Ask The Expert - How to feel more rested (even if your little ones aren’t sleeping!)
When you are in the throes of motherhood, there often isn’t much time to think about yourself. And for all the self care advice out there, I find the best ways to look after yourself are with really small habits and rituals that you can implement into your everyday life, even when your day doesn’t quite go to plan!
As a sleep coach, I can safely say, focusing on getting good quality sleep is paramount to how happy, relaxed and good we feel day to day. It affects how calmly we can respond to our children's needs, our marriages and relationships, our self esteem, diet and so much more.
When you are in the thick of sleep deprivation, it can feel like you might never sleep again. But, I am here to tell you that there are ways to thrive even when you have night feeds, naps, and little ones to take care of.
Find the route cause of your sleep issues
Are you struggling to sleep because your little one doesn’t sleep very well or because your little one sleeps well but you have been left with the sleep deprivation hangover? Either way, there are solutions. Taking time to understand where you are starting from is key. If it's your little one's sleep you need to address, there are many ways to do this and I will pop a link at the bottom of the page for you. If they are sleeping well but you struggle to switch off or get back to sleep after a loo break, I have some tools below to help too.
What you eat counts
It's a vicious cycle. The less sleep you get, the more sugar and refined carbohydrates your body wants. The more you eat, the more dis-regulated your blood sugar levels get. Not only do you find yourself having sugar spikes just before bedtime but processed refined sugars make you feel low, moody, irritable and can give you a wealth of other issues like bloating, which means your body is having to work much harder overnight too process what you have eaten when it has other important jobs to do when you sleep like flushing out toxins from the brain, fighting off illness and storing memories.
Try and give your body a 12 hour break from food every night. This will give your body a chance to restore and reset when you are sleeping. Herbal teas like Night Owl, which contain a carefully balanced blend of calming herbs to soothe and support sleep, are great for cozying up in the evenings! And I actually find myself reaching for my Get Up & Glow tea on the days when I am looking for a sweet, caffeine free hit. They work wonders, and I feel so much better for it!
Rethink when you get your caffeine fix
I know so many of us love and rely on caffeine to get us up and running and coping throughout the day. None more so than the sleep deprived parent (I can vouch for that). However, too much caffeine too late in the day will delay your bedtime and cause poor sleep to occur because it blocks your brain from sending sleepy signals to the rest of the body. If you are trying to get a better quality of sleep and you don’t want to ditch caffeine completely, aim to stop drinking it by midday. Better yet, opt for HotTea Mamas Head Start herbal tea, it's got a higher dose of caffeine in it than black tea, but contains a compound called L-theanine that gives you a more gentle caffeine boost. So you can get a longer slow release boost, without heart palpitations, or negative effects that you might get from coffee!
Falling back to sleep
If your struggles start when you get back into bed after a night feed or a loo break and your brain starts to go into overdrive, then you are not alone. Mental overload in motherhood is being talked about more and more these days which is wonderful because it makes us all feel less alone in our 3am worrying but having the tools to manage this is important. As someone who suffers from burnout, I can safely say that meditation, yoga and journaling have helped me to stay calm, less anxious and to manage big feelings and changes that come up in daily life. You don’t have to do them every day but you need to be able to recognise when you should tap into these tools. I would also recommend in those quiet early mornings when you can’t get back to sleep that you get up and have herbal tea or warm milk. Writing out your to-do list or worries can also really help reset your body and mind. Try not to lay there waiting to fall asleep, it will often have the opposite effect.
Moving and the great outdoors
Getting outdoors early in the day is brilliant for regulating your body clock, your daily dose of Vitamin D and if you are pushing the buggy, it will be a good workout for you as well. Fresh air and movement are great for sleep. Yoga or 10 minute workouts are also wonderful for nap times and the endorphins will give you a natural high (especially good if you are limiting your caffeine intake).
Focus on quality over quantity
When we sleep, we do so in stages. We go from deep sleep to light sleep and back again, throughout the night. All stages are important for our health and wellbeing and general functioning. And I imagine, this all sounds scary if you aren’t getting too much sleep at the moment and it is out of your control. Focusing on quality sleep starts by making decisions earlier in the day that will benefit your overall sleep quality.
My top tips for better sleep
- Eat fresh, unprocessed foods and drink lots of water
- Drink your caffeine before midday
- Meditate and move to get your mind and body ready for sleep
- Get up and journal if you can’t get back to sleep
- Focus on your sleep quality over the quantity
Sleep hygiene - do we need it?
There is a lot of talk about sleep hygiene out there and ultimately, yes we do want to sleep in a dark room, avoid too much blue light and make our sleep space calm and relaxing. However, these on their own will not help you sleep. Good quality sleep is about how you move, what you eat, how you feel and generally how relaxed you are as you gear up for bed. To get yourself in the best place for a relaxing sleep, it starts with the food and drink you consume from the moment you wake up, mixed in with the way you have been taking care of your physical and emotional needs.
There is no one size fits all with sleep and what works for one person might not work for another. Getting to know yourself will be a really important part of the process. I personally need to fall asleep with noise in the background, it works well for me, but you may need silence. I like a bath in the evenings, you may find this makes you too hot to sleep. The best thing to do is to explore what suits you. Not forgetting to take some time each day for yourself!
Cara is an award winning infant sleep coach based in Hampshire and founder of The Sleep Method - Working virtually with families in the UK and beyond.
Her focus is on improving the happiness and wellbeing of children and adults by improving sleep gently and with tailored, bespoke support and sleep biology.
Emotional connection and age appropriate support is vital to Cara's work as a sleep coach. She is much sought after thanks to her friendly and open minded approach to sleep coaching.
Through private coaching, podcasts, group workshops and her social media following, Cara has helped 100s of families to find their confidence and improve the sleep of their little ones.
For Cara’s infant sleep packages, please visit her website