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How to Put Yourself to Bed

When I was 38, I had 2 kids under 2. Man, was I tired.  There are definitely parents out there with much more difficult and complicated situations than mine was.  But for me and the person I am, the lack of sleep brought on by tiny humans who don’t sleep through the night, who always seemed to be sick with something was really, really hard.

I have always needed a lot of sleep. Before kids I was a 8-9 hrs a night type of girl. Having 2 under 2 was not conducive to that 8-9 hrs kind of lifestyle.

I have always been a ‘fall asleep within 3 mins’ type of girl. For me, 2 under 2 meant that my days were really hectic. Then, when it was time to go to sleep I would lie there anticipating the next cry and/or ruminating about all of the things that I hadn’t finished or hadn’t even started that day.

And then there was the phantom baby crying thing. In the middle of the night I would wake with a start convinced I heard crying. I could literally feel the cortisol course through my veins. I would be all systems go only to realize that everyone in the house was peacefully slumbering. 

It was a mess.

Having young kids makes sleep very precious and sometimes very hard to come by.  I became obsessed with when I was going to get to sleep next, for how long and ensuring that it was as “productive” (successful?) as possible.  Here are a few things that really helped me. If you’re in it right now, I hope they will help you too! 

Minimize distractions. Reduce outside stimuli in your room. I found that anything I could do to make my sleeping place a calm place was really really helpful. This included blackout shades, and removing electronics. Avoiding screens right before bed, removing them from my nightstand altogether and even sometimes moving the baby monitor over to my husbands side or turning its volume down. 

Be cool. Especially in the months right after giving birth, I was very prone to night sweats. So cooler temperatures helped reduce waking from them

Get cozy. Washing the day away, getting in some fresh jammies, maybe even applying some night cream. This was sometimes the extent of my self care but it was enough to count as a routine that signaled to my brain that I was time to wind down.

Try to box. Have you ever tried box breathing? Breathe in for four, hold for four, breathe out for four, hold for four. In through your nose out through your mouth. It’s a great way to slow your heart rate and racing thoughts down and settle in.

A Sleep Story Party. And finally, my favorite, Sleep Stories & Meditation. I have to be honest, I was late to this tend. But I clearly remember the night I became a convert. It was after a string of sicknesses and I had an opportunity to put myself to bed early.  I didn’t want to blow it. I started looking for a sleep meditation because the few times I had tried regular day time meditation I had accidentally fallen asleep!  I found a sleep story first and decided to try it.  I listened to John McEnroe explain the Rules of Tennis. No offense to John or tennis but I was out in about 2 minutes and it was one of the best sleeps of my life! 10 out 10 recommend sleep stories and 10 out 10 recommend John McEnroe!

This article was written for Work & Mother by Sarah Gallagher Trombley. Sarah is a digital parenting writer, marketing consultant and mom based in New York. For discounts and member exclusives on Calm, the #1 meditation (including sleep stories) app, visit our Shop and Tenant Log-In pages.

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