Is the word ‘mom’ synonymous with ‘exhausted’? According to the National Sleep Foundation, nearly three-quarters of moms experience sleep problems, sometimes for years on end. Ten percent of moms aren’t getting a full night’s sleep, even as kids approach the preschool years.
Moms are keenly aware of the importance of sleep. After all, we enforce kids’ bedtimes and make sure everyone else gets enough shut-eye. So why do we find it so difficult to get the rest we need?
The answer: it’s complicated. When it comes to sleep, women have a natural disadvantage compared to men. We experience higher rates of insomnia and nighttime pain, but we actually need more sleep—around 20 minutes more per night, according to sleep expert Jim Horne, author of Sleepfaring: A Journey Through The Science Of Sleep (Oxford University Press).
In addition to our own biology, we’re battling powerful social forces that tell us that we need to stay up later, finish one last email, or fold one more load of laundry before we turn in. People who barely sleep—recently dubbed the “sleepless elite” by The Wall Street Journal –are seen as dedicated and driven.
So why should moms prioritize their own sleep? Well, their health, for one.
Moms with sleep troubles experience higher rates of postpartum depression along with a host of other health and mood problems, including insulin resistance and weight gain. (There’s serious science behind those claims—click on the links.)
Here’s a scary quote from my article "Momsomnia":“People with sleep disorders experience so many other health problems; you can almost see them aging faster,” says Dr. Sridar Chalaka, M.D., director of the North Puget Sound Center for Sleep Disorders.
Say it with me: Yikes. I, for one, don’t need any extra help in the aging department.
Another reason for moms to get their shut-eye: the safety of their offspring. Over one-quarter of women admit to driving while drowsy, often with children in the car. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration attributes 100,000 auto accidents each year to drowsy driving.
During some phases of life, sleep loss is inevitable (new parenthood comes to mind). But we can reclaim some of our rest, even during those sleepless months, by prioritizing sleep and changing some of our habits. And even 20 extra minutes of shut-eye per day can make a difference in your health. Here are some tips to get started:
Sleep Hygiene for Moms
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. Avoid varying your sleep schedule, even on weekends.
- Exercise 4-5 hours before bedtime; avoid exercising late at night.
- Sleep in a dark, quiet, comfortable room. The ideal bedroom temperature is 60-68 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Avoid caffeine or other stimulants after 2pm.
- Enjoy a short afternoon power-nap, but avoid sleeping too long or you’ll disrupt nighttime rest.
- Check your medications: antidepressants, thyroid hormones, beta blockers, diuretics, and some decongestants can harm sleep.
- Alcohol at bedtime can lead to poor-quality sleep, so don’t overdo it.
- Relaxation, meditation, hypnosis, biofeedback and aromatherapy have all been shown to improve sleep.
- See a doctor is insomnia disrupts your daily life for more than a month.
Here's to a restful weekend. (A girl can dream, right?)