Get More Sleep…Starting Tonight!

Woman sleeping on white chair with book

You need at least eight hours of uninterrupted shut-eye a night. Sleeping on the chair before bedtime doesn't count!

It was Saturday morning. My toddler son was finally down for a late-morning nap —after fussing, fussing for the better part of an hour­. My eyes had been glazing over as I was trying to soothe him and get him to sleep (he had been up at least three times last night—leaving me with little restful sleep).

My older kids were at a birthday party and a play-date. Finally, I could get into my bed and get caught up on some sleep. After all, every advice column and book says: “Sleep when baby sleeps” as a seemingly simple answer to the sleep deprivation that all moms experience at one time or another.

If only it were that easy.

I snuggled down under my comforter, grabbed by favorite squishy pillow, put on my eye mask, and shut my eyes. Then I tossed and turned for at least half an hour, trying to get comfortable and then praying for sleep to come. “Please God, just let me sleep for half an hour.” But sleep didn’t come. (It’s not easy to sleep when you’re waiting for the inevitable cry to come through a monitor positioned near your bed). And then…guess what? Yep, you’re right: my baby was up again.

But sleep is critical, not just for proper brain functioning (I’ve already lost a credit card, my baby’s birth certificate, and numerous other important things—not to mention forgotten some key appointments…all since he was born) but also for losing weight and staying healthy. So I’ve put together some strategies for getting some much-needed shut-eye:

1) Ask your guy for help. Sometimes I feel guilty waking up my guy and asking him to help with a nighttime or early morning feeding. Not sure where the guilt is coming from (!!), but it’s so important to let people know when you’re in need of a break. It’s okay and doesn’t make you less of a mom (or person!). Now I try to hand off my son to my husband when he wakes around 6 a.m. My son sits with my guy as he drinks his coffee and reads the paper…and I try to get another hour of sleep before the day starts up yet again.

2) Hire a babysitter. I can’t say enough about this. Even if you hire your next-door neighbor or your neighbor’s daughter just to watch your baby while you get a nap, do it. It’s money well spent. One person recently said to me, “I’ve never known anyone to need as much help as you.” My response to that comment is that I’m willing to sacrifice clothes, vacations, and just stuff in general to have someone help me do the things that are necessary for me to be my best. And with three kids, I need all the help I can possibly get!

Guy snoring next to woman trying to sleep

Do yourself (and your health) a favor and move him to the guest room tonight!

3) Give yourself permission to relax. As a mom, it’s hard to be able to justify time for yourself (a bath, reading a good book, watching a movie, or just surfing the Internet) when there’s so much to be done: laundry, washing dishes, lunches to be made, dinner to prepare, etc. But the point is, if you can’t sleep, brew a pot of tea and just sit for half an hour or 45 minutes. Sometimes, I get a 20-minute rest with my eyes closed in the rocking chair while I’m rocking my baby to sleep. Finding a way to allow your body to slow down can help you deal with the mind-numbing fatigue.

4) Banish your guy to the guest room. I love my man, but when I have very limited sleep time, the last thing I need is him waking me with his loud snoring—or his early morning alarm clock. It’s not forever…and doesn’t have to be every night. But give yourself a break and a better night’s sleep by making this the new rule. Then one day, make him do kid duty. Then you head to the guest room.

5) Curb after-dinner snacking. When you eat too close to bedtime, your body expends energy trying to digest the food when it should be resting—making it tough to get to sleep. Plus, I’ve found … even when you do get to sleep after eating pre-bedtime snacks (particularly sugary ones), the sleep you get is more restless. A better bet: have a light snack after dinner so it curbs your hunger but lets you get some shut-eye. Good options include an apple with peanut butter, a small bowl of cereal with milk, a yogurt, or a banana.

6) Shut off your Smartphone. Study after study shows that the flickering lights of electronic devices—when used within an hour of bedtime—can interfere with restful nighttime sleep. Invest in an alarm clock instead of using your Smartphone (and leave your cell out of your bedroom altogether). And banish the TV and laptop from your bedroom. It may seem relaxing to fall asleep watching Crazy, Stupid Love (one of my favorite movies!) but it’s anything but!

7) Kick Fido out of the bed. Sorry, dog and cat lovers, but sleeping with your pet is akin to sleeping with a guy who’s snoring—or a baby who’s waking you up every hour. Pets are proven sleep distractors, say researchers, and the sooner you get them off your bed and on to a bed on the floor, the more rested you’ll be feeling come morning.

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Valerie LatonaAbout Valerie Latona
As the former editor in chief of Shape (the active lifestyle magazine) for 5 years, I personally spoke with a lot of women (thousands over the years, from around the nation) and what I found is this: it's not easy to stay healthy, to get (and stay) fit, and to stem the weight gain tide (and even the tide of disease) that inevitably happens to us as we get older.