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25 ways to improve every parent’s sleep habits

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By Shelley Hopper


We’ve all been there; falling asleep all day long, barely hanging onto the day by a thread, but when we finally get the babes tucked in and asleep, we catch a second wind.

Did I just down two shots of espresso? Did I just go for a rollercoaster ride? Did I just run a marathon? Why in the world am I wired when all I want to do is SLEEP?!

Parenthood is real, and so is society’s increase in sleep deprivation.

Lack of sleep definitely plays a role on our bodies, like nodding off during the day, trying to live off caffeine, immune systems spiraling, increase in headaches, lack of appetite, loss of interest in activities, and having a difficult time concentrating. It can even lead to chronic health problems, like hypertension, obesity, and depression.

In today’s society, it’s a go-go-go mindset—everyone is constantly busy, always going from one place to the next, checking social media and work emails 12,397 times a day, or surviving off caffeine or bad habits (ahem, I see your nightly glass of wine, craft cocktail, or nicotine addiction and am talking to YOU).

So, what can you do to improve your sleep habits, thus the quality of life?

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As a working mom, I’m definitely guilty of dark circles and bags under my eyes as a result of lack of sleep over the years. I mean, what mom isn’t through the newborn and toddler stages, to be honest? But this past year, late bedtimes, interrupted chunks of sleep, and early mornings had my health spiraling. Out of nowhere, I suddenly experienced daily anxiety, lack of concentration, panic attacks and chronic health problems.

I was overwhelmed with the sudden onset of symptoms that were taking over my body and my mind. And you know what caused it? Lack of self-care and non-existing quality sleep, so things had to change.

I sought out specialists to get to the root of my sleep issues, and by trying the following tips and recommendations, I hope you’ll be on your way to better sleep in no time.

Here are 25 tips and tricks to improve your sleep habits and your overall quality of life:

1. Meditate

I really love using the Pranayama app, as it tunes in my breathing and is a natural way to calm muscle tension, heart rate, and the mind by tuning into your breath and your consciousness. I found out about it from attending a biofeedback session, and my ideal breathing rate was 6.5 breaths set for 15 minutes. Play with your breathing rate and see which relaxes you best. Meditating for 15-20 minutes per day can change. your. life.

iTunes’ current top five meditation apps are below:

  • Sattva
  • Calm
  • Headspace
  • The Mindfulness App
  • Buddhify

2. Avoid large meals before bedtime

Ever heard the saying, “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper?” Do that.

3. Avoid caffeine after 3 pm

This includes more than just coffee and tea—foods high in sugar can also be a culprit! So also cut back on alcohol, desserts, fruits, and processed foods before bedtime.

4. Just like you do for your toddler, set a bedtime routine for yourself

Try to go to bed at the same time each night and wake up the same time each day. Sticking to a sleep schedule can significantly improve your body’s natural sleep habits and help your mind relax.

5. Set emotional boundaries for yourself

Get off social media and anything with a screen at least 1-2 hours before bedtime. Instead, grab a journal and write an entry, read a book, or snuggle up with a pet.

6. Cozy up

Don’t go to sleep too cold or too hot. Wear socks if your feet are chilly, or turn on a fan if you’re uncomfortably warm. Get comfortable.

7. Try a white noise machine

8. Use a diffuser with essential oils that may help calm your spirit and help you relax

Although essential oils and their effectiveness is debatable via science, the most commonly used oils to relax and calm anxiety are Lavender, Rose, Vetiver , Ylang Ylang, Bergamot, Chamomile, Frankincense . You can also look for “anti-anxiety” or “sleep” blends to diffuse. Be sure to follow the maker’s instructions for usage.

10. Avoid nicotine or other addictive habits before bedtime and whenever possible

11. Brew a glass of calming herbal/decaf tea

But not right before bed, or too many liquids will keep you up at night running to the restroom!

12. Create a calm, tranquil, relaxing environment in your bedroom

Why do we only think we can have clean, relaxing, dream bedrooms at hotels? Bring the hotel vibe to your own room. Invest in nice sheets, a calming paint color for the walls, a throw rug…bring cozy chic into your everyday.

13. Try adding a Himalayan salt lamp and air purifying plants into your bedroom

Dust, declutter, and stay organized so your bedroom is a sanctuary.

14. Invest in blackout blinds and limit lights where you sleep

Cover up electronic lights, turn off lights in your hallway, and embrace the relaxing darkness of nighttime.

