How Tired Parents Can Improve Their Sleep After Sleep Training
“Okay, so my baby is sleeping now, woohoo! But wait, now *I* still can’t sleep, what’s that about??” This is an issue I’ve heard from several families recently after they’ve graduated from our sleep training program. These tired parents want to improve their sleep after sleep training. Let’s talk about it:
Getting a baby on a good sleep schedule is the best feeling in the world. However, when families have struggled with their child/ren’s sleep issues for a long time, some parents find that their sleep pattern is disturbed after sleep training. They can end up with very stressed-out nervous and adrenal systems, feeling on edge, and simply not like themselves. One mom described it as feeling like her body had forgotten how to fall and stay asleep too. She constantly woke in the night, anxious that she heard the baby wake.
The consequences of sleep deprivation (for parents and all humans) extend far beyond feeling groggy. They seep into every aspect of our lives, impacting physical, mental, and emotional health. Chronic sleep deprivation disrupts crucial bodily functions and significantly impairs cognitive abilities.
Let’s explore the tool of sleep deprivation and how parents can improve sleep after sleep training.
The Toll of Sleep Deprivation
- Cognitive Impairment: Lack of sleep hampers cognitive functions such as attention, concentration, and decision-making. It affects memory consolidation, hindering the brain’s ability to retain and process information efficiently.
- Physical Health Complications: Sleep deprivation takes a toll on physical health, leading to an increased risk of heart disease, obesity, diabetes, hormone dysregulation and weakened immunity.
- Emotional Instability: Sleep deprivation can significantly impact mood, causing irritability, mood swings, and heightened emotional reactivity. Long-term sleep issues may contribute to the development of anxiety disorders and depression.
Yikes. Now that your little one is sleeping, we’ve got to get you sleeping NOW! These tips should help…
Helping Parents Improve Their Sleep After Sleep Training
So let’s talk about some strategies for you to improve your rest after chronic sleep deprivation:
Consistent Sleep Schedule
Establish a regular sleep routine by going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, even on weekends. (this is good to model for your little one too, to keep their sleep on track). This helps regulate the body’s internal clock, promoting better sleep quality.
Create Your Own Bedtime Routine
If you are falling asleep on the couch, waking up later and climbing into bed, your sleep quality is going to be poor and you’ll likely have a difficult time settling back to sleep.
So instead, once you’ve established your regular sleep schedule, begin a bedtime routine 30 minutes before you want to settle into sleep. Think of things like showering or washing your face; a skincare routine (your post new-Mom self will thank you!), brushing your teeth and flossing, reading and a sleep meditation. The consistent set of activities that prepare and cue your little one’s body for sleep will work the same magic on you! You can learn more about designing a bedtime routine for yourself and your child here.
Create a Relaxing Sleep Environment
At Bella Luna when we coach parents about their children’s sleep, we focus a whole lot on the baby’s environment. But just like your little human loves a dark, quiet, cool sleep environment, your grown-up body depends on that just as much.
My husband and I ended up buying the same industrial-strength black-out curtains our daughter has from our room. They’re now a beloved part of our family (that I travel with like two big emotional security blankets).
Make it a weekend activity to *sleepify* your bedroom (aka a mandatory trip to Target!). Things to consider:
- Make the room as dark as humanly possible
- Ensure the room is cool (68-72F)
- Add your own sound machine
- Essential oil defusers can be lovely for an adult’s bedroom, with scents like lavender or chamomile.
- Weighted blankets are also great for adults, to cocoon and settle stressors.
Other things to consider as you make your bedroom a haven for sleep:
- Is your mattress still comfortable or do you wake up sore every morning? When was the last time you replaced your mattress?
- Are your sheets soft and made from breathable material?
May be time for some upgrades if you didn’t answer yes to the two questions above!
Limit Screen Time
I know, I know, you’ve heard it before but this time we really mean it…
It’s super important to reduce exposure to screens, particularly before bedtime. The blue light emitted by devices can suppress the production of melatonin, a hormone crucial for sleep regulation. Ideally, we want at least 30-60 minutes before you want to fall asleep without screentime so your body can produce the hormones necessary for you to fall asleep.
Switch screentime out with a book, adult coloring pages, or a good old-fashioned magazine your teenage self would’ve loved to browse on the beach.
If you have to work late, ensure you have blue light-blocking glasses. Another tip to help is to ensure that you have the Night Mode turned on your phone, which will make the screen warmer-toned in attempt to have less effect on melatonin production.
But seriously, just put it down!
Practice Relaxation Techniques
Try out some relaxation methods like meditation, deep breathing exercises, or gentle yoga before bedtime to calm the mind and prepare the body for sleep. YouTube turns out to be a haven for guided relaxation and sleep meditations (including one read by Harry Styles. YES I’M SERIOUS!).
Healthy Sleep Habits
Avoid caffeine and heavy meals close to bedtime. Instead, opt for a low glycemic index snack. Also, tea. The Irish are onto something here guys– tea can be a pretty magical balm at the end of each day. Think Chamomile, Sleepytime, decaf vanilla.
Split Your Time
If you live with a partner or support person, designate shifts for the night (for example, if you handle any child waking/nighttime need from 7 pm-12 am, your partner takes the 12 am-7 am shift). This can be settling for your subconscious nervous system to know that it’s not on duty at all times. Consider a sleep mask and/or ear plugs (and a giant ‘do not disturb’ sign) during your off-duty times.
Write it Out
For a lot of people, racing thoughts can greatly impair attempts to fall asleep and stay asleep (and these thoughts may even be subconscious). Before bedtime, journal or try what my high school English teacher called a ‘Ten Minute Spill,’ where you simply grab a piece of paper and pencil and write out anything (no matter how nonsensical) that pops into your head, letting the words flow for a full five or ten minutes.
Seek Professional Help if Needed
If sleep issues persist (in particular chronic insomnia and nighttime anxiety) despite attempts to improve sleep hygiene, do not hesitate to reach out to a doctor or therapist.
Sleep is not a luxury (even for parents!), but a fundamental pillar of our overall health and well-being. Addressing sleep deprivation requires dedication and consistency, by adopting healthy sleep practices. This is especially important for parents (whose worlds are rocked enough as it is) to reclaim restorative sleep, and revitalize their physical, mental, emotional health, and ability to parent positively.
If you want to learn more about adult sleep, please join our Adult Sleep newsletter and we’ll send you insight specifically into this topic!
P.S. Want to stay connected?
Sign up to receive our monthly "Scoop" email newsletter!