Did you know that if you Google the phrase “mums are doing too much” it brings back a whopping 325,000,000 results? That’s over 3 MILLION unique posts to answer the somewhat rhetorical question about whether you’re a mum who is overworked and tired.
Motherhood is an on-call, 24/7 gig and can be pretty darn exhausting! Plus, if you’re like me, you’re always wanting to put others’ needs before your own.
This Mother’s Day, the best gift of all might be something you give yourself: learning how to prioritise your own health and wellness.
For single mums who are “only” parents as well, Mother’s Day can often feel like just another reminder of the incredible uphill battle faced every day. Indeed, single mothers are the most sleep-deprived people in the country, according to CDC data. Guess who came in second place? Mums from “nuclear” households with a partner are the second-most sleep deprived.
If the CDC wants us to prioritise sleep deprivation as a national health priority, the first people who deserve better sleep are mums.
But before we dive into how to get back more time and tips to sleep better, let’s take a quick quiz to determine whether you’re doing too much for everyone else.
Pop Quiz: Are You Tired of Being Tired?
If you relate to the questions on this list below, it might be time to run away to a quiet tropical island and live the rest of your life under a shaded palm tree, napping in a hammock. Just kidding, of course, but if you can answer “Yes” to most of these statements, then it might indicate you’re a sleep-deprived mum in need of advice to improve your sleep quality:
✔ You can’t remember the last time you went to bed at a reasonable hour.
✔ You spend time after the kids are sleeping to do “one more thing,” anxious about all of the things that didn’t get finished today.
✔ You have trouble falling asleep, and your mind races worrying about your long to-do list tomorrow.
✔ You toss and turn, sleep hot, have sweaty sleep, and often wake up thirsty.
✔ You can’t remember the last time you got to “sleep in” on the weekends.
3 Simple Ways to Improve Your Sleep Quality
First, pick your priorities
The first way to feel more well-rested is to choose which buckets to fill. This is advice that my good friend Danielle shared with me years ago — and it’s a practical approach to helping me find balance even to this day! She decided she had to pick her priorities. She told me that every morning she holds up five fingers on her left hand, representing which buckets will get filled that day.
For example, before she took control of her schedule, a typical day might have included: children, spouse, work, cleaning, chores, cooking, groceries, laundry, exercise, friends, reading, hobbies, or volunteering.
Wow, that’s a lot! Danielle once told me that fitting all of that into one day was causing her to have anxiety, insomnia, and massive mum guilt — it was absolutely impossible to try and squeeze all of those competing priorities into ONE day. She was juggling so much that nothing got done well.
Until one day she stopped and promised herself that each day she’d focus on no more than five things. Naturally, her children and spouse take the top spots almost every day — but the funny thing is, once she started “scheduling” her activities, she realised she’d never created a category for the oh-so-important category of REST!
(Take a look at her list again and you’ll see that she never prioritised sleep — no wonder she was so tired all the time!)
Now she feels happier, calmer, and ironically, more productive saying “yes” to fewer things and “no” to multiple activities that left her burned out.
Using Danielle’s advice, I also learned ways to get more done. Now when I want to exercise, I call a couple of girlfriends and we walk and catch up at the same time. When I have house chores, I put in ear pods and listen to an audiobook. (Okay, cleaning and folding laundry certainly aren’t glamorous but the ability to be transported to a fictional spot for 20 minutes definitely improves my outlook!)
Second, learn the link between sleep and optimal health
Postpartum sleep deprivation is really difficult! As I wrote in this post on sleep tips for parents of newborns, new mum sleep deprivation is a shock to the system and disrupts your body’s natural circadian rhythm, which can often set the stage for a cascade of anxiety and worry to boot.
Motherhood is often called the hardest job in the world and I can’t say I disagree! Add in what we experienced after the last unprecedented and difficult year, and it’s become more stressful and more exhausting for so many families.
Source: New York Times
Have you heard that the New York Times has created an interactive series and collection of articles, videos, and interviews examining the unfair burden placed on working mums? They even set up a Primal Scream hotline: the call line is not just for women, but most of the calls have been from them. All you have to do is call 212-556-3800, wait for the beep, and let your emotions out!