15. Take time for relaxing activities before bedtime

Try yoga sequences targeted for bedtime relaxation, take a warm bath, or try a detoxing and calming face mask.

16. Listen to calming music

My fav? “Chakra Suite: Music for Meditation, Healing and Inner Peace” by Steven Halpern, which was referred to me by Kathleen Jordan, who has 27 years of private practice experience as a licensed marriage and family therapist specializing in hypnotherapy, Cognitive Behavioral (CBT), and Mindfulness-Based Therapy (MBCT). It’s magic for relaxation!

17. Invest in an old-school alarm clock rather than depending on your phone

Set it up across the room from you so you physically have to get up and out of bed

18. Turn your cell phone OFF or to do not disturb or airplane mode at least an hour before bed

This is so you’re not tempted to keep using it, checking it, or getting texts throughout the night you can’t resist reading and responding to. If you can, even try charging your phone in a different room so you’re not reaching for it (or even just staring at it in curiosity).

19. Relax or calm your muscles

By taking a warm bath, using an ice pack, heating pad (make sure it has an auto shut-off feature), hand-held massage tool, or calming creams and/or lotions or oils. Taking warm baths can literally suck anxiety out of your body, help you relax and make you feel less lonely, actually.

20. If you take rests during the day, limit naps to 20 minutes so they don’t affect your nightly sleep patterns

21. Expose yourself to daily sunlight, and spend time outside in nature before it’s dark

Also, let as much natural light into your home or work environment as possible. You can also use a light-therapy box for dim environments or days filled with dreary weather.

22. Stay hydrated throughout the day and drink plenty of water

Drinking fluids throughout the day can help relieve anxiety, keeps your digestive system moving, help flush waste products, improve mood and help fight fatigue. All of this can help contribute to a more peaceful and restful night’s sleep.

23. Try sleep hypnosis

You can seek a licensed professional near you who can make you personal recordings or sessions, or you can also Google “hypnosis for sleep” and find some generic sleep hypnosis options via YouTube.

24. Go for a brisk walk before bedtime

Fresh air and light exercise can do wonders for the soul.

25. Try to unwind and clear your head

Anxiety or chronic worry can make it impossible to feel calm, thus, sleep. Invest in yourself to get the help you need to learn how to deal with stress management, how to limit worry and how to avoid feeling overstimulated.

The Help Guide says it best: “Worrying can be helpful when it spurs you to take action and solve a problem. But if you’re preoccupied with ‘what ifs’ and worst-case scenarios, worry becomes a problem [and becomes anxiety]. Unrelenting doubts and fears can be paralyzing. They can sap your emotional energy, send your anxiety levels soaring and interfere with your daily life. But chronic worrying is a mental habit that can be broken. You can train your brain to stay calm and look at life from a more positive perspective.”

HelpGuide.org also has great tips that can help you feel less anxious and train your brain to stay calm, and it can also be extremely beneficial to see a therapist that specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).

  • Ask yourself if the problem is solvable.
  • Challenge the reality of anxious thoughts.
  • Accept uncertainty.
  • Be aware of how others affect you.
  • Focus on the present rather than the past or future.
  • Confine your worrying to one time period during the day.

Wishing you the sweetest dreams and a nighttime filled with peace, love, and calm.

Originally posted on FIT4MOM.

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There are certain moments of parenthood that stay with us forever. The ones that feel a little extra special than the rest. The ones that we always remember, even as time moves forward.

The first day of school will always be one of the most powerful of these experiences.

I love thinking back to my own excitement going through it as a child—the smell of the changing seasons, how excited I was about the new trendy outfit I picked out. And now, I get the joy of watching my children go through the same right of passage.

Keep the memory of this time close with these 10 pictures that you must take on the first day of school so you can remember it forever, mama:

1. Getting on the school bus.

Is there anything more iconic than a school bus when it comes to the first day of school? If your little one is taking the bus, snap a photo of them posed in front of the school bus, walking onto it for the first time, or waving at you through the window as they head off to new adventure.

2. Their feet (and new shoes!)

Getting a new pair of shoes is the quintessential task to prepare for a new school year. These are the shoes that will support them as they learn, play and thrive. Capture the sentimental power of this milestone by taking photos of their shoes. You can get a closeup of your child's feet, or even show them standing next to their previous years of first-day-of-school shoes to show just how much they've grown. If you have multiple children, don't forget to get group shoe photos as well!

