Get to bed early. Seriously, getting more sleep is THE ANSWER to everything.
It sounds obvious, but all too often sleep falls to the bottom of the list. There’s always one more thing to do, one more job to tick off, and before you know it it’s midnight.
I’ve VERY guilty of this and when you’ve got a lot on your plate it’s hard to prioritise sleep. But it’s a vicious cycle. You stay up late trying to get everything done, then you’re so tired the next day you can’t concentrate, and end up feeling like you have to stay up late again to catch up.
I have a tendency to be a night owl. But night owl tendencies simply aren’t compatible with having small children. They’re going to wake you up early and getting by on five or six hours of sleep is going to have a major effect on your health, your emotional state, and your ability to handle stress.
Yes, I know sleep deprivation comes with the parenting territory. Small children are sleep thieves. I had a nightmare with my daughter and sleep when she was tiny, but now she sleeps through the night 99.9 per cent of the time.
Even when she doesn’t it shouldn’t be the straw that breaks my sanity, if I’m getting to bed early enough.
Sleep issues are often a result of self-sabotage and bad habits.
So, at the start of September I set myself the goal of going to bed at 10pm every night. For two weeks solid I was asleep before 11 pm, if not earlier, and I was blown away by the difference it made.
I felt like a new person. I was more productive, I had way more energy, I felt happier. My eyes were brighter and my skin clearer. But most importantly, I was a FAR more patient and tolerant mother.
Plus, when my daughter did wake up in the night I was able to handle it calmly and patiently instead of getting angry that she’d woken me up when I’d only got to bed an hour before!
How to prioritise getting more sleep
What I did was put an action plan in place to get more sleep. I made a note of the things that were stopping me getting to bed early and worked out strategies to neutralise them.
Sticking to the plan isn’t easy. I fell off the wagon not long after my two-week experiment. But it’s a work in progress. Generally I get to bed early two or three nights out of seven so I consider that winning.
I’ve proven that my strategies work so when the warning signs of tiredness and irritability hit, I know what I need to do.
Here are my four strategies for getting more sleep:
1 | Get more sleep by having an evening ritual.
Check out this post I wrote about my evening ritual. I have a short list of things to do to get myself ready for bed and for the next day, and I know how long it takes.
So if I want to be asleep by 10.00pm I know I need to turn off the TV and start my ritual – get stuff ready for breakfast, write the next day’s to-do list, brush my teeth etc, write in my journal, read – by 9.30pm.
I’ve got a reminder on my phone to let me know it’s time to switch off and start getting ready for bed.
2 | Get more sleep by not working in the evenings.
This is the hardest part. I’d fallen into the habit of being spectacularly unproductive in the day because I was so tired, and then working in the evening to catch-up.
I’d kid myself that it’s not really working if I’m watching a mindless TV programme at the same time, but even opening my laptop is the kiss of death.
If your situation means you have to work in the evenings then at least try to set a deadline to turn off your laptop. This will give you time to unwind before hitting the sack. I’ve set my Mac to turn off at 9.30pm. But for me it’s better not to open it in the first place.
3. Get more sleep by switching off the TV.
This was another trap I fell into. Starting to watch something gripping that went on until 10pm. If I think ‘Oh I’ll just watch the first half and record the rest’, it’s not hard to guess what always happens. Another late night.
So instead, I try to have a policy of not watching anything that ends after 9.30pm. Instead I record programmes so I can watch them at an earlier time another day.
4. Get more sleep by banning screens from the bedroom.
For a long time I’ve had a family rules that all devices stay downstairs. Including my laptop AND my phone.
At one point I used my phone as my alarm clock. Big mistake. I’d end up staying up late scrolling through Facebook or responding to WhatsApp messages from my friends in Australia in the middle of the night. And of course if your phone’s by your bed it’s the first thing you pick up when you wake up in the morning!
I was constantly wired and in a state of high alert. But also the blue light from mobile devices WILL disrupt your sleep. Even the light from someone else’s phone will disturb you. So make a pact that everyone leaves them downstairs.
I bought myself an alarm clock and now I leave my phone plugged in downstairs to charge overnight.
Is lack of sleep affecting other areas of your life?
Recently, someone asked me what I struggle with most when it comes to my wellbeing. Eating right, getting enough exercise or managing my workload?
For me the answer was none of these. It was getting enough sleep. Yes I also struggle with exercise, eating well and getting everything done but what I realised is that getting more sleep goes a long way to solving all of those problems.
If you’re over-tired you don’t feel like exercising, you’re more likely to eat sugary crap, you’re far less productive AND you’re more likely to be a grumpy, impatient, shouty mother! [Tell me it’s not just me!]
So set boundaries to ring-fence your sleep time. Fiercely protect it from self-sabotage.
Make sleep your top priority & everything else will fall into place.