A new mom's guide to getting your sleep back on track

By: Racheal McCaig

Author: Canadian Living


A new mom's guide to getting your sleep back on track

By: Racheal McCaig
It's Thursday morning and I'm hanging out with my mom group. We've just finished the workout, have grabbed coffee and snacks and started chatting. Everyone has the same complaint: we're not gettin' any.

No, I'm not about sex, though some of the newer moms are questioning the six-week rule (are they kidding?). What we're not gettin' is sleep.

For a mother, it's not just your own sleep cycles you have to control, you have worry about everyone else's too. Trying to regulate an entire household's sleep habits can be a trying exercise, as anyone who's ever had a toddler can attest.

Sleeping was never a problem
Before babies, I was a great sleeper. I could nap anywhere, anytime. I listened to my body and could rest when I needed it. The baby changed all that. I couldn't sleep anymore because every time my head hit the pillow someone would start crying. Or need a snack. Or a diaper change. Or a cuddle. Or a bill to be paid. Or a phone call to be answered. I very quickly went from being a sound sleeper to a light one. A sleeper ready to jump to attention and attack whatever crisis needed handling in a nano-second.

I'm not the only one. It's amazing, though, what we, as mothers, can accomplish. Sheer will to persevere and the natural nesting instinct count for a lot. But what gets compromised is our sanity. We already have hormones going out of control and the sleep deprivation exacerbates it. You can see our personalities shift as we lose our patience and our tempers.

And yet, while we work especially hard to establish good sleeping habits in our kids, we forget to apply those lessons to ourselves. It's hard on our partners, who even in this day and age, don't always understand what comprises a mother's day. As well, when you're on maternity leave and your husband's going off to the office every morning, we take on the added responsibility of ensuring he gets a good night's sleep, often at our own expense.

Expert advice on sleep

Alyson Schafer, one of Canada's foremost family therapists and parenting expert, says we should follow the airline rule of parenting. When the oxygen masks drops, whose do you put on first? You can take care of your babies, but they can't take care of you. A happy mother equals a happy family. You have to take care of yourself. If that means getting your mom, a baby sitter or a friend to watch your kids while you sleep, so be it. Sleep is not an indulgence, it's self-preservation and we should treat it as such.

And just when you think you've got it all under control, your kids hit puberty. .Sleep patterns shift again in the teen years when a mother's sleep deprivation comes not from midnight feeds, but from ensuring curfews are met and our sleep continues to be compromised.

The most important thing you can do is to get some sleep. Sometimes it is quality over quantity. Experts say it takes three days to establish a routine. So take a lavender bath, drink a camomile tea while reading a good book, listen to some music and blissfully pass out. Your family will love you for it!

Read more:
Goodnight, sleep right
Baby's sleep needs
How to get kids to sleep

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A new mom's guide to getting your sleep back on track