You asked

I never had trouble sleeping until I became a parent. What can I do?

It’s ironic that no one ever appreciates sleep as much as they do when they are parents, and that it’s never harder to get enough quality sleep than when you have a baby. Chances are, even when you were single, and before you were a parent, you weren’t sure about good sleep basics, but it’s much more evident when you’re sleep deprived.
 
Here are ten rules for good sleep that everyone (and especially parents) should know:
 
  • Remember that exercise is great for promoting sleep – but not if it’s done within three hours of bed time. Your body needs to relax after a workout, so don’t exercise too close to when you need to sleep.
  • Ban caffeine, alcohol and cigarettes in the late afternoon and evening. All of these substances are bad for sleep and even if you have them hours before you try to sleep, they can still have an effect. Also look for ‘hidden’ caffeine in chocolate, certain medications including diet pills and tea.
  • Try to work 15 to 20 minute “power naps” into your day. Just remember that if you sleep too long, you might make falling asleep later more difficult.
  • Make sure that your bedroom is dark, cool and as free of noise as you can manage. It’s been proven that light sleepers sleep better in dark, cooler rooms, where there is minimal noise. If you live in a noisy area, consider buying a white noise machine to block out loud sounds.
  • Create a bedtime ritual. Make sure that you stop working on anything an hour before bed, take a warm bath with lavender in it, and relax. Relaxation is key to better sleep!
  • If you find that you can’t fall asleep after half an hour, get up and do something relaxing, like reading or listening to calming music in another room. As much as you want to, remember that you can’t force yourself to sleep, and tossing and turning won’t help.
  • Don’t stay in a chair or on the couch if you find yourself nodding off there. Sleeping anywhere other than your bed can lead to sleep problems too.
  • Likewise, don’t use your bed for anything but sleep and sex. Working, watching television or anything else in your bedroom is a no-no if you want good quality sleep.
  • If you find that you’re kept awake by worry at night, try keeping a notebook next to the bed, where you can write them down. That way, you’ll be getting them out of your head, and you can deal with them in the morning.
  • Finally, avoid any heavy meals or foods before bed. If you must snack, choose something that’s high in carbohydrates, as these foods are known to promote sleep.

More questions

If you’re struggling to get the sleep you need, then there are ten simple sleep tips that might help.
When it comes to sleep, every new parent needs more, but many struggle to fall asleep when they need to.
When it comes to sleep sharing safety, a lot depends on you and your partner, but studies show that the risk of accidental crushing are low.
If all else fails, arrange with a friend or family member that your baby spend a night with them once a week. This way, you and your partner have a whole night together to enjoy, as you want to, without any interruptions.
The right amount of sleep differs from individual to individual and even between cultures.

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