Sleep quality is something that affects all parents. Becoming a parent means inevitable sleep deprivation. Broken sleep is unavoidable and it comes with the territory of having a baby. Your pre-baby 10-hour sleep marathons are nothing but a distant memory. The first 6 months are unpredictable and you have to accept that there will be some nights where you will barely sleep a wink.
As your baby starts to sleep through the night it is important for your to get some good deep sleep. Neuroscience is telling us that the “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” attitude is literally killing us. Sleep is the time when your body gets to repair damaged cells and recover from the wear and tear of the previous day.
If you want to really learn about sleeping and just how important it is then I recommend Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker. Professor Matthew Walker, Director of UC Berkeley’s Sleep and Neuroimaging Lab and sleep and advisor to top athletes from the NBA, NFL and the Premier League.
While you sleep your body is hard at work recharging your energy levels. There are growth hormones working to repair and build your tired muscles. Cortisol is the hormone in the body that causes stress and also keeps us alert. 10,000 years ago cortisol was used to keep us safe from predators.
Today our fast-paced, high-stress life causes us to release more of this stress hormone than is healthy. Cortisol also helps us to wake up and exercise. When we sleep our body is replenishing our cortisol levels.
Sleep is also necessary for maintaining a healthy immune system. It is massively important for both your physical and mental health. As a parent, you need to be on top of your game and as healthy as possible. One of the pillars of being a happy and healthy parent is getting enough sleep.
“Sleep is the time when your body gets to repair damaged cells and recover from the wear and tear of the previous day.”
I can function, as most parents can on less than 6 hours sleep but I don’t do it too often. Being a father of twins, there are times when I cannot avoid sleep deprivation. After our babies started sleeping through the night, I made sleep deprivation an exception as opposed to the rule.
Here are some tricks that I have learned since becoming a father that have helped me to get some sleep. Since implementing them into my life, I sleep better and can show up better for my family each day.
1.Calming Your Overactive Mind Will Improve Sleep Quality
We all have busy lives and a to-do list that seems never-ending. Getting a good nights sleep means that you have to learn to live in the present. Focusing on the future will cause you anxiety and worrying about the past will make you depressed. Learning how to be mindful and present takes lots of practice.
To calm your overactive mind, set up a meditation practice in the morning or the evening. A simple mindfulness practice will help you to be present and manage your worries. This is far from easy to do and it takes a lot of practice. I would recommend starting with an app like headspace. You can try 10 sessions for free. This was how I got started. There is also tonnes of free content on youtube from people like Deepak Chopra or Tara Brach to get you started. Simply google guided meditation and you will find many options online.
2.Set A Bedtime
What time you go to bed at has a massive impact on the quality of your sleep. Most people need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night. Your sleep comes in waves that are known as sleep cycles. These cycles are 1.5 hours long. It is recommended that you get at between 4-5 deep sleep cycles per night.
Did you ever wake up and feel as if you have been hit by a bus and you can’t seem to wake up properly? This means you probably woke up in the middle of a sleep cycle. If you wake up after or towards the end of a sleep cycle then you will feel refreshed. My sweet spot is 7.5 hours or 5 sleep cycles.
I make sure that I set my bedtime according to when I need to wake up. I try to wake up between 5.30 or 6 AM. This means that I need to go asleep by 10 PM. I try to go to bed between 9 and 9.30 and then the lights go off at 10.
3.A Bedtime Ritual Will Help Improve Your Sleep Quality
I want to get up at 5.30 – 6 AM. This means that I set my alarm for 6.30 AM just in case I don’t wake up in time. If I go to bed at 10 then I will usually wake up before my alarm. The alarm that I use on my phone is an app called gentle wake up. It opens with a gentle light, slight vibration and birds chirping. This gentle wake up is much less intrusive than your average aggressive alarm. Waking up suddenly to an intense alarm is never nice.
