First off, congrats mama! You might be reading this at 12:00 am, or 2:00 am, or maybe again at 3:47 am…being a mom means you’re up around the clock. So how can you improve sleep when you’re not really sleeping?
Newborns are wired to sleep lightly. New babies are not meant to sleep deeply or through the night. This is both as natural protection against SIDS and to give their small stomachs time for nourishment around the clock. Babies sleep in chunks of time, which means you will too.
Aside from feeling terrible when you’re not getting enough sleep, there are real implications of lack of sleep on your health. The most common side effect of minimal sleep is hormone deregulation, which can lead to higher levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) and weight gain.
To feel good — physically, mentally, and emotionally — you must maximize the rest you get. From nutrition to your everyday environment, there are a few different strategies you can easily implement to maximize your zzz’s. Keep reading to learn all about them!
How to Improve Sleep
Diet influences every aspect of our bodies — and sleep is no exception. When you sleep, your body resets hormone cycles, clears debris from your cells, and much more. When you’re tired it can be easy to reach for caffeine and sugar...two things which will interfere with your sleep quality. It might feel like a catch 22, you need coffee to function because you’re not sleeping but you’re not sleeping as well because of the caffeine in your coffee drink.
Caffeine is overstimulating to your adrenal glands, which are responsible for producing a variety of hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol. Too much cortisol will make it hard to fall asleep at night (even when you're exhausted) and it can wake you up during the night (usually between 2 and 3 am). It’s not necessary to eliminate caffeine entirely, but it's recommended to stick to just one 12 to 16 oz coffee a day. You can also consider trying half decaf, half regular coffee when ordering espresso-based drinks (referred to as “half-caf” when ordering). Regardless of whether or not you feel caffeine affects you, it can still interfere with sleep.
Sugar is the second culprit of poor sleep. When we’re tired, our body craves a quick hit of energy. This leads to making poor food choices leaving you nutritionally depleted. I’m sure you don’t crave celery sticks when you’ve had a poor nights sleep, but making better choices nutritionally and including lots of dark leafy greens are important to get enough minerals. Ensure that you have a green veggie at every meal and this is where supplementing can be very helpful. Continue your prenatal vitamin and products such as the Majka Nourishing Lactation Protein Powder have minerals to support your body thrive and sleep well. As a bonus, eating enough protein will help curb those sugar cravings.
Simple nutrition tips to improve sleep:
- Caffeine interferes with sleep quality in part by overstimulating the adrenal glands, cap your caffeine consumptions to 12 to 16 oz per day, before noon.
- Try “half-caf” coffee or espresso-based drinks with half decaf and half regular coffee.
- Include a green veggie at every meal, like spinach, broccoli, asparagus, bok choy, or kale.
- For a protein boost that may provide better sleep and curb sugar cravings, try Majka Nourishing Lactation Protein.
Magnesium is a common supplement that is recommended for sleep. It helps calm the nervous system and when taken before bed can help you fall asleep faster. In fact, 50% of people in the USA are deficient in magnesium. Typically, taking magnesium is safe and easy.
Note: magnesium citrate will cause extra water to be absorbed by your intestines which means it can gently help your bowls be more regular. If that’s not desirable, choose magnesium bisglycinate instead.
There are other supplements and herbs that can help reduce stress (from being a mother, not sleeping, and being a functioning adult, too!). Not all supplements have been rigorously studied because of the limitations of doing so in pregnancy and breastfeeding women, but the following are accepted as safe: ashwagandha, holy basil, Asian ginseng, and Schisandra. You can find these in tincture, power, and capsule forms.
Sleep hygiene is the sleep rituals and environment you keep. It may seem silly, but you need a bedtime routine too! Having a cup of tea or taking a bath in the evening around the same time will start to signal your body it’s time to wind down, regardless of when you’re actually able to go to sleep.
Sleeping in a dark environment is important for melatonin regulation. If you can’t make your room pitch black (you shouldn’t be able to see your hand held out in front of your face), use a face mask. Keep in mind that it’s not just light in your eyes that matter for melatonin and hormone regulation, it’s any skin exposed to light.
While avoiding screens at night and during the night may be impossible...how else would you read this, after all? So, be sure to install or activate the blue light blocker on your phone or tablet.
Diffusing quality essential oils can be helpful as well. Lavender is the most common oil to help with sleep and relaxation. Chamomile, clary sage, and bergamot are all good for sleep too.
Simple lifestyle tips to improve sleep:
- Even if your baby doesn’t have a consistent routine, make one for yourself to help you relax in the evening.
- Keep your sleeping environment as dark as possible. If needed, use an eye mask.
- Use blue light blocking technology on all of your devices.
- Diffuse oils like lavender to promote relaxation and good sleep.
- Lie down whenever you have the chance, even if you don’t actually fall asleep.
The perception you have of how you sleep with a baby is just as important as the sleep you are getting. You know you’re not going to be sleeping through the night, you know you’re no longer in control of your sleep schedule and you’re going to have to be more forgiving of yourself on days where you are more tired. Having an open mind and following your baby’s lead are great tools to make the sleep deprivation a lot more bearable. And mama, remember to ask for help when you need it!
You may be dead tired right now, but it is possible to improve the quality of the sleep you get and even to say that sleeping with a newborn is going well. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself or your baby to get into a routine or to reach a certain number of consecutive hours. Those things will come in time, you’re doing a great job and with some of the ideas above you can improve your sleep even with a baby.