Getting Enough Sleep

When the Baby Is Sleeping, but You're Not
Usually by the end of a child's first or second year, she's sleeping through the night (Yes! Yes! Yes!). But many mothers still have a hard time falling asleep in the first place, or toss and turn in the middle of the night, or wake up early and are not able to get back to sleep. There are plenty of effective steps you can take to sleep well again.

Watching what you eat. Some moms feed the kids first, but then eat a big meal later in the evening that can make their stomachs restless midway through the night; see if you can eat dinner at least three hours before going to bed. You might also try reducing or eliminating caffeine, especially in the latter half of the day. Alcohol may initially relax you, but it can wake you later on. Even chocolate isn't so good right before bed, since it contains caffeine-like substances. Finally, don't take stimulating supplements, such as B vitamins or ginseng, in the evening.

Then there are the foods that you could eat for a good night's rest: many people find that rice or warm milk helps them get to sleep.

Lowering your stress. Sleep disturbance is one sign that a person is overly stressed. For example, cortisol normally rises in the morning to prepare you for the activities of the day, but with too much stress, this hormone will kick into gear extra early, waking you at 3 or 4 a.m. The solution is to do whatever is necessary to lower stress overall and to try to settle down your adrenal hormones. Other than a life-or-death emergency, nothing is more important for a mother than getting enough sleep.

Getting exercise. Exercise during the day or right after work can bring good sleep at night. But be careful about exercising in the later parts of the evening, since it can stimulate your body and make it harder to fall asleep.

Relaxing your body. One mother offered this suggestion: I find that taking a nice warm bath with my baby - with a little lavender in the water - relaxes us both. It's a signal to our bodies and minds that it's time for bed. Also, it "kills two birds with one stone."

Using psychological techniques. These methods can help you sleep better:

  • Do mentally restful activities during the hour or so before bedtime, like reading casually, watching TV, or taking a bath. Don't pay bills at night - or talk about them with your partner!
  • Try to avoid arguments just before bed. You and your partner could agree that it's all right to table a discussion until the next day.
  • Sit in a sleeping child's bedroom for a while, watching him or her breathe, and let your thoughts relax and wander.
  • Meditate before bed, even for just a few minutes.
  • Keep a pad and pen by your bedside to write down any thoughts or reminders for the next day, so you can get them out of your head.
  • If nagging worries push forward in your mind when you settle down to sleep, like imps slipping past weary guards, make an agreement with yourself that you will think about them the next day.
  • Extend compassion toward yourself. This alone can open the velvet trapdoor to sleep. You might reflect on how hard you work and how good it would feel to lavish kindness and sweetness upon yourself, just as you do with your children.
  • One of the hardest times to fall asleep is when you are mad at the person lying next to you. After focusing on compassion to yourself, you could try extending it to him. Compassion doesn't mean you agree with him or renounce your rights, but that you are aware of his distress and wants, and let yourself feel a basic kindness toward him. If you like, you could express that compassion through the form of simple statements in your mind, such as "May John be at peace" or "May John and I be at peace with each other."
  • Try imagining that you are breathing love for your child in and out through your heart, or love for the child that still exists within you.


From Mother Nurture: A Mother's Guide to Health in Body, Mind, and Intimate Relationships by Rick Hansen, Jan Hansen, and Ricki Pollycove. Copyright © 2002 by Rick Hanson. Jan Hanson, and Ricki Pollycove. Used by arrangement with Viking Penguin, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit amazon.


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