Sleep is WILDLY important, and it’s especially important for beautiful little developing brains. While there may not be a one-size fits all sleep schedule, our bodies naturally do follow a rhythm, if we let them. And we know, through studies done on people working overnight shifts (and sleeping during the day), that health problems do pop up more often for people sleeping completely opposite their natural sleep cycle.
Our natural stress hormone cycle gives us some great clues for awesome sleeps. If we’re synced up, our lowest stress hormone levels are at 11 pm nightly, and our highest cortisol (the get up and go hormone) levels are found around 6 am.
When we follow this rhythm (which is easy to get out-of-sync with by technology I’ll talk about below), we naturally get tired in the evening. If we listened to our well-balanced bodies, we’d be asleep before 11 pm. And then we’d naturally be awoken the next morning around six am, and/or with the presence of light.
So what’s up if that’s not happening?
Remember this: You can change anything, and that includes when you tell your body it’s time for sleep. And you know what? Do it consistently, and it’ll start listening to you (you’re the boss).
And following these tips will really help you out, too.
1. No bright lights for better sleep!
I remember sitting in one of my Nutrition school classes learning all about melatonin, our sleepy hormone. I was wide-eyed and excited to hear that it is created in the presence of darkness only. This tip on it’s own could COMPLETELY transform your evenings.
I’ll put it another way: your body will only prepare for sleep hormonally in the presence of darkness.
So think about your bedtime routine.
If you have a little one, think about their bedtime routine.
Is it bath time and then a quick TV show or iPad game? Is bath time in a low-lit bathroom, or brightly lit one? What’s next? Does it include bright lights or screens?
If it’s you trying to get to sleep, are you on your phone or computer right before bed (I’ve been guilty of it, too, you are SO not alone).
So the big tip here for awesome sleep is to keep bright lights the heck away from bed time. Try to re-arrange your schedule, or your little one’s night time routine to keep lights away. Start eliminating bright lights and screens at least an hour before your ideal bedtime, better yet, two hours. Candles are a great help here, we often fill up our place with natural soy wax candles and turn out all lights an hour or so before bedtime. Not only does this help eliminate bright lights, but they’re so pretty and relaxing!
If you have a night light in your room and it needs to stay there, swap out the bulb for a red one. The dimmer the better. Red light doesn’t mess as badly with our sleep hormones. Blue or bright white-blue lights are the WORST.
2. No stress for better sleep!
Coffee works by stimulating our adrenals (stress glands) to excrete cortisol, which wakes us up. Long-term stress triggers the same hormonal cascade, and short-term immediate stress triggers adrenaline, an even stronger “you’re not sleeping anytime soon!” hormone.
In terms of the sleep cycle, our stress levels have SO much to do with our ease of falling asleep, and our waking up refreshed.
So the big tip for awesome sleep tonight is to keep stress away from bed time as vigilantly as you [now] keep light from bed time. No stress talks, no bitching and “oh my gosh this person did this most incredibly frustrating thing”. No stressful TV shows and don’t even think about jumping on that controversial Facebook group – you know the one that gets your blood pressure from normal to heart attack in .3 seconds.
3. Start an herbal tea ritual for better sleep.
There are so many wonderful, light and impressively feisty acting herbs for better sleeps. And just the act of preparing a nighttime tea for yourself can be a rejuvenating ritual. If you’ve got a little one racing in circles around you to get out their last bit of energy, just picture the scenario with a nice tea in your hand. It might not make them change, but the right herb can cut your stress around it and allow you to start your relaxation process.
If they’re no longer racing in circles because you’ve cut lights out, lit a candle or two or are using a red night light, and have kept stress away from bath time (plus maybe a little bonus lavender oil diffused in the bathroom during bath time), then see if they’d enjoy tea time with you.
For a young child, always check with a Holistic Nutritionist or your healthcare professional about herbs before you use herbal teas, as some herbs aren’t safe for kids. For most young ones, I’d either look at pure peppermint tea or pure chamomile tea. Both are lightly calming.
My favourite herbal teas for adults to help with sleep are lavender tea (lightly relaxing), passionflower tea (medium-relaxing) and valerian root (will knock you out – kidding! But it’s stronger acting and you shouldn’t plan to drive for at least a few hours after drinking it). It’s generally not recommended that co-sleeping parents use herbs with strong sedative actions like valerian or passionflower. Always read and follow package instructions, as some herbs are not safe during pregnancy, lactation or with certain health issues/medications.
I always look to find organic and loose leaf herbs, and then make up the tea myself. You can add stevia drops to sweeten the tea if you like (valerian can be a little earthy) and/or some fresh slices of lemon.
4. Meditate for better sleep!
Meditation is so beneficial because it calms your stress hormones, which means if you’re nursing, those hormones aren’t flowing into your milk and keeping your little one up.
I had a gorgeous client who really just needed her sleep. She had a son that was taking hours to fall asleep, and I created a meditation to help her while I was coaching her.
She noticed that it made SUCH a noticeable, immediate difference that she asked me to PLEASE make it available to other Mama’s.
Now Mothers from all over the world have loved this meditation, and I still receive massive, grateful compliments on it regularly. If you’d like to get your copy, and preview its magic for yourself, you can find out more about it by clicking here.
Taking a couple of minutes at night to balance your stress hormones, take a moment to breathe, and find some sort of relaxation from your wild day is SO rejuvenating.
Tip for making meditation at nighttime even more effective: use it in a way that works for you! You don’t have to sit with a candle in front of you and TRY to be calm! You can use a guided meditation and feel it’s magic work on you and your little one. Whether you have it playing out of your phone speaker, or in a great pair of headphones, I’ve had rave reviews on my meditation working really well both ways. The most important thing is that you find a way to fit it into your life!
Happy, calm Mum, happy, calm baby.
Sending my BEST well-deserved sleep vibes to you tonight and always,