If you have small children, you’ll know that getting a good night’s sleep is incredibly important and also ridiculously elusive. It doesn’t matter how tired they are, it almost seems inevitable that you’re going to get asked for a glass of water or followed into bed at 2am in the morning. We’re just moving into the realm of toddlers and graduating out of the baby phase, so at the moment I’d consider myself an expert on existing on very little sleep. Because I never know when I’m going to get woken up and with a son who thinks that 2am is time to start throwing the toys around, 4am is for climbing out of the cot and 6am is all the lie-in he needs, I’ve learned to maximise the time I have and value a good quality night’s sleep.
Even if you don’t have kids, odds are you’ve experienced sleepless nights. These are my five tips for how you can get a good quality restful night and make the most of the uninterrupted hours you have, no matter how few those are.
5 Tips to Help You Sleep Better
Have a night time routine
It’s tempting to stay up late talking to friends, drinking a glass of wine, playing games, watching netflix, writing your blog or even catching up with the housework on the weekend (hopefully not too much of the last one!). It is after all, one of the few times we have that the kids are actually quiet and out of the way. But staying up late can affect your sleep cycle and make it harder to fall asleep or make you feel groggier in the morning, even if you had a lie-in and got the same amount of hours. Ever slept until 10am but felt worse for it? Scientists have figured out that the body actually releases melatonin differently if you go to bed at a different times, throwing off your circadian rhythm. If you are staying up later than usual, make sure you still drink loads of water as being dehydrated can lead to a restless sleep and a fuzzy head the next morning.
For the best quality sleep, try to go to bed at approximately the same time every night.
Make sure you have the right mattress and bed
Did you know that the National Sleep Foundation says that a mattress should be replaced every 5 – 10 years? If your sleep quality is degrading around the 5-7 year mark you should replace it! You may also want to consider replacing a mattress earlier than that as your body changes – if you have weight changes or are experiencing aches and pains, this could be because you now need a different firmness of mattress. The right mattress is absolutely critical to a good night’s sleep, but doesn’t have to break the bank with loads of new mattress deals on Groupon right now. Additionally, if you just want to adjust an existing mattress, you may find a mattress topper a very small cost for a significant increase in sleep quality. I bought a new mattress online a few years ago at a fraction of the cost of my local bed shop and love it, so I’ll definitely be doing the same when it needs replacing.
If you look at your mattress and see there is a slight sag where you sleep, you can also get a bonus from rotating or flipping your mattress. It’s usually recommended to do this every 3 to 12 months to even out the usage.
The bed frame is important too – not only is it stylish but different frames have different bases which can affect the mattress and how firm it is. Broken slats can cause sagging so it’s worth checking your bed and making sure everything is in good condition. You can get a wide range of beds from Bed Guru, including Divan bases, Wooden Beds, Metal Beds, Adjustable beds and more!
Relax before going to bed
Get rid of the screens. Put that paperwork down. Stop doing the ironing. You need to relax and unwind. If your mind is thinking about what’s on social media, the meeting you have at work tomorrow or how your friend is going to see your messy living room tomorrow, you’re never going to get to sleep. We all have thoughts and worries, but you need to be able to set them aside and get to sleep so that you can wake up as fresh as possible and actually tackle these problems head on. For me, a bath and then doing a jigsaw puzzle or reading a book relax me before going to bed. You’ll have your own hobbies and things that help you unwind. Prioritise them and do not take that laptop into the bedroom to finish a bit of work before going to sleep!
I use an aromatherapy diffuser and a lavender sleep spray that help me unwind right before sleep as well.
Check your pillows
Pillows can be just as important as a mattress yet how often do we really look at our pillows and buy new ones? Do you just grab the first ones you see in a supermarket or really think about the ones you need? The right pillow can really affect sleep quality as it can affect your neck, back and even the temperature of your body. Your standard polyester or synthetic pillow has a lifespan of 6 months to 2 years. When I found that out I had a good think and realized some of my pillows were 5 years and older. It’s worth investing in a good pillow and now I’ve found the ones that suit me best, I do get a better quality sleep and don’t wake up with an aching or sweaty neck.
Share the burden
If all else fails and someone has to get up at 2 o clock in the morning, talk to your partner about sharing the burden and make sure you’re both working together as a team, with no resentment on either side. If you have a close friend or family member who you can rope in to help out, don’t hesitate to ask them. I’m very lucky in that my husband is a really hands-on dad and helps out at night even if he has work the next morning, but I often hear from mums who say their partner can’t help because he has to go to work the next day and it’s their job to look after the baby at night. You have to be mentally alert and physically able to take care of your children the next day as well, so you really need to both share when necessary. When my son was very little and waking every few hours at night or sometimes not sleeping at all, I’d get my mum to come and watch him whilst I had a nap in the day!
Hopefully these five tips have helped you. Sometimes all it takes is us sitting down and really evaluating our sleep routine and habits. Some things are unavoidable – like the baby waking up, but there are other small changes that can really make a difference. If you have any tips for other parents who might be frantically scouring google for ways to get a better night’s sleep (and for me, 4 hours last night), please leave them in the comments!
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