When my son was born, I said good-bye to my bed. He never slept…never. He would close his eyes for 20 minutes, and just when I thought it was safe to go back to bed, he was wide awake again. This lasted for 1 year. There was no carpet left under the rocking chair in his room. My husband and I read every parenting book, hoping to come across a tip we hadn’t tried. The pediatrician had no suggestions. When we exhausted all of our friends, family, and Nick at Night shows, we decided to consult a sleep therapist. We tried all of his suggestions, following his instructions like we were putting together an IKEA table. No luck.
I became insanely jealous of couples who could put their child to sleep at 7 o’clock and relax with dinner and Netflix. Do babies really sleep through the night? When I heard someone say that they slept like a baby, I felt sorry for them. Were they up all night?
Flash forward 15 years and my son is now a teenager. Teenagers seem to have this sleep thing down. My husband and I play tag-team in the morning trying to get him up for school. We spent years obsessing over sleep and now our son would sleep until noon if we let him. Go figure.
When we become adults, it seems that we revert back to sleeping like a baby. Most of us have times when we can’t fall asleep or stay asleep. We are worriers and our minds are bombarded by information on the news and social media. It’s difficult to settle down at night. Illness can affect sleep, altering the sleep-wake cycle. Pain, medications, and certain chronic conditions can also play a role. Advertisements purport sleep medication as an easy fix. But, that may not be the best answer.
Sleep is important. Our brains process and store information when we sleep. Our immune system gets a boost during sleep. Studies have shown that lack of sleep increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Not to mention, most people are in a much better mood when they have had a good night’s sleep.
So what can you do so you don’t sleep like a baby?
- Stop obsessing about sleep. Treat sleep as something to look forward to, not as the enemy in the room.
- Create an atmosphere for sleep. Ideally, the room should be around 68 degrees. Avoid sleeping in a cluttered room. Create a peaceful sanctuary. Dim the light from the alarm clock.
- Try to stick to a consistent schedule for sleeping and waking. Naps can be refreshing during the day, but avoid napping past 3 o’clock.
- Studies have found magnesium to be a beneficial nutrient to induce restful sleep. Nuts and nut butters, whole grains, and green leafy vegetables are good sources of magnesium.
- An evening snack consisting of a lean protein and carbohydrate with warm chamomile or mint tea can help induce sleep. Avoid wine, caffeine, spicy food or heavy meals within 2 hours of going to bed.
- Go outside during the day. Sunlight helps the body maintain its normal sleep-wake cycle.
- Create a bedtime ritual to wind down. It could be a warm bath or shower. It could be reading a book or listening to music
- Do you have a too much mind chatter? Try writing in a journal. Listen to music or white noise. Close your eyes and inhale/exhale to a count of 4. Try tensing and relaxing your muscles, starting at your feet and working your way up to your head.
- Meditation can help increase feel-good endorphins and decrease the stress hormone, cortisol. It helps reduce inflammation and pain and can boost the immune system.
- Avoid sleeping pills and supplements that give a short-term fix but can eventually become a habit.
Still can’t sleep? Don’t fight it and stop obsessing. Get out of bed and try going in another room. Watch TV or read a book. If your mind is busy with thought, write it down. The more you practice the 10 tips, the more they will become a habit. I wish I knew years ago what I know now. I am done obsessing over sleep and never want to hear the words ‘sleep like a baby’ again.