I’m not a night person nor a morning person. I’m more of a “2 p.m.” kind of woman – when at least one of my children is napping! Once when chatting with a friend, I learned that I share the same anti-anxiety medication as her dog (which my doctor prescribed to me in a low dose to help me sleep at night). I’ve since scaled back my use of said drug (I wonder if it is cheaper to buy from a veterinarian?) and have looked for healthier, more natural ways to help me get my Zzz’s. Below I share seven ways to help you fall asleep quickly.
While I tend to talk about my lack of sleep humorously, sleep is of utmost importance in my postpartum anxiety recovery journey. And while my children mostly sleep through the night at this point, I’ve gotten into some terrible sleep habits in recent months. Racing thoughts, my push to stay on top of work, and thinking of all the things I have to do often keep me from my “beauty” rest (I’ll settle for “just not looking like a complete zombie” rest).
Here in Alberta, we just had “fall back” to Mountain Standard Time. While mothers all over Facebook are bemoaning the early hours their children are waking these first few days with funny memes, I’m trying to use it as an opportunity to “reset” and develop better sleep habits. My problem is actually falling asleep. So without further ado…
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Seven Ways to Help You Fall Asleep At Night
1. Actually Go to Bed!
This might fall into the “Well, duh!” category, but if you’re a busy working mom, it’s harder than it sounds! I love being a work-from-home mompreneur, but it often means my work (blog posts, e-mails, client projects) get done after the kids go to bed. And it is really easy for me to push sleep aside, eat some chocolate, and keep going until 1 a.m. or later. At some point, I have to learn to love myself more than I love my work, and do what I need to ensure I don’t hit burnout. What helps me do this is having a “to do list” notepad where I check off what I accomplished and write down what I will do the next day. Then I walk away from my computer and GO TO BED!
2. Capitalize on a Time Change or Recent Trip
As a write this, I am feeling groggy from my choice to take advantage of our “fall back” to Mountain Standard Time and go to bed at 9:30 pm (since it felt like 10:30, so I was actually a little tired by then). So why so groggy? Because in exchange for going to bed early and not staying up until 1 a.m. on a client project, I woke up at 5:30 a.m. (about an hour and a half before my kids) to work. Getting up early also helps me be on the same page as my husband, who also gets up at 5:30 for work in the morning. The other benefit of waking up early vs. staying up late is, if for some reason I did have a terrible sleep, I could always forego getting up before my kids and still get the sleep I need to remain sane and alert.
Jet lag or recent travel to another time zone is another opportunity to reset your (and your children’s) bedtime hour. Over the summer, my kids’ bedtime slowly got looser and later. With the time change, we are getting back to getting them in bed by 7:30 – which gives me more time for my own work in the evening too.
3. Take Nutritional Supplements
There are a number of natural vitamins, minerals and supplements that can help you improve your circadian rhythm, without relying on caffeine to wake you up in the morning or a sleeping pill to get you to fall asleep. The idea is to have more energy in the morning and to naturally wind down later in the evening. Here are three of my favourites:
Magnesium is something we all could use more of, because typical farming practices leave soil (and therefore our grains and produce) depleted of minerals. Restless leg syndrome, mood swings and trouble sleeping at night can all be attributed to magnesium deficiency. But not all magnesium supplements are equal. The benefit of Magnesium Bis-Glycinate is it is easy on the digestive system (doesn’t cause loose bowels), and it easier for your body to absorb and get the full benefit of the magnesium. I take mine in the evening just after I’ve put kids to bed.
Vitamin D3 with K2
Vitamin D3 is excellent for boosting your immune system and giving you more energy, so it is best to take earlier in the day. However, what you might not know is the importance of taking K2 along with it. K2 is a vitamin that you could easily be deficient in because it is only found in grassfed dairy and meat and fermented/high bacteria food items like sauerkraut, kimchi and brie cheese. While Vitamin K1 (the one you probably learned about as a kid and can be found in yoghurt) helps with blood clotting, K2 acts like a transport ship that moves calcium around in the body to prevent calcium buildup in the arteries. It also improves the usefulness of Vitamin D and Magnesium, and recent studies show it is linked to cancer prevention. Buy it here.
WebMD states that “Rhodiola is used for increasing energy, stamina, strength and mental capacity; and as a so-called ‘adaptogen’ to help the body adapt to and resist physical, chemical, and environmental stress.” My experience with Rhodiola (suggested to me by my naturopath) is that it helps give me a calm mental alertness in the morning without the nervous buzz or digestive upset that I often get with coffee or other high-caffeine beverages. It’s important to note that it could possibly be passed on to your baby through breastmilk, so my naturopath recommends I time my consumption of it to not conflict with my son’s naps (there isn’t evidence to suggest it is harmful but could make your baby less sleepy). Ideally, take it first thing in the morning before you’ve had breakfast. I’ve had good results with Thorne Research Rhodiola. (Side note, I also had better nutrient absorption and less nausea using Thorne’s maternity supplement than other typical drugstore brands).
4. Diffuse Essential Oils
While I am hesitant regarding ingesting or applying to my skin potent essential oils, I’ve really appreciated them in my home for diffusing purposes. Recently I’ve been using Insomnia Blend from the Calgary-based company Nature’s Essence Aromatherapy with great success. I notice a distinct difference in how quickly I’m able to fall asleep compared to when I don’t use it. Please note I don’t have any association to Nature’s Essence, but I feel I can recommend it because it works for me for diffusion-only purposes (I don’t put it on my skin or ingest it). As for diffusers, the key is to get an ultrasonic one, something that matches your home, and one at a reasonable price. I bought the one in the picture from Amazon.
5. Turn On the Blue Light Filter/Turn Off the Screens
I’m betting you know this already! Use the Blue Light Filter on your smartphone to reduce your exposure to alertness-inducing blue light in the evening. I put mine on as of the time I put my kids to bed. I have a terrible habit of staying up late watching my favourite sci-fi and superhero shows (yes I’m a huge nerd), but I’m working on having more discipline in this area and giving myself “wind down, no screen time” before bed. If your phone doesn’t come with a blue light setting, look for an app to download.
6. Listen to Podcasts/Audio Books
I like using podcasts or audio books as white noise to help prevent me from listening to my own racing thoughts and the to-do list rattling around my brain. But the key is to make sure you find someone with a steady, soothing voice. This doesn’t mean you need to be disinterested in the content (I do like actually listening and learning before I fall asleep). Usually I find deeper male voices are better. Some of my favourites are Dave Asprey with Bulletproof Radio, the YouVersion audio Bible app, and Steve Holmstrom of Oil Patch Pulpit.
7. Make Up Your Own Short Stories
This one is a little silly, but it’s true so I might as well tell you! One of the ways I turn off my brain is by making up my own stories in my head. Now, I believe in having wisdom regarding what kind of “stories” you think about, but I’m talking about innocent ones. Ran across an interesting person during your walk or travels that day? Make up a story about their life. Hated how a T.V. show you watched ended and it’s bothering you? “Fix it” in your head by making up your own ending! Always wanted to be on the bridge of the Enterprise? Make up a plot line where a future version of you visits! Will you help them save the day or betray them all? I’ve been doing this sort of thing since childhood, and I still find it a good way to wind down. And it’s much more interesting than counting sheep (plus it keeps a gag order on my intrusive thoughts)!
And hopefully, in the morning when your kids bounce out of bed with the energy of nectar crazed hummingbirds, you’ll be doing a little better than this:
P.S: Thanks to the “Elite” ladies of my local Facebook moms group who suggested many funny memes for this post!
What helps you fall asleep at night? Let me know in the comments!