I’ll admit it: I LOVE to sleep. I honestly need at least 7-9 hours a night to function, and when I have a chance to wake up without an alarm clock, it’s usually closer to nine hours before I naturally rise and feel my best.
It feels shameful to admit that I need a lot of sleep because it’s become a badge of honor to get by on as little sleep as possible – all in the name of spending more waking hours packed with an endless amount of tasks on a never-ending to-do list.
With a newborn baby, of course, you can’t get much quality sleep. It’s just not possible between nighttime fussiness, feedings, and diaper changes. Your body adjusts to just surviving.
But eventually, kids grow up and you have an opportunity for a restful night of sleep again. Often, we don’t seem to let ourselves fall back into healthy sleep habits, because all parents are supposed to be exhausted all the time, right?
A couple of years ago, I read The Sleep Revolution by Arianna Huffington, which is a very detailed, researched look into why constant sleep deprivation is so detrimental and what you can do to get it. It’s a long read, but it justified my already natural need to get plenty of sleep in order to be my best.
Huffington discusses all of the dangers of skimping on rest – including a weakened immune system, reduced cognitive functioning, and an increased risk of depression and anxiety. I was glad to discover I’m not weak or lazy for wanting a lot of sleep, but actually just am craving what every human needs.
It was unsettling to discover how pervasive our cultural sleep deprivation epidemic is. According to a Gallup poll also cited in the book, 40 percent of all American adults sleep less than the recommended minimum seven hours per night.
So, what can we do about this? How do we reclaim a good night’s sleep?
Turn off the guilt around getting plenty of sleep.
This is probably the hardest step, but it’s important to really commit to getting as much sleep as you can. It’s difficult retrain the mindset that busy people must also be sleep-deprived. But after a few days of getting good sleep, you’ll feel more energized and refreshed, and thus, will actually be a lot more productive.
When you are rested, you can be much more efficient at your tasks because you can get things done quickly and properly with a clearer head. Once you see how much better you feel, and how much more productive your waking hours are, it’s hard to go back to sleep-deprivation mode.
Don’t spend your waking hours on nonessential tasks.
You are probably thinking, “getting as much sleep as possible sounds great, but how is it actually possible?” One of the ways to start is by being ruthless about how you spend your waking time.
We are all so busy, but are all of these tasks we are spending our time on essential? Can anything be delegated, outsourced, automated, or eliminated?
For example, can you set recurring shipments on Amazon of some household products or order your groceries for delivery? Do you have the funds for a cleaning service, lawn care service, or handyman? Do you really need to make a homemade dish for a potluck? This will look different for every family, but I’m sure there is something that everyone can cut out – even if it’s just the mindless social media scrolling or Netflix-watching that we all seem to do right before bedtime.
Everyone is some kind of busy, but a lot of the time, we are not actually being that productive. It sounds cliché, but find ways to work smarter, not harder – and then, use your extra time to sleep!
Spend some time creating a focused sleep routine.
Many of us aren’t getting a good night’s sleep because we haven’t figured out how to set up an optimal bedtime routine. Arianna has 12 secrets to getting your best sleep, which is a great place to start for some tips on what you can do to create a healthy sleep routine.
Once I started limiting my afternoon caffeine and sipping hot tea before bed, I started falling asleep much faster and much more deeply. I’ve also started reading before bed instead of watching TV, and that has made a big difference.
Try to get your kids in a good sleep routine so that you can sleep.
Sleep deprivation amongst parents with older children is still common because children are often out of the newborn phase, but still aren’t sleeping well. Whether they are waking up too early or still waking up multiple times throughout the night, their rocky sleep leads to your rocky sleep, and that is not good for anyone.
Creating a healthy sleep routine and habits for your children is as important as it is for you, if not more. It will take time to break old habits and set new routines, but the effort toward better sleep is always a good one – healthy sleep is integral for children’s development and growth.
For toddlers, we recommend the OK to Wake! Alarm Clock and Night-Light. It lights up at a specific time, letting them know that it’s OK to get out of bed and helps to create a positive expectation for sleep (which can be something so abstract for young children).
Try to fit in a nap when you can.
I know this sounds crazy, but a lot of people feel really refreshed after some mid-day shut-eye.
This obviously doesn’t work for a lot of people, but if you make your own hours and schedule and know this would benefit you, don’t feel guilty working in a short nap – it will likely make your afternoon much more productive.
How are you improving your sleep?