The next step in my routine is to turn off all screens 1 hour before sleep time. If for whatever reason, I need to use my phone I have a blue light filter on. Mobile phones, tablets and TV screens emit blue light. Blue light messes with your circadian rhythm and effects your sleep. To help me to avoid my phone before bed I use the thrive app.
I then put on some very relaxing instrumental music with very little or no percussion. Ambient artists like Brian Eno or Max Richter are perfect. Here is my sleepy snooze snooze playlist on Spotify.
Then, I dim the lights, light some candles and make some tea. Rooibos or Chamomile are two teas that help with relaxation and sleep. I also take a magnesium supplement as it reduces cortisol levels which helps me to sleep better.
4.Don’t Eat Too Late
I try to eat no later than 7.30 PM. Sometimes this is unavoidable but eating earlier helps me to sleep better. If you eat too late then your body is working hard all night to digest your meal. This means you are using energy that it could be used to repair your body.
When I eat late and wake up the next day I feel that I did not sleep as well. To avoid waking up feeling groggy then you should try not eat 2 hours before you go to bed. If you do eat something late at night then make sure it is healthy and light.
5.Create A Good Environment For Sleeping
If you really want to get some sleep then you need to set yourself up to win. There are three external factors that will influence the quality of your sleep. These are light, heat and noise. These environmental factors can be manipulated to help you sleep better. Aim to keep your bedroom between 18 degrees Celsius or 67 degrees Fahrenheit. If you have bright room then get blackout blinds or wear a sleeping mask. If your room is too noisy then wear ear plugs.
6.Track Your Sleep Quality
I recently discovered a sleep tracking app called sleep cycle. It monitors my sleep using a microphone and motion detector. As I have mentioned previously, you sleep in cycles. If you wake up in a deep sleep you will feel really tired. If you wake up in the lightest possible sleep state then you will feel more rested.
The alarm on the sleep cycle app is very gentle and each morning you get an overview of the quality of your sleep. See the picture below. Some say that the sleep cycle apps are not accurate and can be influenced by factors like your partners movement or other external noises. Either way, I find it interesting I monitor my sleep to see how well I slept.
7.Don’t Drink Alcohol
It is hard to avoid all of the time but if you are looking to improve your sleep quality then avoid booze. Alcohol and a good nights sleep are not good bedfellows. Alcohol is a depressant and it may help you sleep quicker but it contributes to a poor quality of your sleep.
When you drink alcohol your body struggles to reach deep REM sleep. If you are not getting deep sleep your body will not go into a restorative state. Sleep is when your body gets to fully repair all of the damaged cells in your body. When you drink your body cannot repair itself and this is why you wake up feeling so dishevelled after drinking.
8.Read Before Bed To Improve Your Sleep Quality
I love to read. Every night before bed I read 20 pages. Previously, I would read business or personal development books before sleeping. My mind would go into overdrive thinking about how I could implement new strategies into my life. The excitement was not what I needed before bed. I would try to go asleep but I couldn’t because my mind was racing.
Now before I go to bed I read fiction or nonfiction that has a story. The key for me is for the book not to be about strategy. Reading before bed makes you tired and helps you to sleep better. It is hard to do but try switch off your screens and read before you go to bed.
Sleeping Tools To Help Parents Improve Their Sleep Quality
- Blue Light Filter
- Sleep Tracker
- Sleeping ring
- Air Cooler
- Black Out Blinds
- Earplugs Wax
- Wake up lights
- Deep breathing exercises
Sleep has become such become such an important part of my life since becoming a parent. I spent my twins first half year walking around like a zombie due to sleep deprivation. Those 6 months made me understand the value of sleep. Since then I have created a nighttime and morning routine that helps me get much better sleep.
There are obviously exceptions but most nights I sleep for 7.5 – 8 hours. This high-quality sleep has helped me a lot. As a result, I am less stressed, more focused and more productive in work. Being well rested helps me to have the energy to maintain my busy schedule and be the best dad that I can be.
Are you struggling with sleep quality? I would love to hear more about it in the comments below. Do you have any other techniques that help you to get better nights sleep?
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