I’m sure you’ve heard it before: sleep is incredibly important for your health. But when you’re a busy parent, getting your 7-9 hours of sleep a night can feel impossible! There are 1000 things to do before you go to bed– nightly interruptions from the kids, early morning jobs, and endless stress running through your mind. The good news is that better sleep may be easier than you think. Little changes may be all you need to get those all-important hours of sleep.
Why is sleep so important?
When you sleep, your body recovers and gets you ready for the next day’s challenges. There are obvious reasons why sleep is good for you– like giving you energy and increased mental ability. But there are lots of other benefits you might not immediately think of too.
Maintaining a good pattern of sleep can have great physical benefits like immunity function, inflammation, chronic illness, and even weight control. The mental health benefits of sleep include increased cognitive function, better awareness, and socialisation. It even helps to consolidate memories!
The average adult should aim for 7-9 hours of sleep a night. If you’re missing out on good quality sleep, you’re missing out on all these great benefits. On top of that, you’re missing out on that amazing energized feeling after a restful night’s sleep. But how do you manage to find the time for quality sleep when you’re a busy mum? There are a few quick changes you can make to your day that can make that good sleep much more achievable.
Establish a night ritual away from screens
It’s much easier to get to sleep if you’ve spent time winding down before going to bed. A great way to start this process is to turn off your phone and TV and dim the lights one or two hours before going to bed. This can be easier said than done sometimes, so try setting a timer to remind you, or cueing your phone to go on to sleep mode at a set time every day. Your mind will benefit from the break from bright lights and addictive screens. Instead of screen time, try some relaxing activities like having a bath, reading a book, or listening to calming music. Your body and mind will start to wind down and be well prepared for rest once your head hits the pillow.
Build relaxation into your routine
You can build cues into your routine that your body associates with sleep. This can be an activity, music, lighting, or a relaxing scent. Essential oils or candles are a great way to create a relaxing atmosphere. Many people enjoy using calming scents like lavender in the evening to associate with sleep.
Trying a relaxation cue will be much more beneficial if used long term or built into your daily routine. Over time, your body will subconsciously associate the cue with rest, and begin to wind down. Whatever relaxation cue you choose, routine and practise is key to better sleep habits.
Consume healthy foods drinks
Many of us fall into the habit of trying to replace energy from sleep, with energy from food. This is often a quick-fix but can leave you feeling burnt out. Food can’t replace the energy you get from sleep. Be mindful of excessive sugary food/drink and caffeine. These can be tempting as they offer a quick increase in energy. However, the energy will not be sustainable and you’re likely to feel a lot worse after the sugar or caffeine works through your system.
It can be hard to replace sugar, but there are other healthier snack options that will give you longer-lasting energy. Try whole grain snacks, yoghurt, and nuts. This is particularly important in the afternoon and evening. You don’t want a sugar-high stopping you from getting to sleep! You also don’t want a caffeine hit getting between you and your sleep. Consider stopping having caffeine after 12 to allow your body effective time to switch off and rest later in the day.
Practice Nidra yoga
Nidra Yoga is a sleep-based, conscious guided meditation. Practising Nidra Yoga for just 20-minutes is the equivalent rest of an extra 2 hours of sleep. Now that’s an efficient way to get some rest as a busy mum!! Don’t let the word yoga put you off. There are no yoga poses or physical exertion. You’re lying in a comfortable position and covered with a blanket. Your body sleeps while your mind is awake taking in the guided instructions.
Nidra Yoga encourages rest by using breathing, triggering the relaxation response. Your nervous system is calmed and your thoughts slow down. The hormone serotonin is released to help you feel more relaxed. It’s complete REST for both your mind and body. Yoga Nidra is a great tool to have as a busy mum because you can use it when you only have a short window for some rest. Getting to sleep and staying asleep is also improved with a regular Nidra Yoga practice. Try squeezing a 20 minute Nidra Yoga practice in once a week and see if you can feel the benefits!
Try Yin Yoga
If you want more Yoga to maximize the relaxation in your week– Yin Yoga might be for you. Yin Yoga is a quiet practise that slows down movement and focuses on a spiritual connection with your mind and body. Unlike Nidra Yoga, Yin Yoga does have poses and movement. Yin Yoga involves holding deep poses for longer periods of time. A pose may last a minute or two, or even up to 5 minutes. It is slow-moving and easy to practice for beginners.
By practising Yin Yoga, you are gifting your body with gratitude and relaxation. This can have lasting benefits for your mental wellbeing, well beyond the end of the practice. There are also some great physical benefits of Yin Yoga. By holding deep strengths, your body’s tissues lengthen and release, leaving your muscles feeling as though they have been relaxed or massaged. It can improve your range of motion and help strengthen and heal recurring injuries. The deep breathing you’ll learn during the practice is also a powerful trigger for the parasympathetic nervous system. This is connected to a number of benefits including improved blood pressure, digestion, sleep and immune function. What better tool to have as a new mum?
Waking up fresh and energized will make your life as a parent a whole lot more manageable. Doing little things to make sleep easier can be all the change you need to increase your hours of quality sleep. You’ll have more energy, be in a better mood, and get more done with your day. Long term you’ll be preventing major health problems and teaching your kids about self-care. Try one of these tips, and start to build relaxing habits into your daily routine– your mind and body will thank you!