TOOL 8: Sleep
How do I get a good night’s sleep?
Motherhood does certainly add challenges for our sleep.
Our sleep schedule is, at least temporarily, in very small hands. If this is your first baby, follow the old rule of sleeping while the baby is sleeping. This may mean loosening your standards on such things as housework to make sleep the highest priority. When you have older children, it may be harder to find extra sleep times, but take advantage of opportunities when they come up. Sometimes you can get someone to watch the children, just so you can have a rest.
Some ideas that can help you get a better sleep:
- Don’t spend a lot of time in bed not sleeping. Try to get up before you are feeling very antsy about not sleeping (approximately 20–30 minutes, not watching the clock).
- Use your bed for sleep or sex, but try to avoid other activities such as watching TV.
- If you have a partner or close relative, ask him or her to take a shift and be “on call” for a part of the night. Or you can alternate nights so you have a chance to catch up a bit.
- Sleep in a separate room from your baby for a night (or part of a night) while your partner or close relative is “on call.” If you find it hard not to listen for your baby (even when someone else is monitoring), try using earplugs or a white noise machine.
- If you are breastfeeding, ask someone else to bring you the baby for a feed.
- If you are bottle feeding, ask someone else to do one of the feeds.
- Dim the lights at least 30 minutes before you want to sleep. Late-night exposure to the light emitted from TV and computer screens can also interfere with sleep.
- Deflate the worry about not sleeping. Remind yourself that human beings can function with disrupted sleep. We are biologically built to cope with the impact of a baby on our sleep. For ideas on challenging your worries, see Tools for Healthy and Flexible Thinking.
- Develop some coping statements. Instead of worrying about how terrible it is that you aren’t sleeping, try saying things to yourself like, “I will be tired tomorrow but I won’t completely fall apart” or “It’s not fun but I can still function on a little sleep” or “I’ll get through it.”
- Practice a relaxation technique.
- Avoid caffeine.
For more ideas, see Getting a Good Night’s Sleep (PDF).