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.
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.
1. Cut back on Caffeine
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.
2. Minimize sugar
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.
Eat something Green
Ensure that you have a green veggie with every meal. Yes, every meal. Add spinach to your eggs in the morning, and add broccoli to your dinner at night. Adding greens to your body helps keep your body alkaline and your adrenals in balance, resulting in reduced stress and better sleep!
4. Add more protein
Good news! If you add more protein to your diet, you’ll crave less sugar. (It’s science). Continue your prenatal vitamins but try adding a protein powder that also has minerals to help support your body.
5. Take magnesium
Magnesium is a common supplement that is recommended for sleep. It helps calm the nervous system and can help you fall asleep faster.
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.
6. Use Blue Light Blocking Tech
Our cellphones these days are one of the biggest contributors to lack of sleep. 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.
If you’re not able to sleep, you’ll still benefit and release stress from meditation. Don’t know how to meditate? Don’t worry! The simple act of sitting or lying down and closing your eyes starts the release of stress in your body. Try working repeating a mantra in your head such as “I am”, to move your thoughts to a point of simple focus. Or, simply start counting your breaths, and watch how your body and mind begins to relax.
You may be dead tired right now, but trust me — it is possible to improve the quality of the sleep you get! 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, and until then, hopefully you will benefit from some of my tips listed above.