There is so much advice around about getting your baby to sleep for longer, pretty much right from the beginning of their little lives, from swaddling and self-soothing to white noise and comforters, and we all hope that we’ll have babies who sleep well. But sometimes babies just wake up a lot and it’s just about managing how you feel when you are trying to survive on fewer hours of sleep and doing all that you can to feel relaxed and in control when that deprivation is at its worst.
I’m now fortunate enough that Ella no longer needs as many night feeds and so seems to be settling more overnight but a growth spurt or a bout of illness can throw that directly out of the window in the blink of an eye. I try to take care of myself the best way I can whilst I’m still on maternity leave, practising good habits now that I can still use when I’m officially a ‘working mum’ and don’t get as much time at home. I know how important sleep is in keeping me healthy, which is also going to benefit my baby, so I try my best at giving myself a head start. Here are 10 tips I have for how to sleep better or even just relax a bit more when you’re dealing with sleepless nights or lots of disturbed sleep.
1. Sleep when baby sleeps
You’ve heard this one a million times before but it really is useful to sleep while your baby sleeps. I did this a lot in the beginning and would adjust my time time to much earlier to feel like I could get enough sleep to function. I actually think this is how I didn’t feel as tired as I was expecting in those early weeks as I was actually getting enough if I slept for a couple of hours in the day and then turned in for the night at around half past 8. I reasoned that it was up to me to fit around baby’s schedule rather than try and get her to fit in with us or expect to be able to keep the same habits I had before she came along. I’d been sleeping so much in the later stages of pregnancy that I found it fairly easy to sleep at all kinds of hours of the day.
When I need to relax and get myself ready to sleep I try and fill our home with the scent of lavender to invoke as many feelings of calm as I can. I light this Neom candle, spray my pillow with some lavender mist and pop on some hand cream. I won this set in an Instagram competition and have adored using each of the products in my nightly routine – I’ll likely buy them when these run out – and have found them invaluable in aiding in a good night’s sleep. As you can see, the candle has almost run out already and I can honestly say that this range really does work. It’s no surprise that research has shown that lavender can be used in treating anxiety, insomnia and restlessness, which I think can all be major factors in the first weeks of looking after a newborn.
3. Mindfulness and Meditation
I have long been a believer in mindful meditation and have actively tried it on and off since being diagnosed with depression 2 and a half years ago. I have used apps, read books and even attended some courses to help me to live a mindful way of life and it really has helped me to become more centred and feel more in control. I even attended a mindful pregnancy course and I can’t praise that enough for giving me amazing advice and showing me practical techniques on things that I could do to keep my anxieties under control. When I’m in bed and I’m finding it hard to sleep I will pop in my headphones and listen to something to soothe me into slumber. I will either choose a guided meditation, listen to some soothing music or listen to a sleep story, all of which have helped me to relax and drift off. Try Calm, Headspace and Smiling Mind, if you’re looking for something yourself.
Ahh, a long, hot bath. There is nothing more I enjoy than soaking in the tub for an hour, candles lit and music playing. I spent the second half of my pregnancy in the bath nightly to feel more comfortable and get me ready for sleep, and now I use it as a way to relax and unwind when I feel like I need a little help. It’s not always possible to fit the time in for a bath when baby is sleeping and I have clothes to wash or toys to tidy, but if I get a chance I definitely try and make the time. Even better than just a bath, add some lavender essential oil to make it extra sleep-inducing. After a bath I like to use this body lotion from Lush, which contains “gentle oatmeal infusion, calming lavender flower and comfortingly sweet tonka absolute” and is an ideal way to finish off a bedtime routine. It can also be used on your baby from 12 months, so can also aid their sleep once they reach a year old.
5. Limit screen time
One thing that makes a huge difference in how quickly I fall asleep and how calm I feel when I go to bed is how much time I’ve spent on my phone or computer in the later hours of the evening. There is nothing more disruptive to my sleep (other than a crying baby) than screen time. I know it’s tempting to keep checking on social media or emails when baby is in bed and you have some time to yourself, but it’ll be detrimental in the long run when you’re trying to get some shut-eye. The best thing you can do is to decide on a time a couple of hours before bedtime when you’ll leave your phone in another room and instead do something else in that time before bed, like reading, taking a bath or enjoying the company of your partner.
6. Get outside
Getting some fresh air in the daytime makes me feel so much better than spending all day in our house. As much as I love being at home with Ella, it can feel a little claustrophobic if she’s been a bit unsettled or if we’ve been inside for a few days. One of my favourite things to do around lunchtime is to go for a walk, either straight from our house to the local shop or drive to a park and then have a leisurely stroll around a large grassy spot. Breathing in fresh air, letting Ella see her surroundings and stretching my legs is a sure-fire way to get us both feeling good and that will more often than not lead to better sleeping for both her and for me.
To follow on from the point above, getting exercise is a great way to clear your head and put yourself in a healthy mindset, which is more likely to lead to a more restful night’s sleep. There is nothing worse than having a mind full of worries or anxieties, especially at night time, so using the chance to go for a run, take an exercise class or work it out in the gym is a tried and tested method to calm those inner thoughts that just won’t quit when you’re trying to chill out and get some sleep. If hitting the gym isn’t your thing, then enlist a friend to take a dance class with, which will also give you a couple of hours away from baby, which is a great way of looking after yourself every now and again. Taking time out for some ‘me time’ is as important for your baby as it is for you and it gives you both a bit of independence and a change of scenery.
One of my favourite calming hobbies is to read. In fact, if you know anything about me at all, then you’ll know that I have an extensive library of all kinds of reads. And they are the perfect way for me to unwind after a long day, whether that’s getting into a crime fiction or reading a book about home decor. Sitting in bed and spending that time before nodding off reading instead of on your phone or tablet is the ideal way to slowly switch off and for your mind and body to get itself ready for slumber, so go ahead and find yourself something enjoyable to get into. My recent favourites are all non-fiction and can vary from baby development books and healthy eating recipe books to home inspiration and blogging guides. I love that I have things to suit my every mood and make sure that I make time in the evenings to indulge in one of my favourite hobbies.
9. Drink plenty of water
I’m sure you all know the health benefits of drinking enough water and all those benefits will help you to get uninterrupted sleep by keeping your body in good working order. Research has shown that water deprivation can negatively impact mood and people who drink less aren’t as calm, which in turn is not going to be conducive to a good night’s sleep (link). Plus, if you are hydrated enough then you will not be disturbed at night by being thirsty (dry, sore throat) or getting leg cramps, which can be caused by dehydration. Just remember not to drink too much before bed, as you don’t want to be woken by the need to wee (we experienced enough of that in pregnancy, didn’t we?). Plus, if you drink plenty of water, you are giving your body the valuable nutrients and minerals necessary to help it function as it should, which is going to give you more energy and keep you more alert during the day.
10. Eat well
Staying healthy has so much to do with what you eat, so it’s super important to ensure that what you’re consuming is as good as it could possibly be. I know that is tough when you have a baby demanding your time, but it’s vital to eat the right things to ensure you have plenty of energy in the day and can sleep well at night. Almonds, turkey, kiwi, fish and walnuts are just some of the foods that are thought to promote good sleep (link), but there are plenty more good foods which will are healthy and can help you get quality sleep too. I would suggest doing a little research and working out how you can incorporate some of the recommended food into your everyday diet.