16 Sleep Tips for Moms of All Ages
Welcome back to our regular series with certified sleep educator Terry Cralle, MS, RN. In this post, Cralle shares her best sleep tips for moms, in honor of Mother's Day on May 12.
We know motherhood is a 24/7 job. Yet to function and feel their best, all moms need their sleep. For too long, sleep deprivation has been accepted as an inevitable, irrefutable, unrelenting part of motherhood. It doesn't need to be that way.
With Mother's Day right around the corner, here are my recommended sleep tips for different stages of motherhood, from pregnancy through the teenage years.
Sleep tips for moms-to-be
Pregnancy can wreak havoc on sleep. During your first trimester, you'll likely feel sleepier, thanks to a rise in the hormone progesterone. But other factors, like increased urinary frequency and nausea, may keep you from getting the rest you crave. During the second trimester, everything from leg cramps to heartburn to snoring can mess with your ability to catch Z's.
It's during your third trimester, though, that you can expect to experience the worst sleep issues. Trouble finding a comfortable position, baby pressing against your bladder, restless legs, and leg cramps are the most commonly cited causes of sleep disruption at this stage. Conditions like sleep apnea may even develop due to the weight gain that occurs during pregnancy.
- If you haven't already optimized your bedroom for sleep, do it now. Even a small amount of light can be disturbing, so try to make your bedroom as dark as possible. Blackout curtains and sleep masks are helpful for blocking unwanted light.
- Give up bingeing on Netflix. Nighttime screen activities—watching TV, working on the computer, scrolling social media—will affect melatonin production, making it difficult to fall and stay asleep.
- Before the baby arrives, discuss your sleep needs with your partner. (For the record, women need twenty more minutes of sleep on average than men.) Discuss how you'll handle night feedings, work schedules, maternity and paternity leave, and relatives.
- Discuss sleep with your healthcare provider at every appointment—and report any signs or symptoms of a sleep disorder immediately.
Related: The best mattress for pregnancy
Sleep tips for moms of infants
Sleep disruption is most pronounced during the first month after a baby's birth, but it can persist for several months. In fact, sleep efficiency (percentage of time in bed asleep) can drop from 90% during the third trimester to 77% during the first month after baby's birth.
The good news is your sleep should improve once your infant is mature enough to allow for long periods of consolidated sleep at night, typically by the time they're around three or four months old.
- Delegate as many chores, errands, and housework duties as possible for the first three months postpartum.
- Limit guests, visitors, and entertaining.
- Avoid bright lights of all types when you're up during the night with your baby.
- Sleep when your baby sleeps—and don't fall into the trap of feeling guilty about getting the sleep you need.
Related: Sleep tips from the "Baby Sleep Boss"
Sleep tips for moms of toddlers
Every new parent celebrates when their baby finally sleeps through the night. Then, before you know it, a toddler has climbed into your bed at 5 a.m. wanting to play.
- Implement a sleep pass for children who make a dozen curtain calls after being put to bed. Each pass entitles them to one free trip out of bed, such as to get a glass or water or have just one more goodnight hug—no questions asked.
- Try using a kids' training clock. These can let a small child know when to stay in bed or get up, usually with red or green lights or sun and stars.
Sleep tips for moms of school-age children
It's inevitable: You find yourself up late at night, cleaning up after the science project, packing lunch boxes, and trying to get one more load of laundry done so there's a clean uniform ready for the next day's soccer practice. And on top of all that, here comes another email from your boss, just when you were about to turn in.
- Write down tomorrow's to-do list in the evening (but not right before bedtime). Doing so makes the busiest of schedules more manageable.
- Disengage from work when away from work, limiting work-related emails, texts, and phone calls.
- "Unplug" at least 30 minutes prior to bedtime—preferably one hour. If you must check electronics, use a blue-light blocking filter (most new phones and tablets are equipped with a "night mode" setting) or wear blue-light blocking glasses.
Sleep tips for moms of teenagers
Fast forward a few years, and you may find yourself wide awake at midnight waiting for your teenager to come home safely after a night out with friends. That can leave you feeling sapped of energy the next day.
- Avoid heated discussions with your teen (or your partner) late at night; save those for the daytime and have them in a room other than the bedroom.
- Give yourself a wind-down period by doing something relaxing and pleasant before bed, like reading a novel or nonfiction book, coloring, knitting, or engaging in another quiet hobby.
- Take a nap. A brief afternoon nap—even 20 minutes—can help make up for nighttime sleep loss.
The bottom line: Sufficient sleep is not a sign of weakness, it's a sign of strength! So this Mother's Day, tell the family not to disturb you—you're sleeping in.