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My mantra over the years has become “your health is your wealth”! It’s very easy to sprout off these pithy little mantras but I really want to take consistent resolute action going forward.
For many years I’ve been working far too much, not managing my stress levels and neglecting my own well-being which in all honesty is just plain stupidity! I’ve had issues with sleep and have amassed a huge sleep debt. I have suffered a myriad of health issues as a result of my insomnia including adrenal exhaustion, tonsillitis, chronic sinusitis, chest infections, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, depression etc. If this sounds familiar and resonates with you then I invite you to take the first step to turn your health and life around!
As Mums we tend to become so stressed when our babies don’t sleep – hey it’s the main reason I started Bubbaroo and created Australia’s first swaddle the Joey Pouch Swaddle Wrap – but what if we tried to focus on our own well-being? May be just may be we would be better able to cope when our little ones woke during the night!
How to make health your wealth
Focus on just one goal
I find that sometimes it can be just so overwhelming to focus on too many goals. If I have too many balls up in the air trying to do the “Mummy Juggle” then inevitably those balls are all going to come crashing down. If I feel too overwhelmed then I tend to use my energy spinning my wheels and achieving very little except a vicious circle of stress and anxiety.
In recent years I’ve decided to turn this around and focus on sleep as my first step to making health my wealth. I know that if I get consistently good sleep the whole world is a better place and I’m more able to cope when stressful situations arise. Let’s not kid ourselves stress is a part of life! We can’t control what happens to us, only our reaction but I know I react better if I’ve had enough sleep.
Like with everything in life consistency is key. Making a consistent sleep routine is one of the best health changes you can make to your life. Making sleep your priority so other changes can flow on from there. As you start to get more sleep and better quality sleep, you will notice an increase in your energy levels which in turn will lead you to tackle other areas of your life. Increased energy could mean that you feel like exercising more. Increased exercise may lead you to improve your diet. Getting enough sleep is the crux of all life changing habits.
Sleep is my goal – why?
Sleep is my “Health is Your Wealth” goal due to the overwhelming evidence that lack of sleep is becoming such a mammoth problem world-wide! I see it daily with the Mums that I meet and my Mummy friends. According to the 2016 Sleep Health Survey of Australian Adults by Robert Adams, Sarah Appleton, Anne Taylor, Doug McEvoy, and Nick Antict – it is apparent that inadequate sleep, of either duration or quality, and its daytime consequences are very common in Australian adults, affecting 33-45% of adults.
What does lack of sleep do to your health?
Lack of sleep can interfere with work, school, driving, and social functioning and awareness. You might have trouble learning, focusing, and reacting. Also, you might find it hard to judge other people’s emotions and reactions.
When we’re suffering from lack of sleep so many aspects of our health are impacted. When you wake up tired you may make poorer food choices, not feel like exercising. Long term sleep deprivation can lead to serious health issues. Sleep should be a priority for all mums, not just new ones. Symptoms of sleep deprivation and depression are similar so it’s really important to try to use sleep as a tool to manage your moods, emotions and energy. If you feel that you are “under the weather” and have nothing left in the tank then you need to seek help and figure out what’s going on.
Quantity & Quality of Sleep
Your ability to function and feel well while you’re awake depends on whether you’re getting enough total sleep and enough of each type of sleep.
How Much Sleep Do We Actually Need?
Below is a guide from the National Sleep Foundation setting out the recommended sleep duration. For adults 26-64 years 7 to 9 hours of sleep is recommended! My target is 8 hours per night.
Defining sleep quality without a sleep study (Polysomnography) is fairly subjective based on your own perception that you
a) fall asleep easily
b) get enough sleep so as to wake up feeling rested, and
c) can make it through your day without experiencing excessive daytime sleepiness
A sleep study records your brain waves, the cycling through the two basic types of sleep rapid eye movement (REM) and non-REM; oxygen level in your blood, heart rate and breathing, as well as eye and leg movements during the study. Sleep studies are used to diagnose sleep disorders.
Non-REM sleep includes what is commonly known as deep sleep . Dreaming usually occurs during REM sleep. Non-REM and REM sleep occur in a regular pattern of 3–5 cycles each night.
It also depends on whether you’re sleeping at a time when your body is prepared and ready to sleep.
We all have an internal “body clock” that controls when we wake and when our body is ready for sleep. This clock follows a 24-hour repeating rhythm commonly referred to as the circadian rhythm. The rhythm affects every cell, tissue, and organ in our body and how they work.
If you aren’t getting enough sleep, are sleeping at the wrong times, or have poor quality sleep, you likely won’t feel refreshed and alert when you wake up. You’ll probably feel exhausted during the day and unmotivated.
So how do we get a good night’s sleep?
