I love my little ones to the moon and back, but I know I’m not the only mama who looks forward to bedtime—for both them and I. As soon as they’re in their cribs (and hopefully fast asleep), I hurry about the house, trying to cross off everything I didn’t get to on that never-ending to-do list, shovel dinner in my mouth, and then hopefully climb into bed myself. I’ve been yearning for blissful sleep all day and now it’s finally my time.
Or so I thought.
As I lay there, hour after hour, begging my mind to calm down and let the sleep fairies arrive, I slowly lose hope at a well-rested night, let alone all dreams of a refreshed morning. From thinking about everything I didn’t cross off on that list to what to serve the kiddos for dinner (and what they may actually eat) to worries about wars, viruses, and when will my baby walk, it’s a recipe for hours of angst.
As a mom with two toddlers, it’s become abundantly clear though that sleep is no longer something I can just get by with, it’s not something I can deal with later. In order to be my best self and thus, the best mama to my boys, the best wife to my husband, the best employee, the best friend, and more, I need solid shut-eye. And while it’s not always an option (hello, sleep regressions, colds, and 2 a.m. calls for “mommy”), striving for the best sleep I can during this season of life has become a top priority.
So, what exactly do I do to deal with the never-ending action in my mind all night? I’m on a mission to calm down and actually sleep, and I’m starting with these tips and tricks.
Have a nighttime routine
Every parenting and sleep book out there hails the benefits of a nighttime routine for our children, so why not us adults too? Just as we train our little ones to prepare for sleep, we too can train our bodies to get in the right mood for slumber. We need to do whatever is necessary to calm down and take a deep breath after a long day.
For me, that begins with making sure our home is tidied up and ready for a fresh start the following day. We’re not “leave dishes in the sink overnight” people. I need the kitchen counters cleaned, the floors swept, toys put away. I truly believe this helps me sleep better, and it makes the morning less daunting. I start my nighttime routine in this way, setting me up for an evening of success.
Maybe you need to change into your PJs on the early side or light a candle to help you transition from mama mode to relaxed wonder woman. Switch that Pandora station from Frozen to John Mayer and do it up. Identify actions that send a signal to your mind and body, alerting them it’s time to cool down, and then do these actions every single evening.
Spa it up
Another favorite part of my nighttime routine? My skincare session. I have a whole ritual that I do every single night, and it rarely fails to calm me down. I wash my face and apply my various serums and creams, and by the end of it, I feel clean, glowing and ready to relax. It may only take 5-10 minutes, but I live for this soothing alone time. Whatever your skincare or spa rituals may be, treat yourself and do them nightly. Mama will feel happier and happier mamas sleep better.
Keep your bedroom a sacred space
Your bedroom is not your office, your bedroom is not your laundry folding station. Your bed is for sleep and sleep only (sexy time is the only exemption). So, don’t linger in your bed as you work through your emails; the more you train your body that your bed is for sleeping, the better and quicker you’ll be able to fall asleep once you climb under the covers.
In addition to saving your bed for Zs only, keep your room cool and dark; it’s proven to help you sleep better. Add a spritz of lavender oil to your sheets and pillow for an extra dose of dreaminess. Make your bedroom your haven, and your body and mind will take note.
Be cautious with the booze
I know, I know, a glass of red at the end of the day is tempting, especially after you’ve cleaned up your kiddos’ food off the floor … for the third time. While I enjoy a glass of pinot just as much as the next, I try to limit my boozy beverages to just one glass, if that, especially during weeks where sleep hasn’t come easily. A glass of wine may help you fall asleep easier, but it then disrupts your sleep later on in the night, preventing you from feeling fully rested come 6 a.m.
Say goodnight to the screens
In order to sleep our absolute best, it’s recommended that we put down our screens two hours before we want to fall asleep. While I agree that screen-free time helps me to relax more thoroughly and sleep better, I struggle with putting this advice into action. I often work in the evenings and do all of my work on my laptop, and additionally, since I try to be off social media when my kids are awake, I often find myself scrolling Instagram into the wee hours of the night. Both actions aren’t helping my shut-eye, so I’m trying to make a very conscious effort to end my nights with my open book instead of my open apps.
Brain dump before bed
Before you shut down your mind for the night, get all those worries, wonders, and thoughts out of it. Since we’re trying to keep screens away from our tired eyes, I recommend keeping an old school notebook next to your bed (but use the Note app if it works better for you!) and write down literally everything that’s on your mind before you try to sleep.
From dinner ideas to emails to write to worries to deal with tomorrow, this is where you put it. Take it out of your mind, jot it down, and deal with it after a good night’s sleep. This simple, basic act helps me make room for calming, happy thoughts to drift off to, instead of thinking about everything I need to do. And when you look at the list in the morning, more often than not, the items are easy to cross off, as you’re viewing them with a more restful, wise mind.