3. Posing with their backpack.

Backpacks are a matter of pride for kids so be sure to commemorate the one your child has chosen for the year. Want to get creative? Snap a picture of the backpack leaning against the front door, and then on your child's back as they head out the door.

4. Standing next to a tree or your front door.

Find a place where you can consistently take a photo year after year—a tree, your front door, the school signage—and showcase how much your child is growing by documenting the change each September.

5. Holding a 'first day of school' sign.

Add words to your photo by having your child pose with or next to a sign. Whether it's a creative DIY masterpiece or a simple printout you find online that details their favorites from that year, the beautiful sentiment will be remembered for a lifetime.

6. With their graduating class shirt.

When your child starts school, get a custom-designed shirt with the year your child will graduate high school, or design one yourself with fabric paint (in an 18-year-old size). Have them wear the shirt each year so you can watch them grow into it—and themselves!

Pro tip: Choose a simple color scheme and design that would be easy to recreate if necessary—if your child ends up skipping or repeating a year of school and their graduation date shifts, you can have a new shirt made that can be easily swapped for the original.

7. Post with sidewalk chalk.

Sidewalk chalk never goes out of style and has such a nostalgic quality to it. Let your child draw or write something that represents the start of school, like the date or their teacher, and then have them pose next to (or on top of) their work.

8. In their classroom.

From first letters learned to complicated math concepts mastered, your child's classroom is where the real magic of school happens. Take a few pictures of the space where they'll be spending their time. They will love remembering what everything looked like on the first day, from the decorations on the wall to your child's cubby, locker or desk.

9. With their teacher.

If classrooms are where the magic happens, teachers are the magicians. We wish we remembered every single teach we had, but the truth is that over time, memories fade. Be sure to snap a photo of your child posing with their teacher on the first day of school.

10. With you!

We spend so much time thinking about our children's experience on the first day of school, we forget about the people who have done so much to get them there—us! This is a really big day for you too, mama, so get in that photo! You and your child will treasure it forever.

This article is sponsored by Rack Room Shoes. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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The author of Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, Angela Duckworth is an example of the kind of character she seeks to foster in the next generation. As the founder and CEO of the Character Lab, a nonprofit dedicated to children's character development, as a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, and as a mom, Duckworth is trying to teach parents to let their kids struggle and that success is a long game.

According to Duckworth, grit is "this combination of passion and perseverance over really long periods. So it's loving what you do and working really hard at it for a very long time."

During the latest episode of The Motherly Podcast, Sponsored by Prudential, Duckworth tells Motherly co-founder Liz Tenety, "One could argue that motherhood requires more grit than anything else because it is such a stamina sport and the grind doesn't always feel like it's working."

As Duckworth explains, mothers can model grit every day by persevering in the face of challenging parenting moments, but we can also instill grit in our children, even very young kids, by encouraging them not to give up. It is so easy to tie a child's shoes for them when we're running late, but if we take a moment to stop and let them work through that challenge on their own we are being gritty and encouraging it.

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"You let them struggle and you don't solve their problems for them too early," Duckworth tells Tenety, recalling a time when one of her daughters was struggling to open a box of raisins. "When she gave up and like walked away thinking that's too hard, I did worry about her long-term grit. I was like, oh my gosh my daughter's been defeated by a box of SunMaid raisins. But the important thing is that when you see your child struggle, let them struggle a little longer than maybe is comfortable for some of us."

By not rushing to open the box of raisins for her daughter, Duckworth taught her an important lesson in perseverance: If you want something you have to keep working at it yourself because you can't assume people will do things for you. This can be hard for parents because we often want to rush in and fix things for our kids, but Duckworth suggests we force ourselves to wait a beat and give our kids a chance before coming to the rescue.

"If you solve their problems guess what? They will not figure out how to solve their own problems if you make life a frictionless path. Then don't be surprised when they are not very resilient," she explains.

When we don't do everything for our kids they learn that they are capable, and we're cultivating a growth mindset. When we let our kids struggle and persevere, we're teaching them that the ability to get back up and overcome challenges is more important than talent—we're teaching them grit.

To hear more from Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, author Angela Duckworth about grit and growth, listen to The Motherly Podcast, sponsored by Prudential, for the full interview.

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News

Relocating is one of the most stressful life changes families will experience, even more so when you add kids into the mix. Packing boxes and getting everything ready for your move with toddlers around can seem like an impossible task. You know the scene: You're trying to pack clothing and lift heavy boxes, but they want to play and see everything that's going on. But packing doesn't have to be a chore, mama.