It’s all well and good to say sleep is my focus but how do we actually get a good night’s sleep? Unfortunately, there is no “magic pill” to getting a good night’s sleep, it takes practice, consistency and dedication. The definition of a good night’s sleep in my book is 8 hours consistently every night.
I’ve listed below some tips and action points that I’m following and these may help you too, even if you have a little one.
It’s really important to go to bed at a regular time each night. Dr Libby Weaver (PhD) recommends “going to bed by 10.30pm, at the latest” as being ideal for restorative sleep.
Dr Libby is one of Australasia’s leading nutritional biochemists, an author, a speaker and founder of the plant-based supplement range, Bio Blends. Accidentally Overweight and Rushing Woman’s Syndrome are just 2 of the books written by Dr Libby. I have heard Dr Libby speak on 3 separate occasions and have been blown away by her passion.
Action Point 1 – Regular bedtime of between 9 and 10pm on weekdays and weekends this is what suits me. Your bedtime may be earlier if you have a newborn or young baby in anticipation that they will wake overnight for a feed or two.
Try to practice good sleep hygiene. It’s kind of like cleaning your teeth before you go to bed. You need to prepare your body for sleep time. Our bodies need to produce melatonin (natural sleep hormone) to get a good night’s sleep and this is normally produced as the day progresses and darkness starts to fall. These days technology and activity can interfere with melatonin production so we need to make a conscious effort to separate other activities from bed time.
Make your bedroom your sanctuary – no phones/devices (more on this below), TV or reading. It is also worth considering how much you use electronic devices in the bedroom because of the electro-magnetic fields. Try to avoid bringing work stress to bed (easier said than done) and distraction into your sleep sanctuary. Your bedroom is for sleep and love making – that is all!
Action Point 2 – make your bedroom your sanctuary. No devices, TVs or reading in bed or your bedroom!
In recent years devices have been encroaching on our sleep time. The 2016 Sleep Health Survey of Australian Adults found that 26% of adults, use the internet most or every night of the week just before bed AND have frequent sleep difficulties or daytime impairments. Likewise, 16% of all working adults do work just before bed and also have frequent sleep difficulties or daytime sleep-related symptoms.
Many of us are guilty of going down the “rabbit warren” when it comes to social media. We just need to be mindful that using social media at night will hands down be interrupting your sleep. I’m not suggesting you never use social media I’m merely suggesting that you use it at more sleep friendly times.
Be sure to leave phones, computers, TVs and other electronic devices out of the bedroom. Not only do they remind us about work or things we need to do, but they also emit blue light which stimulates the brain, increasing our mental activity and reducing the quality of our sleep. I know there are night filters but looking at devices is stimulating and researchers have proposed, may “impede the natural withdrawal of sympathetic nervous system activity necessary for sleep onset.” ( Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine December of 2013). In other words, they prevent the wind-down.
The National Sleep Foundation advises that “light stimulates parts of our brains responsible for modulating our hormones, body temperature and other functions that play a role in making us feel sleepy or wide-awake”. All screen time should cease well before bed so turn off your devices and don’t work at least 1-2 hours before bed. I know I’ll be asking my husband to help encourage and support me with this due to my workaholic tendencies.
I know you’re thinking – when is there time to do all I need to do? Believe me when I say that once your sleep improves you will become so much more focused and productive. Rather than trying to push through. Remember you cannot pour from an empty cup.
Action Point 3 – No work or devices after 7.30pm at night.
You could make your bedroom your sanctuary by indulging in some luxurious 100% cotton sheets and some really nice pyjamas that signal bedtime. At Bubbaroo, luxurious cotton or wool padded sleepwear is what we recommend for a little one’s sleep. Sleeping in beautiful and clean bed linen will make your bed a sanctuary that you will look forward to hopping into – in fact it’s my favourite part of the day! Ensure that your mattress and pillows are comfortable and suitable for your needs. Keep your bed space clean and healthy by laundering linen at least once a week and replacing any old mattresses, mattress protectors or pillows as these can become a breeding ground for all manner of nasties!
Action Point 4 – clean bed linen once a week and upgrade your bedding & PJs if required
Meditation & Relaxation
On the nights when you’re laying there and your mind is travelling to places you don’t want it to go to, you could listen to a bedtime meditation. I really enjoy this bedtime meditation – the guy’s voice is so dreamy! Counting sheep may work for you or some other relaxation techniques. Another relaxation technique that move prove effective is progressive muscle relaxation. Progressive muscle relaxation starts with your toes, tense all the muscles as tightly as you can, then completely relax. Then legs, pelvic floor, tummy. Work your way up to the top of your head.
Action 5 – try meditation or other relaxation techniques regularly to initiate sleep or for those occasions when you want to get back to sleep after being woken by your little one or for some other reason.
