Sleep can have a magical quality; when we are getting enough sleep it can make everything in life seem smoother and more accessible, and conversely when we don’t get enough it can make everything so much more challenging and overwhelming. Maintaining effective sleep can be so incredibly important. Sleep can also be hugely impacted by various manifestations of mood dysregulation, symptoms of anxiety, as well as parenthood. Protecting your sleep can become something that can feel like an insurmountable chore. Luckily, there are some tips and tricks that might help along the way.
Check in with yourself about your relationship to screens. Most of us find ourselves attached at the hip to our phones, iPads, computers, etc. Unfortunately, this relationship can have a deleterious effect on our relationship with sleep. To most effectively increase your ability to access sleep when needed, attempt to limit your engagement with screens for at least one hour before bedtime. Research has shown that blue light emitted from devices such as phones, televisions, and computers throws our biological clock out of whack, significantly impacting sleep and leading to long-term health problems. If that feels too much at the moment, at the very least, make sure your screens are turned to “nighttime mode” to limit the amount of blue light emitting from the screen.
Create a reliable bedtime routine for yourself. Ask yourself – does your body know when it’s time to fall asleep? Do you have a series of tasks that you reliably do every night before bed that your body can use to help guide you into a state of relaxation and sleep? If not, now is time to create one. Think of things that help relax and calm your brain and your body. This could look like some light yoga/stretching; a hot bath or shower; a calming mindfulness exercise; or a personal nocturnal skincare routine that boosts self compassion and body positivity. Whatever it is, keep it simple, accessible, and flexible. Choose a routine, and stick to it. Give your brain and your body time to adjust and adapt to this new routine. Give it time to work. Trust the process. Bedtime routines will pay off in time.
Assess how anxiety might be impacting your sleep. Do you find yourself having a difficult time accessing sleep due to finding yourself being stuck in overthinking things or ruminating about events? Anxiety and overthinking can be a common roadblock to sleep. There are many ways to address how anxiety can be impacting sleep. Some techniques that may be helpful are engaging in a progressive muscle relaxation exercise (see this post); creating a grounding mantra for yourself to anchor onto during nighttime worries (for example, telling yourself “I can do this. I can get through this.”); creating a different bodily state via taking a hot shower/bath or splashing your face with some cold water; or journaling.
Set the mood. Your bedroom environment can have a larger impact than you might think on overall quality and quantity of sleep. Ask yourself – is your bedroom a room that cultivates feelings of relaxation and calm or does the space feel chaotic and distressing? Attempt, as best as possible, to assess and create a feeling of relaxation and calm within yourself. Additionally, keeping your bedroom temperature cool, keeping the lighting as dark as possible, and keeping your room as quiet as possible (think white noise machines, ear plugs – whatever helps keep the noises at bay!) can all be incredibly helpful in cultivating an environment that supports healthy sleep.
Balancing sleep with parenthood. Sleep and parenthood (especially new parenthood) can be an incredibly difficult dialectic to hold. If you’re finding sleep being even more challenging during the throes of parenthood, ask yourself what are the main roadblocks getting in the way of restful sleep. When in a wise minded state, ask yourself, are there people in my life that I can ask for support, so that I can get more sleep? You may consider asking a partner, parent, doula, family member, friend, or neighbor for support. Is there anyone that can watch your little one while you get some much needed sleep? Similarly, ask yourself, are there other components of parenthood that could be interfering with sleep? Can that baby monitor’s volume be turned down just a smidge to allow for increased accessibility of sleep? Can you experiment with taking shifts with someone else where you know you have a protected block of sleep where it isn’t your responsibility to wake up and tend to the children? Protecting sleep in parenthood can require creative problem solving. While it may be challenging, these subtle shifts can have a hugely positive impact on overall sleep quality.
Giving these ideas a try are no substitute for an individualized treatment plan that you can create in consort with a psychotherapist or medical provider. If you find that sleep consistently lies just outside of your grasp, you do not have to face this alone. Reach out for support. Our intake department is ready and able to get you set up with someone who can help today!