Since having children, my ability to sleep (deeply and for long periods of time) has changed significantly. I wake up frequently and at the softest noise, toss and turn when I do actually sleep, and wake up tired on an almost daily basis. As someone who really loves (and needs) her sleep, this has been challenging for me. I sit at a desk in an office generally by myself for the vast majority of each work day – I find doing this tired is exceptionally difficult.
Never one to sit back and accept my circumstances, I have made some significant changes which have had been hugely beneficial. Some of my changes are based on scientific research, others are based on random articles online and the rest are trial and error. None of these changes are in any way earth shattering, but for me, collectively, they have made an impactful difference.
- Weighted Blanket – I didn’t actually buy a weighted blanket, but use a very heavy blanket folded over twice on top of the duvet on my side of the bed. The idea of a weighted blanket was new to me, but I know I always slept incredibly well in hotels with heavy blankets. Turns out, there is a lot of psychology research about how weighted blankets help calm the nervous system, and recently there was a hugely successful Kickstarter campaign for a weighted blanket.
- Black Out Curtains – I love that our house is all grey, white and bright. Except when I am trying to sleep. To maintain the aesthetic of our master bedroom, I simply bought blackout curtain liners that I put behind our white curtains. Sometimes I forget to close the blackout curtains at night, and I am always reminded at how much of a difference they make, even during the week when I wake up early.
- Limit Screen Time Before Bed – This is challenging for me since I try to avoid social media at work (too much of a distraction) and work to minimize my own screen time when I am around my children. That basically leaves my hour before bed to catch up on my phone (Instagram, Facebook, etc.). But for all the reasons that are documented in so many articles (here, here, and here, for instance), I find scrolling through social media gets my mind spinning and makes it difficult to fall asleep. I generally allow myself to go on social media but log off at least half an hour before I want to actually go to sleep.
- Meditation to Fall Asleep – I listen to my meditation app Calm as I fall asleep. I try to follow the meditation but generally fall asleep before it is done. This helps me clear my mind and not run through to-do lists and activities I didn’t get to during the day as I’m trying to go to sleep.
- White Noise Machine – Finally, I got a white noise machine and also leave our master bathroom fan on when I sleep. We live in an old house by Houston standards (it was built in 1952) so the walls are fairly thin, and I can generally hear my children when they talk in their sleep or even toss and turn. The noise machine and fan provide just enough baseline noise so that my sleep isn’t disturbed, but isn’t so loud that I cannot hear my children when they need me. I think this last item has been the most impactful.