My tips for getting quality shut-eye
I bloody love sleep. Shame I don’t actually get a whole lot of it having 3 young boys, but I do try (every now and then) to bank up some quality zzz’s. I’ll try and keep this post short as you’re probably as zonked as me.
We all hear from the experts how we must get 8 hours sleep a night (do any of them actually have children FFS?), but the reality is most of us are falling way short, whether it’s due to difficulty in actually nodding off, disruptions in the night, or being woken up at some God Awful hour by your 7 year old who, apparently, doesn’t like to sleep in past 5:30am (wait until you’re a teenager son, revenge is going to be fucking awesome!).
Reasons for sub par shut eye can include pregnancy, hormones, menopause, anxiety, an overactive mind, babies and young children, annoying husbands, the list goes on... Despite the fact that we actually spend a third of our lives in bed, most of us complain about poor quality sleep (I know my mum tribe do, we resemble walking corpses most of the time).
We all know how important sleep is - it keeps our immune system perky and it regulates our hormones, which ultimately control our moods and appetite (put the Jaffa Cakes down!) Not enough sleep and we know all too well we don’t function at our best!
Since having my eldest son 7 years ago (and the 2 boys that have followed), I can honestly say I have not had one (I shit you not, not a single bloody one) full night’s sleep. The early days of feeding round the clock (literally hourly through the night with my youngest, now aged 3) left me utterly broken. Since then, I’ve been woken by at least one, sometimes two, and for the love of fucking God sometimes all three of the boys, at different times in the night. Usually one after the other, like a torturous ‘keep the bitch awake all night’ relay race.
We’ve had spells of it going smoothly, but then spells of FULL. ON. HELL where one is ill or all are ill at the same time. Bed wetting - oh my days - I literally wanted to launch myself headfirst from the bedroom window most nights. And as my husband historically worked away alot, it was mostly me who was Captain Nightshift.
Regardless of being absolutely dog shit tired (is that even a phrase? It is now!), I would usually get into bed with my mind still whirring with the myriad things I had not done or had to do the next day. This definitely impacted my emotional function. Irritable is putting it nicely (believe me, I could rip someone’s head off for eating an apple too loudly near me. Under normal circumstances I’m not emotionally equipped to deal with loud eaters anyway, but when sleep deprived, watch out world!). I’m not joking when I tell you, my eldest son actually once called me Miss Hannigan from Annie. Winning!
So over this last year I have been prioritising self care, and sleep has been way up high on the list! Hoorah! I have 3 young boys. I run a business. I’m never going to skip through the school gates with boundless energy (if I do, I’ve probably had a shot of gin in my coffee)…Some days I still feel like I could do with a few more hours, and some days I feel like the full on living dead. But in general I feel more in control of how much sleep I get.
Here’s what I’ve changed, and I can honestly say I’m feeling much better for it:
TO DO LIST
I have an overactive mind and I always have 1001 things in my mental queue. At the end of each working day I empty these things from my mind and onto a real to do list (I use ToodleDo on my iPhone but a paper one would do just as well). This frees my mind and stops me mentally going over all the things I have to do the next day.
LIMIT EVENING FOOD
I eat with the boys around 5pm, and limit further eating in the evening. I used to sit and chomp biccies in front of the TV, but now I don’t eat out of habit or because someone else is. If I do get peckish, I’ll have some cereal or a slice of wholegrain toast. Ok so occasionally I’ll nail a Chinese or a whole tube of Pringles (as I’ve said before, sometimes Bossing it!, sometimes winging it, I’m only human).
Yep, you heard me sistas! Of course I love a G&T or a glass of vino but it’s very rare I indulge on a school night, despite me taking part in and encouraging the usual “is it Wine O'Clock yet?” jokes.
You heard me again! No Love Island or Corrie for me. Again, in days gone by this was habitual. Kids to bed, me and the hubster would watch TV. Now I rarely turn on the box, and instead I’ll indulge in things I used to complain I never had time to do. I’ll sit and write most evenings, have a bath, or go to bed early and read - bliss!
BATH TIME BLISS
They say a bath relaxes and calms you down. Doesn’t work with my boys - it actually provokes hyperactivity on a colossal scale. But it does however work for me. Once a week I’ll treat myself to a lovely bath with epsom salts and/or essential oils, and either read a book (fiction, not one of my self development or business books which get me pumped up) or listen to some chill out music (Angels by Keith Halligan - the ultimate in relaxation music).
I’ve banned technology in the last hour leading up to bedtime. No last minute checking facebook or emails (apparently the blue light from phones suppresses melatonin, the sleep hormone). On top of this I was finding it quite unsatisfying - I’d ‘just have a quick check of Facebook’ and before I knew it I’d lost an hour of my life and was then super annoyed at myself! It was hard, but I went cold turkey and I’m feeling better for it. I have a ‘technology free’ bedroom - no TV, no digital alarm, no iPad, nada.
