There are many conditions beyond insomnia (like these sleep disorders listed on WebMD) that can cause you to get poor sleep. A good doctor will be able to guide you to an appropriate solution for you.
A Restful Night’s Sleep
You will be getting better, more consistent sleep when you make it a priority, you keep yourself on a sleep schedule, you set up a comfy sleeping environment, and you make sure you are physically and mentally prepared for sleep. Logging consistent (even if interrupted) hours of sleep will dramatically improve your life and happiness.