How to Train Yourself to Sleep Through the Night
You finally have that magical first morning where, at 7am, you realize your baby didn’t make a peep the entire night. After you check to make sure he’s still breathing and that your monitor wasn’t just off all night, you are hit with the most amazing realization- HE DID IT! He slept all the way through the night!
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You tell your husband. You text your mom. And your sister. And your best friend. You have never been more proud of your kid! And just as you’re about to throw a major party, you realize, wait a second, you’re just as tired as always. Because you still woke up ALL. NIGHT. LONG. Yep. Not only have you successfully sleep trained your baby, your baby has successfully sleep trained you. You are now trained to wake up every 3 hours, on the dot, and what’s worse- you can’t get yourself back to sleep. Now you're the one who is so overtired, you can’t connect your sleep cycles or easily fall asleep for bedtime. What's an exhausted mamma to do??
Well, this post is dedicated to you, Mamma.
How to train yourself to sleep through the night
(in 5 easy-ish steps.)
(Hint: This list is going to be very similar to what you used to get your baby to sleep all night!)
1) Optimize Your Sleep Environment
Just like with your own little lamb, your sleep environment should be optimized in every way. It should be:
- Always in the same place. Don’t move around to different places like the couch or guest room. Same room, same bed, even same position!
- Dark. Very dark. Get those black out curtains or wear an eye mask.
- Boring. Just like for baby, no screens or light up toys!! Keep your phone out of bed with you- beds are for sleeping, not watching shows or checking email. Retrain your brain.
- Quiet. Or, if you can’t control external noises, use white noise. The latest research is finding that sleeping with white noise actually helps you sleep more deeply as it helps you tune out other noises and "relax" as you sleep. (More science behind white noise here.)
- Comfortable. Deal with anything in your sleep environment that isn’t optimizing your comfort and contributing to making it hard to sleep. If you have an uncomfortable mattress, get a new one. I love this mattress from Dream Cloud Hybrid Mattresses because it’s hand tufted (meaning it won’t sag!), has a 365 day trial (unheard of!), AND you even get a free cleaning! Plus a whole lot of other amazing-ness. Check it out in the link above and get $200 and free delivery. Another awesome and more affordable option is the Nectar mattress, which is my personal choice!
- Cool. Wear Ideal temperature should be 66-68 degrees. Wear light weight, comfortable pajamas.
2) Create A Relaxing Routine
Your body and mind depend on routine to settle down just like your kids. Set a routine of about 15-20 minutes, the same each night, of activities that include a mix of getting ready for bed combined with relaxing activities like prayer, reading a (calm, not over-stimulating) book, breathing exercises, and a hot shower with lavender soap or essential oils.
Turn off all overhead lights by 8pm and, I know this is a hard one but it needs to be said again- TURN OFF THE SCREENS! Especially the phones right in your face! Read a book, talk with your partner, play a board game, anything but having that blue light right up in your nose. I promise you it definitely interferes with melatonin production and will certainly inhibit your ability to fall asleep and sleep soundly. Turn them off- it’ll be worth it!
3) Set An Age-Appropriate Schedule
At your adult age, you really do still need 8 hours of sleep! Don’t convince yourself that you actually do fine on 6.5 hours- you almost certainly have a major sleep debt that you’ve grown accustomed to, but that will still show up in your slowed reaction time, impaired memory, negative mood, and even your declining health. Also:
- Wake up at the same time every day. Ideally around 7am, or with the sun.
- Go to bed early. At least 8.5 hours before that wake up time, to allow yourself some wind-down time and alleviate some of the pressure to “get to sleep”.
- Follow your sleep schedule every day. Even on the weekends. Sleeping in late on Saturdays is like giving your body jet-lag every weekend. It takes a few days to recover from and prevents your body from getting in a nice, smooth homeostatic and circadian rhythm.
- Don’t allow yourself to nap. I know, I'm cruel! But if you keep giving your body a chance to make up for missed sleep during the day, it won't be as motivated to sleep during the night. As much as siestas are a great part of some cultures, if you’re having trouble sleeping at night and want to fix it, don’t allow yourself to make up for the lack of sleep during the day. Otherwise, your body will know to expect that sleep in the afternoon and not be as biologically “motivated” to sleep soundly all night.
4) Have an arsenal of meditative and breathing exercises.
There are many examples out there. Here are some of my favorites.
- Counting Breaths
- Slowly take in a breath and count “1” in your head at the top of the breath, let it out and count “2” at the end of the breath. Breathe in again and count “3”, let it out and count “4”. Aim to reach 100, or some other really high number. If you lose track or your mind starts to wonder, start over again at 1.
- The Full Body Squeeze
- Starting at your toes, squeeze tightly for 10 seconds, then relax them for 10 seconds. Count slowly, and move up to your ankles, your calves, your hands, your quads, etc. all the way to your face.
- Recite Scripture or a peaceful phrase
- Choose a positive, faith-filled message to repeat to yourself, like “Trust in the Lord with all your heart” or "He will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast because he trusts in Him." Or “Gratitude in (breathe in), anxiety out (breathe out)”.
- Discipline your mind to name 50 things you’re thankful for.
- “I’m so thankful I have a comfortable bed to lie on. I’m so thankful I have a nice pillow and sheets and temperature control. I’m so thankful I have a house to sleep in, a spouse to lie next to, children to wake me up in the morning, etc”
5) Pick Your Method.
You can’t exactly let yourself “cry it out”, but you can choose a plan for how to respond when you realize you’ve been laying in bed for 15 minutes but still aren’t asleep. The most important thing is to break the habit of laying in bed for hours, whether it’s at bedtime or in the middle of the night, when your body springs awake, expecting to have a baby to attend to. If you’ve been laying in bed awake for longer that 15 minutes, get out of bed and have a plan to do something very boring: read with a very small reading lamp, listen to calming music, pray in a corner. After about 10 minutes, or when you start feeling sleepy again, go back to bed and do your breathing exercises. This will be hard at first, but in time, your brain will know that your bed is for sleeping, not for lying awake.
More DON’Ts (and a DO):
- DON’T regularly rely on Melatonin. As tempting as it is to rely on sleep-inducing medication, melatonin in particular will interfere with your body’s natural melatonin production and cause dependence, where you will need to gradually increase the dosage over time to achieve the same effect. It’s best to avoid, but definitely talk to you doctor about other options.
- DON’T have caffeine after 12pm.
- DON’T exercise after 5pm- the endorphins can make it hard to settle yourself down.
- DO talk to a therapist if you’re really struggling with anxiety/insomnia. (Check out our resources page for recommendations.)
It’s a lot of little things to implement all together, but if you commit to this plan and stick with it, you’ll be sleeping like a baby again in no time! And now that your baby is sleeping, that's a good thing. ;)