7 PM Seems Like a Reasonable Bed Time and Other Ways to Deal.
'The other night, I was lying in bed listening to the fan whirl. It was 3 am, and my mind was ticking through its to-do list. Tomorrow was gonna be a long day and I’d already burned through my usual three hours of sleep—those three ugly, drooling hours of dead person sleep which were all I was getting lately.
Somewhere on the list was a well over-due blog post. I was tired of being tired, and as I lie there, I realized I couldn’t think of a single mom who wasn’t. In the midst of my frustration, I realized someone needs to talk more about “Momsomnia.”
Momsomnia is a real thing. Google will tell you it applies only to moms in those first hazy post-baby months. (Because new parenting isn’t hard enough, and a condition where you’re inexplicably unable to sleep even after the baby does is a gift from nature that keeps on giving.) For me, it started as a side effect of my first pregnancy and three kids later, it has only morphed.
It’s this second phase of sleeplessness you don't hear about. A few years into parenting, many moms find their internal clocks linked to the chaos of running a family. Our kids might be sleeping through the night, but we aren’t.
For mid-moms, there’s a thousand new reasons our minds run a muck. Instead of SIDS fears, we've got hormonal teenagers and aging parents. There's bullying and social media (and 12 trips to the bathroom every night.) Still whatever the reason, I’ve been doing some research and a lot of trial and error and have come up with a few things that help. The first is:
Stock Your Nightstand.
If there's one things moms know, it's preparation. Before you lie down, make sure you have all these items at your bedside. You should have a pen and paper, a pair of earphones (trust me) and a bottle of melatonin.
There are a variety of different melatonin supplements available at the drug store and any will do. I am personally in love with the purple gummy ones. The supplement thing may very well be placebo effect, but who cares? These babies are all natural, about $10 bucks, and a great option to add to your sleep arsenal. There’s also been some promising research about Turmeric which comes in capsule form too. (I haven’t tried it, but worth a shot.)
Now as you climb into bed, look around you. Is the room dark enough? How many of those little green electrical lights are staring at you?
I will skip the lecture on wine and coffee. Nobody understands the need for a vice more than a mom, but if that’s a sword your willing to fall on, go for it. A lot of experts also recommend ceasing phone and TV for a least 20 minutes before bed.
Once you’re finally there, it’s time to get down to business.
Let Your Mind Roll Around in It.
When my kids were babies, “sleep training” was a big thing. Now, it's our own brains that need the re-training. When you're awake at midnight because your mind won’t shut up, I say surrender to it.
For five minutes, give yourself permission to run wild. Ruminate in the misery of your "awake-ness". Tick off every to-do list and irrational fears with abandon. After exactly five minutes, stop.
Now, roll over and write whatever bubbled up on the notepad beside you. It shouldn’t be legible. In fact, try not to turn on the light. Whatever surfaced, put pen to paper and release it. Now pop a melatonin (follow the directions) and:
Start Meditating in Some Form.
Call it counting sheep, repetition, whatever—it’s time to get your lady brain to stop. I start by focusing on my breathing then try to find a single word or phrase. If you’re religious, repeating a short prayer can bring a sense of calm.
After a while, if you find this isn’t cutting it, grab the headphones and try a guided sleep meditation. Guided meditations are recorded guided experiences spoken over soothing music. Some people like to do them before bed and there are great ones all over YouTube. Download them ahead of time and put them somewhere easy to find on the homepage of your phone. (The last thing you want to be doing is clicking around in the dark.) Now roll over, find your favorite position and hit play.
There are other kooky ideas out there too. Once “stare at your eyelids and forget your tongue.” worked like a champ for me.
Still, sometimes nothing does the trick. At my worst, lying in the dark, I always go back to one thing. It is something I have talked about before, but bears repeating.
It is that the brain lies. It lies a lot.
In every woman, there is a little voice. A little place inside that whispers that you are too weak, dumb, fat...you fill in the blank. At night, it tells you that you’re done sleeping.
Once I read an article about why moms are so tired. It talked about the innate state of "hyper vigilance" that new parenting requires. Left over from the cave man years, this mode of heightened awareness (think fight-or-flight) takes a physical toll on the body. While this makes sense when you're chasing a toddler, middle moms need to let it go. At some point, we have to start trusting our kids, ourselves, the universe. Quite frankly, mid-moms: Don’t believe the hype.
Because it’s safe to say that mom life isn't getting any easier. We have to trust our instincts and put as much effort into self-care as we do running our families. A good night's sleep means believing in yourself and letting go because you did the best you could.
You deserve to feel well rested. Especially because 7 pm is really an hour best spent watching Netflix...just try not to do it in bed.
Is there a sleep trick you’ve used that works for you? Comment and share!