"Any of our readers, or anyone who is not a reader, can call to scream, laugh, cry," said Jessica Bennett, editor at large for the New York Times. "We've been hearing for months now about how women have been disproportionately affected in the pandemic."
No one would disagree with the fact that mums definitely are tired! Quality sleep is important and helps you recover physically and mentally. A good night’s sleep helps you focus the next day. Good sleep can burn fat and calories and it helps to keep you healthy and strong.
In a recent episode with guest Shawn Stevenson, he discussed how in order to get optimal sleep, you want to rest and relax a few hours before bed so that you can drop cortisol levels as well as your core body temperature:
“You know, people have probably heard a lot about this, and again, I've been pushing this in the culture for several years now. But our bodies have a process called thermal regulation. And there's an essential drop in our core body temperature at night. We're designed that way to help facilitate sleep and sleep programs. You know, certain neurotransmitters, hormones, repairs of enzymes, are all keyed up when our body, when the core body temperature comes down. Because in culture we’re taught...and this is what I was taught in a university setting, 37 degrees, that's what the human temperature is. That's not true. It's fluctuating all the time. And at night it's actually a little bit lower. However, if your environment is too warm, and your body has to fight to try to lower that temperature, it just makes it a little bit more difficult for it to initiate those processes. So what the research shows is that between 16 and 20 degrees is the ideal temperature for facilitating great sleep.”
Third, create a consistent ‘sleep hygiene’ practice
Let's start with the obvious: mums have no downtime! It might feel impossible to prioritise sleep but it’s a very important step.
As a mum and e-commerce owner, I often joke that there are overlaps between my two jobs: there's tons of competition for my time; a revolving door of activity and excitement; and nonstop troubleshooting of life’s many glitches, delays, and complaints.
So my final tip to get more rest comes from someone who has been there, done that. Learning to practice good “sleep hygiene” was one of the best gifts I gave to myself and my family. As I wrote in this earlier post about how small things can make a big difference, everyone has a unique “recipe” for optimising their sleep. Sleep is how we spend about one-third of our days and deserves a prominent place in our daily self-care routines.
Now, I remember that sometimes infants like to party at 3 am, toddlers wander out of bed, and school-age kids wake up with a sick tummy. As a parent, you can’t prevent our kids from waking us up — unfortunately, that’s a big part of the job. But working toward a consistent sleep routine night after night will have long-term benefits.
How to build your personal sleep hygiene recipe
Your sleep hygiene “recipe” may be different from mine. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, making some of these slight adjustments could make the difference between sound sleep and a restless night:
✔ Keep a consistent sleep schedule. Get up at the same time every day, even on weekends or during vacations.
✔ Set a bedtime that is early enough for you to get at least 7 hours of sleep.
✔ Don’t go to bed unless you are sleepy.
✔ If you don’t fall asleep after 20 minutes, get out of bed.
✔ Establish a relaxing bedtime routine.
✔ Use your bed only for sleep and sex.
✔ Make your bedroom quiet and relaxing.
✔ Keep the room at a comfortable, cool temperature.
✔ Limit exposure to bright light in the evenings.
✔ Turn off electronic devices at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
✔ Don’t eat a large meal before bedtime. If you are hungry at night, eat a light, healthy snack.
✔ Exercise regularly and maintain a healthy diet.
✔ Avoid consuming caffeine in the late afternoon or evening.
✔ Avoid consuming alcohol before bedtime.
✔ Reduce your fluid intake before bedtime.
Wrapping Up: Better Sleep, Better Life
Stress and lack of sleep go hand in hand. If you’re a mum who often feels exhausted, frazzled, or stressed, it might be because you’re not getting enough quality rest.
It’s not too late to take back control of your time and improve your sleep, too! Every “chapter” in life is just a season and won’t last forever. While this chapter might feel especially challenging, the most important thing is that you try to prioritize your health and wellness.
We make three temperature-regulating products that can help you get the deep sleep you deserve (chiliPAD, OOLER, and our versatile weighted blanket, chiliBLANKET). Rest may be harder to come by these days but it might just take time and experimenting to create your perfect sleep routine.
After all, what your kids need the most is a healthy, well-rested, and happy parent. Take steps to care for the hero who does it all and makes it look easy—YOU!