“Get Some Sleep!” – Part 3: Help for Mama
I’ve already shared quite a bit of our sleep challenges with my Baby Boy Love in my previous posts:
So I’ll just get right to the good stuff…Here’s how mama got her sleep back:
1. Getting off coffee
I know, I know…this is not going to be a popular concept for most mamas out there.
Honestly, I did not get the allure of coffee (other than the smell – oohlala!) until I became a parent. Once I was a mama, I felt like I needed it to function… to survive the day. It was my “SuperMama Parenting Juice.”
I started by stealing little sips of my husbands coffee every morning once we got home from the hospital, then I went into a full blown frothy BulletProof mug just for me every morning.
But what I realized after 2+ years of the daily coffee habit is that not only was coffee draining my already depleted adrenals and messing with my body’s ability to balance my blood sugar…
On coffee, I was agitated, anxious, and sometimes, aggressive.
I did not like the person, or parent I became on coffee. And while the initial withdrawal was intense, I feel SO much more balanced without it.
The very same day we started sleep training, I attempted to go off coffee. My mom asked if I thought my drinking coffee had any impact on J’s sleep…I didn’t think so before, but looking back, I wonder if I was just in denial and being defensive of my “necessary” habit.
To be frank, it took me 7 tries (yes, seven!!!!!!!) to get off of coffee between January and May of this year. One rough night of sleep with my son and I was back on the juice.
I do still have one cup of yerba mate or a matcha green tea latte every morning, both of which contain some caffeine, but it burns cleaner in my body than coffee does.
2. Consistent Bedtime Routine aka Evening Ritual
While it is not a perfect science, I have a few certain rituals in place that help my body know that it’s time to wind down.
I love taking a hot shower to wash off the day and making a cup of Mother’s Milk & Ginger tea to sip before bed to help me re-up my supply for the next morning’s nursing session.
I also rub some lavender balm on the bottom of each foot. The relaxing aroma and soothing practice seems to help send me off to dreamland.
3. Set a bed time
When we first started the sleep training process, I actually went to bed at the same time as my son (8pm) for many, many nights. Because we shared a room, I didn’t want my entering and exiting to possibly wake him up. And because my well-being became my sole focus (aside from nurturing and caring for our son), there was nothing more important to me than stacking hours of sleep.
I don’t always hit it, but now I attempt to be upstairs and in bed by 10pm. 11pm is my absolute cut off, even on weekends, because I know that my son is reliably going to wake up by 6am, no matter what time I go to sleep. And when I am tempted to stay up, to watch a movie or connect with my husband I have to say “Putting myself to bed is a gift I choose to give to my tomorrow self.” It works, most of the time 😉
4. Turn off media
Exposure to light at night can impact the brain’s natural ability to produce melatonin. Blue light, which has the biggest negative impact on melatonin production, is most often consumed by us through our TVs, tablets and smart phones.
I do my best to turn off my phone before I begin my evening ritual, but sometimes I allow myself to get sucked back in. I sleep much better if I am off of media for 30-60 minutes before bed.
5. The darker the better
As stated above, exposure to light impacts sleep. I wear a sleep mask to help block light emitted from our thermostat and white noise machine. Also, it helps me not wake up when dawn breaks over the top of the mountain and pours into our floor to ceiling bedroom window. Black out curtains for the balcony doors will be the next big investment we make in our family’s sleep.
6. Sleepytime Supplements
There are plenty of non-habit forming sleep supplements on the market. But not all work the same for every body.
My current go-to sleep supplement cocktail is one capsule each of:
Magnesium Oxide & 5-HTP (an amino acid that supports serotonin production)
(Note: individual amino acids are not intended for pregnant and nursing mamas. I take the 5-HTP at my own risk, considering my son is still nursing. That said, we have given our son micro-doses of 5-HTP in the past when he has woken up from sleep apnea or due to vomiting and been unable to fall back to sleep for hours. We noticed this helped him in those instances to go from an almost manic state to peaceful enough to fall asleep. Because of our previous observations, I felt safe taking it, knowing he would likely get some of it through my milk).
Experience with other supplements:
I have tried melatonin, but noticed that if I was woken up in the middle of the very deep sleep it put me in, I would feel enraged and have an excruciating headache the next morning. This did not work for my body, nor for the way I want to feel towards my son when he wakes me up in the middle of the night. We also tried it with him, and while he would fall into a deep sleep, he would wake up more often with the melatonin. Currently we don’t give our son any supplements for sleep. He does take magnesium oxide (recommended by his Naturopathic Doc) in a smoothie every morning to help with chronic constipation.
My husband takes GABA, another amino acid that helps calm busy brain. It is helping him sleep better too!
One homeopathic remedy I have used in the past for anxiety related sleep disturbance is Calms Forte by Hylands. It is around $10 for 100 tablets. You can take 1 during the day to quell anxiety and take the edge off, or 3 at night for helping falling and staying asleep. I used this religiously when I was a teacher and it helped me tremendously.
DIsclaimer: Always ask your Doctor or healthcare practitioner first before starting supplements, Pregnant and nursing mamas, especially!
Wishing you deep, sweet slumber!