As a parent, lack of sleep is often part of the job description. But broken nights and early starts aren’t forever. As the sleep fairies return (it does happen) does that mean that blissful slumber will return to the house once more? Often, it’s just not that simple. There are loads of reasons why you just might find yourself lying in the dark getting increasingly frustrated at the sound of silence, but your lack of being able to join the sleep party.
If you’ve been there, you know how the total irony of the awake-ness gets you so riled, it only adds to the whole can’t get to sleep situation.
I can’t get no sleep
In a way I think broken sleep for an extended period lends itself to bad sleeping habits. It’s pretty hard to get back into the habit of sleeping again when the kids finally crack it. Plus, as a parent there is always a million and one things to think about. The day ahead, the week ahead, the childcare juggle, the latest dilemma or decision to make. Even though you have never felt so exhausted, the sleep just doesn’t want to come.
It’s an understatement if ever there was one, but sleep is vital to function. Not just in a smiling at your boss at 9am kind of way, or even a managing to run around after my toddler at soft play all morning kind of way – but in a physiological function kind of way. Your cells need sleep to rest and repair, to grow to replenish and to thrive. Long term sleep deprivation is more than an inconvenience; it can affect your physical health, your mental health, your performance and your relationships.
There are of course loads of things you can try to fight the night wakings or early morning wake ups, provided they aren’t caused by a third party sleep thief that is. Often, you know the basics, but it doesn’t hurt to have a look at your night time habits to try and create some ideal snooze scenarios.
You know what it’s like with the kids – when they are being buggers at bedtime, it always helps if you’ve really worn them out during the day – a good long country walk, a bike ride, swimming or soft play. Same goes for us – nothing feels better at the end of a busy day than that of your body feeling physically tired. Sitting in front of a screen all day doesn’t really count I’m afraid. Go for a walk, a run, a swim or even just do a few hours digging in the garden or clearing the shed, work your body so it’s ready for some rest come bedtime.
Again, as parents we clearly understand the benefit of winding down the kids before bed – same goes for you. Take time for yourself in the evening after you have finished the days grind (because we all know parents don’t clock off at five pm), and do something for yourself. Watch some trash TV, read a book, run a hot bubble bath or whatever it is that helps your body shake off the day and get into sleep mode.
You know it, I know it, we all know it, but how many of us do it? The old no digital screens before bed rule. In this digital era the temptation for one last scroll, one last read of e mails is often just too much to bear, but perhaps that is what is getting your mind racing in the middle of the night. Try and make the last hour of the day before bed a digital no go zone, and you might just reap the benefits of a clear mind as you settle down to sleep.
It’s an oldie but a goodie – Lavender has been used as a natural sleep aid for donkeys yonks and you’ll find it as a key ingredient in many sleep encouraging products – bath creams, pillow sprays, moisturisers and bedroom drawer liners (or was that just my Nan?). I LOVE a bit of lavender and don’t tell all my mates, but I have a lavender tea before bed most nights. I swear by it.
Set the scene
I’m all about the mood lighting once the sun goes down, and I’m a firm believer that dim lights throughout the house, and particularly in the bedroom aid a good night sleep. Make sure any annoying LED lights are off, close gaps in the curtains and power down any unnecessary electronics which may hum or ping in the night. Make sure the temperature is just right – add a layer of bedding, pop on some socks or treat yourself to a hot water bottle (I can never sleep with cold feet).
Exorcise your brain
Don’t worry I’m not talking spinning heads here. But if you go to bed with a to do list whizzing through your mind, guess what, it’s not going anywhere. A simple act of writing down your thoughts on a notepad can be enough to let you relax, knowing you have captured that to do item for the morning, and stop it tugging on your sleeve all night long. Keep a notepad handy near your bed, ready to jot those niggling thoughts down.
Rhythm of the night
We are all made of different stuff, and much like a toddler who thrives on routine, our body could go into all sorts of mayhem if we are getting too much or not enough sleep. If your kids are early risers (hi) you may need to be getting your head down earlier than seems right. Or perhaps you’re feeling shattered and trying to go to bed too early, meaning you wake way too early in the mornings. Experiment, and once you’ve found your perfect bedtime, try and get into a routine of hitting the sack at a similar time each night. As an average most people need between seven and nine hours sleep a night – and that needs to be good quality sleep to count.
Hold the coffee, cava and curry
Certain foods could be causing you to stir in the night – particularly spicy, fatty or acidic foods which might repeat on you. Too much tea and coffee into the evening could also be acting as a stimulant and keeping you awake. Think before you drink (it’s easy on the bladder too). Well, perhaps save it for the weekend…
Over the counter solutions
If you have tried everything and still can’t break the cycle, speak to a pharmacist who may be able to offer a short term sleep aid, perhaps enough to break the cycle and reset your body clock. Or, at least, get you some much needed rest. Whilst you should not rely on a sleep aid beyond a week, sometimes a short term crisis may be making your nights a misery. If being tired is adding to your inability to function, there is no harm in a short term prop. My Mum has always sworn by Phenergan Night Time*, and she is the oracle of most things, so it could be worth a try.
I have been there, in those painful phases of insomnia. When the night seems to last forever and the worries of the world decide to arrive in your mind when all you want to do is catch zzz’s. The morning is on it’s way far too soon, and yet the minutes feel like hours. We’ve all suffered the days of parenting sleep deprivation and survived, but when you have well and truly done your time, you really deserve a good night’s sleep.
Disclosure: This post is in collaboration with Phenergan Night Time.
*Phenergan Night Time is a pharmacy only product for the short term treatment of insomnia in adults over 16 years of age. It contains promethazine hydrochloride which has a fast onset action and can start to work in 20 minutes. Promethazine is an antihistamine which works in the brain by blocking the action of histamine, causing you to feel sedated and drift off to sleep. Promethazine has a long heritage of use as a sedative for insomnia and has been used for over 50 years. Not suitable to be used for more than 7 days without medical advice. Always read the package leaflet before use, please visit www.phenergan.co.uk