Try these playful interventions whenever you're struggling to keep your little one entertained.

1. Create special time.

Believe it or not, children want to help us. When they feel disconnected to us their behavior can go off-track. That whining, moaning, tantrumming toddler is sending out a red flag that says, ''Help! I need connection!''

So before spending a day packing boxes, be proactive and connect with your child. Set a timer for 10-15 minutes, and tell your child it's their special time and they can choose whatever they'd like to do with you. As you play, shower your child with attention, so their cup is filled. This helps them to internalize a sense of connection to you, so they are less likely to demand it in challenging ways and get in the way when you need to focus.

2. Host a packing party.

Put on some music and make packing fun! Give your child their own box, and allow them some freedom to pack their own toys themselves—even if you go back and rearrange things later. Don't seal all the boxes so they still have access to toys to play with. And remember that they're bound to get distracted and start playing with every. single. toy. they pack away. Make sure they're occupied so you can continue packing.

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3. Try giggle parenting.

Giggle parenting is when you get a child to laugh to ease the tension. If you notice your child getting bored, or frustrated, giggle parenting can ease tensions, and give your child mini doses of connection to help their behavior stay on track.

For example, maybe you playfully say, ''I really need to pack this big object,'' then you attempt to place your child in a box and exclaim, ''oh no, that's not an object, that's [insert child's name!]'' Or pick up a dirty sock and say with a playfully inviting tone, ''I really don't want this sock to be packed'' and put it on the floor. Cue your child trying to pack the smelly sock, and you can act playfully annoyed, and retrieve it from the box. Repeat as the long as the giggles keep coming,

It's the perfect antidote to situations where they feel powerless and out of control. Spending 5-10 minutes being playful at various intervals throughout the day can help shift the feeling that something big is happening.

4. Pack with a puppet.

Although toddlers don't always listen well, you will probably find that they are much more likely to respond to a plush toy or puppet. So use a puppet to ask them to pack in a silly voice that gets them laughing. Or have a naughty puppet who removes items from boxes, while you act playfully frustrated. After a few laughs to release tension, your toddler will be more able to listen to you about what needs to be done, or will be more likely to play independently.

5. Use reverse psychology.

Good old-fashioned reverse psychology works wonders when trying to distract little ones. Say to your child in a playful way that you'd really like them to leave their toys on the floor, and not pack them. Then leave the room. They are bound to take this as an opportunity to pack things up, and you can pretend to be upset that they didn't listen.

6. Turn packing into a race.

Older toddlers love to win so why not set up challenges to get them moving and competing? Have a race to see who can pack five things the fastest. Make it a close call but let them win, and act playfully disappointed when you lose. You could also try setting a timer to see how many things can be packed in 5 minutes or how long it can take to pack a whole box.

7. Practice pretend play.

Use a trolley or a toy stroller to act as a delivery service. Ask your child to bring you items to pack. Pretend play gives them a sense of purpose, and a fun, novel way to be involved.

8. Take a break outside.

At some point during a full day of packing or moving, get outside, even if it's just for ten minutes. Have a playful game of chase in your yard, or go to a local park. This can really help shift grumpy moods.

9. Stop for tantrums.

At some point during the day, tears and tantrums may come up. You may be tempted to stop tantrums, but this is counterproductive as it may just postpone the upset. Crying is a healing process for children, a natural way to release stress and tension, so the best thing you can do is listen and empathize. Be the lighthouse guiding your child out of the stormy seas of their emotions, and when they recover they will feel well-connected to you, and be much more willing to help in the process.

10. Remember to relax.

Do something for yourself, mama. Order takeout. End your day with snuggles and bedtime stories. Packing and moving with toddlers can be one of the most challenging jobs you can do, so well, done, you did it.

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Learn + Play

Brooklyn based stay-at-home dad Mike Julianelle, also known as Dad and Buried online, shared a brutally honest post on Instagram recently that has gone viral. In it he describes how being a stay-at-home parent is really hard, especially during the summer when the kids need to stay entertained in the long hot days in the city.

The post also goes into something that struck a chord with many stay-at-home parents: not having a choice. Many of the over 500 comments the photo has received touch upon how stressful and draining being the parent at home with the kids all day can be.

The post reads:

"It's day two of my summer as a stay-at-home dad and I've already lost it on my kids.

Actually, I lost it at day 1.5. I'm not cut out for this.

