Though our lives have shifted in all areas, for many of us there is one thing that we miss a little bit more than everything else: getting enough sleep and feeling well rested.
The truth is that sleep is a vital health component that, when not taken seriously, can do a lot of harm.
You can be excelling in all other health areas, eating great food, and exercising like a champ. But if you’re not giving your body the sleep that it needs, your body and mind is going to suffer as a result.
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Top 11 Sleep Tips for Tired Moms
To begin getting better sleep, Dr. Kristen has her patients focus on “sleep hygiene.”
Much like regular hygiene, these are small, quick practices that are easy to implement into your day and will over time become habits much like brushing your teeth.
Together, these sleep hygiene tips help you develop a solid routine for preparing your body for sleep and getting enough of it each night.
1. Using the 4-7-8 Breathing Method
This is a simple technique used to reset and calm your nervous system. Take a few moments to breathe in through your nose for a count of 4, hold for 7, and exhale through pursed lips (like you’re blowing out a candle) for 8.
This method relaxes your “fight or flight” response and helps create calm. You can use this method throughout the day (3-5 rounds is recommended), or when trying to fall asleep.
Enhance the effectiveness by thinking of happy memories or pleasant things while you do it!
2. Breathing Check-In: Are you mouth breathing?
Nasal breathing is much healthier for your body than mouth breathing.
It allows the air to be warmed, humidified, and moisturized before entering your lungs, increases nitric oxide in the body, and stimulates the rest (parasympathetic) part of your nervous system.
Mouth breathing, on the other hand, stimulates the fight or flight (sympathetic) part of your nervous system, making it more difficult for your body to feel calm.
There are a few ways to determine how you’re breathing at night.
Snoring, gasping, or choking yourself awake is a good indicator of mouth breathing, as doing so can cause your tongue to block your airway, jolting you awake.
If you wake up with a dry, sore throat, that’s another indication of mouth breathing.
Try using nose strips to reduce snoring, and consider meeting with your doctor to see what treatment methods are best for you.
During the day, check in with yourself and do your best to breathe only through your nose to allow your body to get high quality air and achieve a more frequent state of calm.
3. Mindfulness Meditation
No, you don’t need to go monk-style and meditate for hours on end — only 5 minutes! Heck, even 1 minute can make a difference.
When patients are struggling with sleep, Dr. Kristen encourages them to take a few moments of mindfulness or meditation throughout the day.
This means sitting down and taking a few minutes to just focus on your breathing, taking big, deep breaths and giving your body lots of oxygen.
It’s another way to calm your body, which, when maintained throughout the day, helps you get more restorative sleep at night.
4. Exercise When You Can
Did you know that getting exercise throughout the day helps you sleep better at night? All exercise benefits you and your sleep in a positive way, and mind & body exercises like yoga, tai chi, or qigong really go the extra mile in helping with your zzzs.
Anything is beneficial, even just 10 minutes! Aim for 10-15 minutes at least 3 times a week to start, and progress as you can. Progress, not perfection.
5. Avoid Gluten, Dairy, and Sugar Before Bed
We know that caffeine keeps us awake, but did you know that certain foods can keep us up as well?
Foods like gluten, dairy, and sugar can disrupt sleep by causing uncomfortable inflammation.
Aim to limit these foods, especially around dinner time, sticking instead to fruits, veggies, whole grains, and other whole foods.
And of course, limit caffeine and try not to drink it past noon.
6. Journal Your Racing Thoughts
For many of us, racing thoughts and tomorrow’s to-do list keep our mind busy when we’re trying to fall asleep.
If this is you, keep a journal beside your bed. Jot down any thoughts and things to remember so that you can get them out of your head and onto paper.
7. Count What You Are Grateful For, Not Sheep
Skip the sheep, and count things you're grateful for!
Practicing gratitude is a great way to remind yourself of all that you have to be thankful for, and it works well to help ease you into sleep land too.
Take some deep breaths through the nose, and start to list off what you're grateful for, no matter how small.
This helps to calm the mind, slow down your breathing, and relieve anxiety.
