Parents sacrifice their sleep to late night feedings, monsters under the bed, work deadlines or our own to-do lists after bedtime. Add in the stresses and responsibilities of the global pandemic — homeschooling, changes in routine and more — and a restful night’s sleep may seem like something only in your (limited) dreams.
If you’ve found yourself lying awake once you finally get to bed, you’re not alone. According to a study published by the Journal of Sleep Research, 11 percent of mothers reported insomnia in the one to two months leading up to the pandemic. That number has more than doubled, reaching a reported 23 percent, in the months during the COVID-19 pandemic. Another 80 percent of women also reported mid or high levels of anxiety at the same time.
Sleep is a critical part of caring for our mental health and it’s an integral part of self-care. So how can we get the most from our sleep when it seems that rest has fallen off our priority lists?
Whether you get four or eight hours each night, here are a few tips to wake up feeling rested and refreshed.
Stop the scroll early. Speaking of screen time, many studies link eye strain and the decreased ability to sleep to scrolling social media. Remove the temptation by charging your phone away from your bed, or at least out of reach. This move has an added benefit if you use your phone as an alarm clock. You’ll have to get out of bed to turn it off, and you’re less likely to snooze through your morning.
Make a routine for yourself. If you’ve ever had a newborn, you might have been given the advice to create a bedtime routine. Maybe that included doing a bath, a story, snuggles and a lullaby in that order every night to signal the end of the day and the start of bedtime. Try doing the same thing for yourself. Whatever your wind-down routine entails, try doing it in the same order, around the same time, every night. Consider incorporating essential oils like lavender, sandalwood or vanilla into your bedtime routine to ease any anxious feelings and signal your brain that the shutdown is coming. Instead of leaving on the TV, listen to a relaxing playlist while you pick up toys or clean up the kitchen.
Brain dump. Write down the thoughts floating around in your head prior to starting your bedtime routine. That could be to-dos, things you want to remember, ideas you have, or a reminder for someone in your family about tomorrow’s schedule. Get these things out of your mind and onto paper, so they’re not crossing your thoughts as you lay in bed trying to sleep.
Move your body. Even if you exercise during the day, try some gentle stretches or yoga poses (see sidebar on page 40) in the 10-15 minutes before you crawl into bed. Not only is this great for your muscles and physical health, but it also can help calm your nervous system.
Not everyone will experience the same benefits from the same routine, and trial and error is important in figuring out what will work for you. Give yourself a week or two to test different routines until you find the steps that work best for you, and look forward to getting a good night’s rest.
Easy, Restorative Yoga Poses
People of all ages all over the world practice yoga to increase feelings of relaxation and rebalance the nervous system. Try these three easy restorative poses for enhanced sleep.
Legs Up The Wall (Viparita Karani)
This one is just like it sounds. Lie on the floor, with your tailbone close to the wall and your legs extended up toward the ceiling. Rest your arms at your sides, or overhead, and close your eyes for five to 10 minutes. By elevating your legs, you can increase your circulation and decrease any fluid buildup that may have occurred throughout the day. You also may feel release in lower back tension and a gentle stretch in your hamstrings. If your hamstrings are tight, scoot yourself away from the wall a few inches.
Child’s Pose (Balasana)
Take a restorative approach to this classic yoga pose by incorporating a pillow or two. Sit with your knees wide, toes touching, and rest your upper body on the pillow. This pose is a great choice if you’re experiencing tension in your hips or lower back. You might also feel opening in your shoulders. Take long inhales and exhales to calm your mind.
Corpse Pose (Savasana)
Lie on your back, legs extended out long and arms resting at your sides. Feel yourself being fully grounded and supported. Close your eyes and try to calm your thoughts. This is a great pose to practice meditation, or clearing your thoughts in favor of an emotionally calm state. Don’t worry if meditation doesn’t come easy to you, it can take months or even years of practice.
Jamie Winebrenner is a 200-hour registered yoga teacher and teaches in Medina and Wadsworth. She also is trained in reiki, and when she is not teaching, she works as a content marketing and graphic design consultant. She resides in Medina with her husband and two young children.