Getting More Rest

As I posted earlier in the week, sleep deprivation is a serious issue in the United States, leading not only to numerous physical problems (from weight gain to heart problems), but also marital issues and an inability to nurture our children. Most Americans don't realize they are sleep deprived, but if we don't get a full, undisturbed eight hours each night, we can suffer serious consequences, doctors say. But how exactly is a busy mom to find time for more sleep? From a woman who has long struggled with sleep deprivation, here are some ideas:

* Once a week, sleep in. Ideally, you should go to bed and get up at the same time every day. But when you're sleep deprived, sleeping in can be helpful. So once a week, have your husband get up with the kids. I know; your husband probably wants to sleep in, too. But perhaps he can do that on one weekend day and you can do it on another. (This may mean finding a later church service.) * Go to bed earlier. This sounds too simple, doesn't it? But many people find that by the time they've brushed their teeth, changed clothes, and so on, they end up falling asleep later than anticipated. So time the things you do each night before bed, and begin your routine earlier. * Put the children to bed earlier. If you find yourself staying up later so you have time alone with your husband (or so you can "recover" once the kids are in bed), put the children to bed earlier. This will benefit them (more on this in a coming post), and it will be better for your marriage. If you're concerned you or your husband won't get enough time with the kids this way, cut out after school activities and dedicate weekends to family time. Sleep and family time are both far more important than so many other things we fill our time with. * Use a sleeping mask, so you'll sleep more soundly through the mornings. * Turn off the baby monitor. This was tough for me. Up until recently, I had two monitors: one in my preschooler's room and one in the baby's room. Well, my preschooler is old enough she can call out or come get us if she needs us, and the baby is now a year old and in the room immediately next to ours. It's silly to keep them on monitors (which, incidentally, meant I woke up every time a child rolled over in his or her sleep). Unless your kids' rooms are quite far away from yours, trust me. You'll hear them if they need you. * Reprogram your brain. If you go to bed late because you've always been a night owl, science says routinely going to bed earlier will convert you. * Seize nap time. "Sleep when the baby sleeps" is advice as old as the hills...but it works. If you have children of napping age, don't spend nap time doing chores. Head to bed. The Mayo Clinic says this works best if you snooze for no more than 20 minutes or so (if you sleep longer, you may end up feeling drowsy when you wake up), so you'll still have time for other things after you rest. * Develop a bedtime routine for yourself. You probably know your child's evening goes more smoothly if you develop a bedtime routine, but did you know the same is true for adults? Doing the same routine each night signals your brain it's nearly time to sleep. Try a warm bath, dimming house lights, drinking some warm decaf tea, listening to soothing music, and prayer. * Avoid hot baths immediately before bed. Although you'll often see warm baths recommended as part of a bedtime routine, your body needs to cool down before you fall asleep. Therefore, taking too warm a bath can actually prevent you from sleeping. Experts recommend baths about 2 to 1 1/2 hours before bed. * Keep your bedroom cool. If you're too hot, you won't sleep well. If you overheat your bedroom, you'll have to wake up and adjust the thermometer. If you overdress for bed, you'll have to get up and undress. Instead, use layers of blankets that can be kicked off or pulled on easily during the night. * Avoid screen time at night. It's too stimulating. * Avoid caffeine and simple carbs. Both lead to blood sugar issues that not only make you feel worse during the day, but can interfere with sleep. * Use white noise. Many people can only fall asleep and stay that way if there's white noise in the background. Try turning on the radio (talk radio works best) and leaving it on, or use a white noise machine or CD. * Use blackout curtains. If the morning light wakes you early in the morning, try this: Safety pin some black garbage bags to your curtains. If you sleep longer and better, strongly consider investing in blackout curtains, which keep your room dark while you sleep. * Keep a pen and notebook nearby. I often keep myself awake thinking about stuff I want to do the next day. I also avoid getting up to write this stuff down because I'm afraid I'll stay up. Resolve these problems by keeping note-making material at your bedside. * Try "snooze foods." According to Dr. Sears, author of over 40 medical books, some foods contain a substance that can actually help you sleep. These foods include dairy products, seafood, meats, poultry, whole grains, and eggs. As an added bonus, eating a small snack before bed also makes your blood sugar levels more even, which is an aid in controlling and loosing weight. * If you have persistent bouts of insomnia, see your physician. Insomnia can be a symptom of something more serious. In addition, insomnia can lead to something more serious. There are many gentle sleeping aids available today. Your sleep is too valuable to not give them a try. Bookmark and Share


  1. Two more great posts! (Oct. 14&15) I am so glad you mentioned just walking out if someone is sick at a playgroup, meeting, service, etc.... It is hard to be brave, but worth it. And I am looking forward to trying the sleep tips. Erin

  2. Yes, Erin, we really learned that lesson when our daughter was born 3 1/2 months early. The doctors made it very clear we had to be vigilant about germs, even if it offended some people.