A plan for getting enough sleep

I’m fascinated with the topic of sleep at the moment. And it’s not because I’m up all night with a baby, actually. We do have some rough nights every now and then when there’s a developmental leap, teething or illness but sleep on the whole isn’t a big deal this time around. Ophelia sleeps more than Talitha did and I worry a lot less (ie not at all) about my choice to have her in bed with me and breastfeed on demand. In fact, flopping a boob out means that most of the time I barely register waking up.

That said, I have spent a lot of the last year and a half of life with two kids not getting enough sleep and that is down to me. I’ve always preferred to stay up late, feeling most creative in the darkest hours. I’d just sleep it off on the weekend. Now I find myself wanting to stay up later because it’s my only child-free time. Except kids don’t do lie-ins on the weekend. So I find myself getting exhausted, grumpy, forgetful and stressed…and I’m not that creative anymore.

Recently, I fell ill and it forced me to start going to sleep between 10 and 11. You know, a normal hour. Even though I was unwell, I felt so much better for starting to get a healthy amount of sleep. There’s been a fair bit in the news this week about how sleep deprivation is shaving years off our lives and ageing us prematurely. I can easily believe it.

Yet I know that I’ll slip back into bad habits unless I put a plan in place to protect my sleep. So here is a plan of sorts. If you have anything to add to this list, I’d love to hear from you.

Sort out the bedroom

Our bedroom needs an almighty overhaul, I think. We currently have a lot of bags that need to go into the attic but generally it’s pretty cluttered. We also need to put up a blind on one of the windows. We could do with some new bedding and pillows, and I’d even at some point consider a new mattress. A few small steps could make this a much more restful sleep environment.

Don’t take the phone to bed
I go through cycles of leaving my phone downstairs so I’m not tempted to browse when going to sleep or when I wake up at night. I know, I know – this is a horrible habit and the blue light wakes me right up. This works best when I have my little clock on my bedside table so I can avoid pretending my phone is there so I can check the time.

Avoid eating too late
I always find that when I go to bed with food in my stomach, especially if it’s a big meal, I not only find it harder to sleep but I wake up more and wind up waking up in the morning with a heavy feeling overall. Actually, I sleep well when Laurence is away because I just eat with the kids at 5.30pm and don’t bother to eat again later.

Drink less caffeine
It’s an easy cycle to get into: stay up late, wake up tired, drink coffee, slump in the evening, drink coffee, stay up late. I’m trying to limit myself to two caffeinated drinks a day with none after 3pm. Ideally, I’d like to get down to one. This in itself is a success since I was at one point relying on five cups of tea and coffee to get me through the day.

Exercise regularly
I’m not finding this so easy at the moment because my parents are staying with us and I’m self-conscious doing my webcam fitness classes with them around but it’s so obvious that even on days where I’ve walked a lot, it’s that much easier to drift off at bedtime and I just feel happier overall.

Put anxiety to bed
The greatest obstacle to sleep that I’ve had for most of my life has been anxiety. I regularly find it difficult to shut my brain off and lie awake worrying about all the things that have happened that day or could happen tomorrow. I find that taking the time to write a to-do list can help or writing down some of the things I’m stressed about so I can mentally organise and pray about them makes a huge difference.

Is getting enough sleep an issue for you too?

In association with Mattressman

mother • freelance writer • home educator • #revillagingpodcast • breastfeeding counsellor • no dig farm @soul.farm • Trini in Cornwall [she/her]

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  • So with you on all of this. I have been subject to a non-sleeping baby, but still going to bed relatively late (e.g. 11ish) when earlier would have helped. Co-sleeping has really saved my sanity over the past few months though. Hope you’re a bit stricter with yourself and feel better x

  • I think getting more sleep is pretty much my lifetime’s ambition at the moment. My children are both super-early risers and my younger still wakes regularly in the night.

    I do identify with the staying up too late though (although in my case 10pm is ‘too late’ given that one or both of the children will inevitably be awake from 5am). It’s really hard when you don’t get any time to yourself during the day, you crave that headspace and time to be creative or just to not be constantly being asked questions 😉 but it does mean I’m more tired the next day.

    Mind you I find if I do go to bed super-early (I’m talking 7pm) to catch up on sleep, which I do a few times a month I certainly feel better physically but I feel quite grumpy that I’ve had basically ZERO conscious child-free hours.

    If you find the answer, let me know!
    Cathy recently posted..A little Island hop

    • I can really identify with that cycle of staying up to get alone time then feeling tired the next day. Yours wake up so early that it must be really tough. I wish I had an answer because it sounds like you could use more child-free time AND more sleep.

  • I am completely awful for getting enough sleep, I reckon I go to bed at 1am most nights and wake up at 6am. Urgh, even just writing that has made me realise how terrible that is! I think I need to take some advice from this post x