I’m excited to welcome Dr Juliet McGrattan, GP, writer and runner extraordinaire to Honest Mum.
Eagle eyed readers may recognise Juliet from my wonderful women interview with her from last year and I’m delighted Juliet is sharing her expertise as a medical practitioner and mum on the blog today.
In this post, Juliet offers her advice on sleep. Most of suffer from struggling to sleep at times, especially we parents! Add smart phones, work stress and general hectic 21st century living and it’s a wonder any of us ever manage to get 40 winks.
Sound familiar? Read on!
How to Sleep Like A Baby By Dr Juliet McGrattan
One of my favourite things is watching my children sleep. It’s a chance to study their little faces in detail, they’re rarely still enough in the day for me to do this!
They look so peaceful as their brains digest and assimilate the huge amount of information they’ve learnt that day. I often wonder what they’re dreaming about ….. if it’s monsters, screams will follow!
Sleep is so important for the wellbeing of children but guess what? It’s vital for us too but most of us know only too well how incredibly hard it can be to come by!
Seven to nine hours is what we’re advised to get (that’s per night by the way not per week!) The National Sleep Foundation survey found that the average woman between 30 and 60 years of age was getting six hours and 41 minutes during the week. Whatever’s recommended and how much each of us as individuals needs is pretty irrelevant when the majority us know we aren’t getting enough!
If we need caffeine to get through the day, if our eyes are closing while we’re watching CBeebies and if we constantly feel like we’re walking through treacle; then we’re in sleep debt. The majority of us are well overdrawn, in the red and in need of a large boost of credit.
Sleep deprivation is wicked. It’s used as a form of torture and it can certainly feel like that when you’re three weeks into poorly, teething kids or years into a night-time ‘musical beds’ habit.
It’s so frustrating when you’re shattered and eventually close your eyes and you can’t sleep!!
Here are some tips to give you the best chance of dropping off when you do get the chance of some shut-eye:
Avoid caffeine after around 4pm. It’s a stimulant and can have long lasting effects in some people. Don’t forget there’s caffeine in chocolate and some fizzy drinks too.
Watch your alcohol intake. Although alcohol can make you drop off, it affects the quality of your sleep and you won’t feel as rested. It also makes you need to get up for a wee.
Create an atmosphere of calm. You need to train your brain to associate your bedroom with sleep. If it’s clean, tidy, has black-out curtains, and isn’t too hot or too cold it’ll help your brain to switch off. Don’t work or watch TV in your bedroom if you can help it; save it as a place purely for relaxation and sleep (oh and sex … if you aren’t too tired!).
Empty your head. Chances are if you can’t sleep you’re thinking about the next day and the list of things you need to get through, the holiday you haven’t booked yet and random totally irrational thoughts. Get a notebook and write them all down. Take them out of your head and put them on paper. Promise yourself you’ll look at them tomorrow and sort them all out. In the morning of course, you’ll realise most of them are easily resolved and not worth lying in bed worrying about!
Give yourself wind down time. You’ve probably heard this before but you can’t really expect yourself to jump straight from ‘full on busy mum mode’ to sleeping baby. Screen-free time of at least an hour will let your brain know that stimulation time is over. Read a book, soak in a bath full of lavender, listen to music; do whatever relaxes you.
Do some exercise. Being active in the day will encourage sleep as it makes you physically as well as mentally tired. 150 minutes of exercise per week (the current recommended amount) has been shown to improve sleep quality. There’s actually not really any evidence that exercise at night will stop you sleeping but some people find it does stimulate them too much and they need to exercise earlier in the day. Some gentle stretches at bed time can help you relax too.
When all else fails and you just aren’t getting enough sleep then you need to turn to survival tactics to help you through the day. I loved the collection of tips from Honest Mum readers in this previous blog of Vicki’s.
The most important thing is not to panic. This is just another one of those phases of life that will pass. The sleep thieves will grow up and before you know it you’ll be struggling to get them out of their teenage beds. Just maximise the sleep you can get and don’t dwell on what’s missing.