Love my coffee, not gonna lie. I absolutely have to have one in the morning upon waking, and I have one mid afternoon, usually before the school run. I’ve cut back from about 4 cups a day to 2 (ok I might have 3 on occasion, but that’s rare), and I certainly won’t have one after my mid afternoon mug.
One of the things I have always been strict about is having a serene, minimalist bedroom. Clean, tidy, and no clutter. And constant clean, crisp, white sheets - joy! I purposefully do not have too much furniture in there and so I literally have my bed, a bedside table at either side, and a few neatly stacked books that are in my ‘queue’. It’s so peaceful in there, and the boys know it’s Mummy’s quiet space. #MyRoomGetOut
My old mattress was nearly as old as my Nan, so I was tres excited to get a brand new one, and treat myself I did! Simba memory foam no less. Bloody amazing.
Whether I’m having a bath or reading in bed, I’m all for soft lighting. I’ll often put some aromatherapy oils in a diffuser too (such as lavender, ylang ylang or geranium) - lush!
Nope, it’s not something I’ve brought back from Amsterdam, it’s totally legal and you can get it in Sains or Aldi. I’m talking bedtime teas. If I’m downstairs writing on an evening I’ll often have a cup (yep, I know, I’m 38 not 78). But it does induce a zen like tranquility before slumber. At the moment I’m loving Sainsbury’s own brand bedtime infusion - a caffeine free blend of camomile, lemon balm and valerian root. Also a fan of Pukka ‘night time’ tea which is an organic blend of oat flower, lavender and limeflower.
I don’t set an alarm. As mentioned previously I have endlessly energetic kids who wake up at Stupid O’Clock each morning. On the rare occasion I do need to use an alarm I use my iPhone, and avoid the snooze button by placing my phone far away from my bed. I find snoozing just delays the torture of getting up, so I’m better off just biting the bullet and getting up and at em. I’ll sit up, stretch my arms up to the sky and silently say thank you for a new day, then open the curtains to let in the light as soon as poss.
Hitting the gym over the last year has helped me tremendously. Going through a marriage ‘shake-up’ and a career change - it’s fair to say I’ve had a lot on (which really impacted my sleep) but exercise helped massively. Not just from a mental health perspective (you can’t not feel great when smashing a sesh to Flashdance - yes that beauty is on my playlist), but helping me to nod off and fall into a deeper sleep. I always make an effort to exercise and maintain a healthy diet but sleep/rest is equally as important for me now.
Hoorah for unicorns! Some people might say I’m a Granny for wearing fluffy socks in winter, but if they’ve got unicorns on, that’s not Granny-ish, more, er, 10 year old ish? Whatever. Don’t care. If my feet are cold, I am cold, simples. And if I’m cold I can’t fall asleep, so I will don my fluffsters. Admittedly I soon wake up boiling and have to fling them off, but I can live with that. #RockingTheUnicornSocks
It’s difficult for mums as no matter how tired we are, we crave that ‘me time’ once the skids are in bed. Most days, when I’m woken up at 5:30am to the shrill screams of “Mummy can you wipe my bum?!” I solemnly declare that “ I am SO going to bed at 8pm tonight.” Then 8pm comes and I just neeeed that couple of hours to myself. Sometimes I’ll get writing or reading and it’ll be 11pm before I know it! So, I have to be strict and ensure I hit the sheets early (lights off by 9:30pm) at least one or two nights a week.
Well, as per the last point, I had planned a strict curfew for tonight (i.e. I was meant to be in bed by 9pm). Typically, I’ve started writing and agh now it’s 10:30pm! Oh well at least I don’t have to take my makeup off as I did that earlier - yass! (that winning feeling).
N.B. after writing this I actually Googled ‘Dog Shit Tired’ to see if it was an actual phrase. Kind of wishing I didn’t now...definitely not sleep inducing!
ABOUT BOSSING IT!
BossingIt! aims to empower and inspire women to be strong and independent, and to illustrate that life is there for the taking and that YOU are in control of it. I want to encourage you to realise your potential, so you can grab life by the balls and carve out the life you wholeheartedly want to live, so you can feel joy and gratitude each and every day, and ultimately be the very best version of yourself. I want to share the belief that if you’re not 100% happy with any aspect of your life, be it work, relationships, parenting, health & fitness, or life in general, it’s never too late to change things or even start anew completely. Every day is a new opportunity to start over, to be who you want to be, and YOU get to write and rewrite your story!