Make sure you are not too hot in bed as this can affect sleep quality. You will have a better sleep if you’re a little cooler. Good air flow is also important.
Did you know that having a bath before bed is a great way to help you prepare for bed? Your temperature naturally dips at night, starting two hours before sleep and bottoming out at around 4 or 5 am. According to a 1997 study by New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center, when you soak in a hot tub, your body temperature rises—and the rapid cool-down period immediately afterward relaxes you. Joyce Walsleben, PhD, associate professor at New York University School of Medicine recommends a soak in the tub for 20 or 30 minutes, 2 hours before bed. She says, “if you raise your temperature a degree or two with a bath, the steeper drop at bedtime is more likely to put you in a deep sleep”. A shower is considered less effective than a bath.
Action Point 6 – 2 hours before bed take regular baths with Epsom salts and a couple of drops of lavender essential oil!
Rise & shine
Get up out of bed at the same time each day – I know this is difficult with a little one but you could start to set up the sleep routine for the whole family. My day is earlier now than it ever was even when my kids were newborn babies. This is what happens when you have kids that swim and row!
Getting active in the morning is a great way to kick start your day. It will fill you with energy for the day ahead. It’s best to try to avoid exercising late in the evening as it raises your temperature and stimulates you before bed time. My husband and I would tag team going out to do exercise early in the morning. I would meet with 2 other Mummy friends and exercise, it was a great way to start the day to exercise and have a bit of a chin wag! On my off days I’d make sure that I bundled my kids and got out of the house for some sun-shine and a brisk walk and play.
Now I prefer my morning walks with my fur daughter Lucia where I’ll stop and do some meditation, stretching and breathing exercises. Together with Pilates a couple of times a week.
Action Point 7 – wake up at 5.15am each morning. (This is my routine based on wanting 8 hours sleep per night).
Action Point 8 – get moving! Daily morning walks and pilates or yoga two times per week
Allow yourself some unfocussed time each day to refresh. For example whilst your little one is sleeping or having quiet time you could have a power nap of no more than 20 minutes; meditate; let your mind wander, daydream or simply lay outside and watch nature around you! You may surprise yourself at how good you feel rather than running around like a crazy person trying to get everything on your “To Do List” done before baby wakes!
I have been known to have a cat nap on occasion. It can really revitalise you if you have had a crappy night’s sleep the night before.
Some famous cat nappers throughout history include Albert Einstein, Leonardo DaVinci, Winston Churchill and John F Kennedy.
Action Point 9 – if you’re feeling tired during the day then stop and have a little cat nap of no more than 20 minutes if the opportunity arises.
Most of you aren’t going to like this one! Cut down on caffeine, alcohol and give up cigarettes if you smoke. These are all stimulants that inhibit sleep. If you just can’t give up that one cup of coffee, at least aim to have it before lunch. This gives your body time to wear it off before night time. It is a good idea to minimise all these in general for overall health and well being. Try morning exercise for stimulation when you get out of bed instead. Or drink herbal teas that have other medicinal health benefits instead.
I’ve never been a coffee drinker. My vice is alcohol and boy does it affect my sleep both in terms of quantity and quality! Alcohol is habitual for me and I need to break the habit. I have in my head that it helps me wind down and relax. But in my heart I know that it’s impacting my well-being!
I have cut down my alcohol intake and save it for special occasions. Try to substitute alcohol with sparkling water with a dash of fresh lime or lemon.
Action Point 10 – reduce stimulants, for me this means alcohol.
Conclusion – Your Health is Your Wealth
I’ve detailed my 10 point action plan in order to get my sleep back on track below. I know that it won’t all go to plan and I’m not going to get overly stressed, I’ll just keep calm and keep going. As Mums we need to prioritise ourselves – happy mum happy family!
Our Top 10 Tips
1 – Regular bedtime of between 9.30 and 10pm on weekdays and weekends.
2 – Make your bedroom your sanctuary. No devices, TVs or reading in bed or your bedroom!
3 – No work or devices after 7.30pm at night.
4 – Clean bed linen once a week and upgrade your bedding, PJs, mattress and pillows if required
5 – Try meditation or other relaxation techniques to initiate sleep. This might be after being woken by your little one or for some other reason.
6 – Take regular baths with Epsom salts and a couple of lavender essential oil.
7 – Wake up at 6am each morning. This is my routine based on wanting 8 hours sleep per night. You can adopt your own routine based on the number of hours you feel is right for you.
8 – Get moving! Morning walks and pilates or yoga two times per week for me.
9 – If you’re feeling tired during the day then stop and have a little cat nap. No more than 20 minutes is the recommended amount of time.
10 – Reduce stimulants, for me this means reducing alcohol. For you it could be coffee or cigarettes.