8. Dim the Lights Before Bed
As humans, we operate on a diurnal (meaning “daytime”) clock, where our brains and bodies naturally get tired with darkness.
Light signals are very powerful for our sleep, so it’s important to get adequate sunlight during the day. It’s also a good idea to dim lights and avoid screens a couple of hours before bed.
9. Create A Calming Bedtime Routine
A routine tells your body what it needs to do. Creating a bedtime routine can be a great way to prepare yourself for sleep each night so that when your head hits your pillow you’re ready to doze off!
Start by turning off the TV before bed and following a calming routine.
Take a hot bath or shower, drink a cup of decaf tea, listen to calm music, meditate, practice breathing exercises and/or read a book. Any combination of relaxing activities is helpful!
Bonus Tip: A room temperature of 68-70°F is best for sleep!
10. Try Your Best To Not Stress Over Sleep
Do your best to avoid stress surrounding sleep. The less anxiety over it, the better! If that means you need to stop monitoring your sleep with your Apple Watch or Fitbit, do that.
How do you feel in the morning? How quickly did you fall asleep? Did you wake during the night and fall back to sleep quickly? These things can tell you about your sleep quality more so than a device.
11. Consider Taking a Supplement
Finally, consider adding a sleep-promoting supplement to your diet. Something like Majka’s Digest & De-Stress can do wonders for helping you wind down and feel relaxed before bed.
Digest & De-Stress promotes better sleep, fights fatigue and stress, supports mood and brain function, relieves constipation and bloating, and can even help morning sickness for pregnant mamas!
The blend contains 3 bioavailable magnesium and digestive enzymes, key ingredients for helping you find calm while also aiding in digestion. Most women and mamas are deficient in magnesium, so it’s a great way to boost your levels while also helping your body find some zen.
Why Healthy Sleep is Important
Healthy sleep is more than a luxury — it’s a necessity. Your body functions and overall wellness depend on it.
Some people only need 6-7 hours each night, whereas other people feel their best after 10. It completely depends on the person, and it’s your responsibility to figure out what is best for your body.
We all know that sleep recharges your body and gives you energy to move through the next day, but it’s also the time when your body heals, hormones are regulated, muscles are restored, energy is replenished, and your brain puts your “files” back in order so to speak.
It’s also when your body fights sickness and infection! Have you ever wondered why you sleep more when you’re under the weather? That’s why.
All of these things are facets of restoration that are crucial to functioning during the day and being alert, able to make quick decisions, exercise, focus, be creative, and so much more.
Consequences of Sleep Deprivation
Sleep deprivation applies to not only those who get very little sleep each night, but also to those who consistently cut their sleep an hour or two short. And the consequences can be quite serious.
The most noticeable consequence of sleep deprivation is feeling fatigued and struggling to get through the day. But, things go much deeper than that on physical, psychological, and emotional levels.
Regular sleep deprivation has a domino effect. It weakens your immune system and subjects you to an increased risk of getting sick.
It causes brain fog and lower reaction times, lessening your decision making skills. It makes you tired and weaker, causing your workouts to be less effective and disrupting your overall state of wellness.
It can lead to obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease, not to mention put you at a greater risk for cancer and neurological conditions.
A lack of sleep does more than just leave you feeling tired. It makes you weaker, foggier, and less healthy, and causes mood imbalances, stress, and impulsive behavior.
Mama, as you ease into a new way of sleeping with these tips, know that consistency and patience are key. Give your habits time to make a difference, and know that you will achieve great sleep before you know it!
Meet Dr. Kristina
Dr. Kristina is the Medical Director of the TMJ and Sleep Therapy Centre of Cleveland.
As someone who used to pride herself on only “needing” 4-6 hours each night, she knows exactly how it feels to barely get through each day by guzzling caffeine and feeling like a zombie.
Dr. Kristina has worked with moms all around the country to implement easy changes that turn their sleep schedules around.If you want to dive even deeper into proper sleep, schedule a virtual consultation with Dr. Kristina.