I knew it 6 years ago when I did it for the first time, I knew it a month ago when it was looming again, I knew it yesterday when things were going well, and I definitely knew it today when I yelled at my 8yo and carried him to another room because he wouldn't stop complaining about something he actually wanted to do.

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I don't want to be a stay-at-home parent. I don't want to have to find ways to fill my kids' days all summer. I don't want to plan, I don't want to pack stuff, I don't want to herd them places, I don't want to go places.

I don't have the temperament, I don't have the patience, I don't have the interest.

I also don't have a choice.

Circumstances being what they are, and summer being what it is, someone has to stay home with my kids all day. Mom and Buried has done it for years, and now she's working and I'm not, so I'm back in the saddle. Reluctance (and unsuitability) aside, I have no choice but to get better at it.

They don't need to know how stressed I am, they don't deserve a dad who's grumpy and frustrated before the day has even begun, and most of all, they don't deserve a boring summer.

Summer is sacred. And it's usually Mom and Buried's territory. But it's on me now.

No, we might not be able to send them to camp or take them on fancy trips, but that doesn't mean there aren't things to do. And it's on me to do them. More than that, it's on me to do them with a smile on my face. Or at least without constantly yelling at them.

So far, things aren't going so great. But there's nowhere to go but up!

This is one of the primary challenges of parenting. Not letting your grownup stress impact your kids' childhood innocence. We all have struggles, and sometimes the toll they take is going to manifest itself, often in ways you don't even realize.

I guess the good news is: I do realize it. Which makes it even more crucial that I manage it, and do whatever I can to prevent my kids from catching on.

I've gotta fake it until *they* make it. But what else is new?"

Shout out to this SAHD for his honest, and to all the stay-at-home parents for the hard work they do, all day, everyday.

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Life

The sound of my youngest son's wailing filled the air. It was a meltdown of epic proportions. As his screeches pierced my ears and my eyes rested on his angry face, a thought flashed into my mind: I wonder if I will ever reach a sweet spot in parenting.

I like to imagine that somewhere in my future is a magical age where the daily demands of parenting lessen and I will finally have it (mostly) all figured out. It seems I have been waiting for and wishing for this "easy" time since the first few weeks of motherhood.

When my oldest was a newborn and I was fumbling my way through sleep-deprivation, I just knew as soon as he started sleeping through the night, then motherhood would be so much easier.

When he finally did master sleeping longer stretches, he figured out how to roll over. He would roll one way and get stuck. I would flip him back, and he would be good for about five minutes and then get stuck again. I just knew as soon as he was able to roll back over the other way, then motherhood would be so much easier.

After months of nursing, and then pumping, and then bottle-feeding, I just knew that once he was eating solid foods, motherhood would be so much easier because he would sleep better, and I wouldn't have the enormous mountain of pump parts and bottles to clean each night.

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Then he started to eat solid foods, and meal times were so messy and I quickly grew tired of constantly cleaning his highchair and the floor and the wall. I just knew once he could eat on his own, then motherhood would be so much easier.

I carried him everywhere because he couldn't yet crawl, and my arms and back would ache. I just knew that once he could crawl motherhood would be so much easier.

And then he did start to crawl, and suddenly nothing was off-limits. I just knew once he was older and I wouldn't have to worry about him falling down the stairs or jamming a toy into a light socket, then motherhood would be so much easier.

Then he started to walk, then run, and I worried about him running away from me in the store, running into a parking lot, or tripping on his wobbly legs and doing a faceplant into the sidewalk. I just knew that when he was older and better able to listen and communicate, motherhood would be so much easier.

Then he started to talk and protest, and have very strong opinions about everything and the meltdowns began. I just knew as soon as we were done with this age, motherhood would be so much easier.

As my sons have grown, each stage has brought new joys, but also new challenges. Some aspects of parenting have become easier, and others have become harder.

So does this parenting "sweet spot" I have conjured up in my mind even exist?

Do I just have to be patient and it will arrive one day out of the blue when my sons reach a certain age or I gain the perfect amount of parenting wisdom?

I kept thinking about this as my son calmed down and pressed his tired little body into my own. I gazed down onto his tear-streaked cheeks. I brushed the wispy strands of his hair with my fingertips. I paused at that moment to really soak him up as he cuddled on my lap. I let the tension of the previous minutes fade away.

And a new thought entered my mind. "I'm already in a sweet spot, right here and now. I don't need to wait for one."

Parenthood will probably never be "easy." But it is pretty sweet, nonetheless.

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Life
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