Insomnia Tips to Fall Asleep

Dr. Kathryn Sharkey, a sleep expert from Brown University, told the New York Times, 'A female patient will come in complaining of insomnia, and when asked how long she has had it, will say, "Fifteen years—ever since my baby was born."' 

Almost everyone suffers from sleep deprivation at some point in life. But it can be so bad when you have a young child that it can literally feel like torture. Worse, as exhaustion builds, you may get so anxious—'I have to fall asleep before the baby awakes again!'—that it is even harder to fall asleep.

Sure, you are focused on giving your baby care and love. But that should not be at the expense of your health. In fact, if your baby could speak, he would say, 'Hey—I need you a lot, so stay healthy!'

If you are getting your baby’s sleep under control but battling insomnia yourself, try these sleep-enhancing tips.

Tips for Insomnia

  1. Prepare Your Room

Make sure your room is cool, with good ventilation. And remember that white noise is not just for your baby! The brain has a hard time paying attention to two things at once, so white noise covers over disturbing sounds from the next-door neighbors or passing trucks or trains. Try white noise for yourself (start it softly, an hour before sleep to give your brain a few days to get used to it).

Even better, white noise covers over the flood of worries that may be preventing sleep from coming. These sounds allow your tired brain to ignore burdensome thoughts and slide more easily into sleep. Many mums and dads find a rain on the roof sound soothing; just start it softly, about an hour before bedtime, and increase the nighttime volume over time.

Note: Not all white noise is the same. Higher-pitched sounds can be alerting, rather than calming. So, if you find white noise annoying, try a lower-pitched sound; for example, the specially engineered Happiest Baby white noise CD or digital download. 

And here is another idea: keep a pen and paper by your bed so you can just jot down important ideas, rather than staying up and fretting that you might forget them.

Most important of all, remember: light is the enemy of sleep! For thousands of years, darkness was the brain’s cue to get ready to sleep. (Electric lights have only been around for a hundred years.)

Your home lights trick your brain into thinking it is still afternoon. The brain then shuts off your natural melatonin, which delays your drowsiness until much later at night. You will feel more alert in the evening, but you will be exhausted when your little one wakes you up at the crack of dawn.

So, an hour before bedtime, dim the lights…and dim or turn off your computer or cell-phone screen too! While you sleep, wear an eye mask or put a towel over any bright lights in your bedroom (cable boxes, alarm clocks, etc.).

When you awaken in the middle of the night, do not turn on the lights. Use a little flashlight or night-light, and resist the urge to look at the bright screen of your cell phone to check your emails or texts.

  1. Prepare Your Body

Get some sunshine every day to set your internal clock. If you live somewhere with a long, dark, winter, consider getting special SAD lights (for the prevention of seasonal affective disorder).

No matter how hectic your schedule is, try to get some exercise every day. Aim for at least 20 minutes (30 is even better)—but in a pinch, go out for one or two laps around the block. If you can, get a friend to go with you. It is usually best not to exercise within 3 hours of bedtime.

A little daytime nap can be a big help, too.

And at the risk of sounding like your mum…are you eating well? Exhaustion can make you eat impulsively, cause you to crave carbs and fat, and throw your metabolism into a weight-gaining spiral. Weight gain, in turn, can lead to poor sleep…which can start a vicious cycle.

Nip that cycle in the bud by eating 3 medium meals a day and a snack or two. Choose whole grains or high-fiber foods and snack on fruits, veggies, hummus, and crackers. Try to skip the cakes and reach for foods with some protein, like nuts, trail mix, a fried egg, or a glass of warm milk (maybe with some honey).

Make lunch your big meal and eat dinner at least three hours before bedtime. And avoid anything with caffeine, including coffee, tea, cola, chocolate, and energy drinks. Decongestants, diet supplements, and Chinese herbs can also contain stimulants that thwart sleep.

Some warm mint tea is soothing and can put you in the mood for slumber, too. (In Serbian, mint is called nana—which means 'grandma'—because it is what Grandma offers to comfort her family.)

If your partner snores, a strong white noise may reduce your brain’s attention to the ruckus. And get that snoring checked out, because it might be a sign of a correctable problem.

  1. Prepare Your Mind

Laughter is one of the world’s best stress reducers. So, dig out your favourite funny movies, read a book that makes you giggle, or call a friend with a great sense of humor.

When you lie down, do a little bedtime sweet talk with yourself. And I know I am sounding like your mum again…but count your blessings several times each day. Each time, fill your heart with gratitude and love.

Also, do not sweat the small stuff. Turn off your phone, delay writing thank-you notes, and put off chores like hoovering.

Avoid sleeping medications, but ask your GP about taking some magnesium, valerian, or melatonin. These may promote sleep without making you too drowsy to respond to your child’s middle-of-the-night needs. Resist the urge to have a pint or a glass of wine before bedtime; it is likely to lead to more nighttime awakenings, and it can reduce your ability to respond to your baby’s needs. (And if you are nursing, remember that what you drink, your baby drinks.)

Finally, create a regular 'wind-down' routine for yourself in the evening. Give your baby a massage (it will relax both of you), listen to quiet music, turn off the TV, read a book, or write in a journal.

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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider. Breastmilk is the best source of nutrition for babies. It is important that, in preparation for and during breastfeeding, mothers eat a healthy, balanced diet. Combined breast- and bottle-feeding in the first weeks of life may reduce the supply of a mother's breastmilk and reversing the decision not to breastfeed is difficult. If you do decide to use infant formula, you should follow instructions carefully.