I’m having the worst time trying to fall sleep and my kids aren’t babies anymore. How can I stop the cycle of sleeplessness?
L., Rhode Island
I can relate more than you can imagine. The worst is when everyone else is asleep and you need to get up in a matter of hours. You toss and turn. You try to lie still. And not think about the trillion things you have to do tomorrow. You check your iPhone. It’s 3 a.m. and your husband is snoring like a truck driver.
This is what I like to call Level 2 of Mommy Insomnia, or post-baby stage insomnia. I’ll never forget “Level 1” mommy insomnia: When you wake up to a crying baby at midnight, 2:30 a.m., 4:45 a.m. and finally drift off when the baby alarm clock screams again at 6:23 a.m.
My kids are 9 and 12 and I still suffer from occasional sleeplessness. When your body is not producing enough natural estrogen, your ability to get a full night's sleep suffers as a result. A lack of testosterone can also be an issue for some women. Or it can simply be caused by anxiety, diet, or stress.
Sleep deprivation, no matter what the cause, is pure torture! It happens to me nearly every month. By the time I roll out of bed, my head is pounding and I look like the lead singer of a 1980’s garage glam rock band.
Thankfully, there are things we can do to help prevent the cycle.
10 Tips to help prevent mommy insomnia:
1. Take a Digital Detox. Turn off your iPhone, laptop and/or television an hour before bedtime. Give yourself a DDD, or Daily Digital Detox. It works wonders for me!
2. D.E.A.R. Time. Have you ever heard of the elementary school term, Drop Everything and Read? Try this at bedtime! Read a good book or magazine article. You’ll drift off in no time.
3. Jot it Down. Write down a to-do list for tomorrow. Or just a few things that are on your mind. Writing it down helps prevent you from making a mental mommy to-do list in your head all night long. (Think Sarah Jessica Parker in “I Don’t Know How She Does It”.)
4. Work out. Get plenty of physical exercise. Remember what the experts say: “Sitting is the new smoking.” If you’re not exercising regularly (cardio at least three to five times a week), it can make it harder for you to fall asleep and stay asleep on a consistent basis.
5. Coffee break. Try limiting the amount of caffeine you consume on a daily basis. You may be more sensitive than you realize. Think about the caffeine hidden in pain medication, foods (chocolate!), energy drinks, tea, and coffee. Limit your caffeine intake after lunchtime and you’ll notice a difference. Skip alcohol too. Wine and beer may only aggravate the problem.
6. Mellow foods. Try eating foods rich in melatonin (or that help trigger melatonin) before bed time. Your body produces melatonin naturally, but it’s also found in some foods to help you control your sleep/wake pattern. Examples: Bananas, almonds, grapes, kiwi, turkey, and milk.
7. Supplement. You could be lacking certain vitamins, minerals and/or hormones to help balance your body’s natural sleep cycle. Talk to your doctor or nutritionist about the options that are best for you. There are natural remedies available over the counter, such as magnesium, for example, which helps regulate the nervous system.
8. Tea time. Try drinking a de-caf herbal tea before bedtime. Mint tea also works well to help calm you down.
9. Bath. Try taking a soothing bath before bedtime. This will give you a chance to de-stress before crawling into bed.
10. Doctor knows best. If nothing seems to be working, talk to your doctor about taking a prescription or over-the-counter medication to help get you back to sleep.
Having worked full-time, part-time, and been a stay-at-home mom too, Jackie Hennessey sees motherhood from a variety of angles. And thankfully, with a sense of humor. Jackie blogs about her take on motherhood at ventingsessions.com and writes about it in her award-winning book, How to Spread Sanity on a Cracker.