You'd think with 9 children we'd be used to sleepless nights, and you're partly right! But we were spoiled, IMMENSELY spoiled, by the fact that our older children all started sleeping through the night at a pretty early age. By the time we got to kids 6, 7, and 8, things weren't quite as easy...having problems nursing them didn't help. But eventually everyone figured out that sleeping at night is a good thing, and life moved on.
And then we had Verity. Sweet little Verity. I haven't written much on this site about our special-needs daughter, though I may start posting more regularly on the blog I began writing when we learned of her Edwards Syndrome diagnosis in 2016. (You can view When My Soul Melts here.)
Without boring you to tears, let's just say Verity literally did not sleep. Ever. People didn't believe us when we said we were waking 4-6 times AN HOUR every night. Night after night. I truly do not know how we made it through her first couple of years but for the grace of God.
So, there were lots of issues unique to Verity's genetic make-up and special little physique, and obviously those needed to be sorted out before we could hope to get quality sleep. (And WOW, did life change for the better when we got a few nights of nursing coverage here and there!!)
But aside from all of Verity's particular needs, sleep issues are a problem for MANY folks. I've had teens suffer from insomnia, and my 11-year-old has recently complained of having a hard time getting to sleep despite being tired. The thing with sleep problems is that there can be SO MANY causes...it's not a one-size-fits-all approach. But I thought it was worth sharing a few tidbits we've tried over the years...maybe it will help you or someone you love catch a few ZZZs!
- Limit screen time in the evening. This should probably be a no-brainer, but we tend to ignore it. Science shows definitively that the effects on the brain from our various devices wreak havoc with our ability to sleep. Watch a movie or send a last text message if you must, but try to put away your phone, tablet, and/or computer an hour or so before you turn out your lights and hit the pillow.
- Have a nighttime routine. This is especially important for children, but did you know adults can benefit from a nightly routine also? Maybe a read-aloud with your favorite stuffed animal isn't your style, but how about relaxing with a real, page-turning book or magazine? Maybe a bath or foot soak, maybe simply washing your face and putting on a favorite lotion. Doing the same things at approximately the same time every night helps our brain realize that sleep time is coming.
- Pay attention to your diet. Though our evening meal tends to be our biggest, that may not be the best for our bodies and brains. Try to sip water early in the evening, and stop snacking if you can help it. (I know! I like my evening crunchies! But I'm working on having NO snacks before bedtime...instead I take my probiotic to support my gut health while my digestive system works overnight!)
- Don't check messages "one last time!" We already mentioned limiting screen time before bed...but how many times do we sabotage our sleep by looking at that text or email message that just came in? And then it's something that causes stress or angst?! JUST. WAIT. It can wait until morning. It's not healthy for us to be "on" 24/7.
- Try some natural sleep aids. Our kids ask for Lavender and Cedarwood essential oils in the diffuser at bedtime because they've noticed a difference in how quickly they fall asleep. I love my Calm CBD roller across the back of my neck before bedtime also. And Verity? That little adorable stinker who kept us up in her early months/years? She falls asleep with her CPAP mask on with the lovely scent of Peace & Calming oil blend in her diffuser. (I sometimes wonder if it's because we diffused that blend almost constantly in the NICU room after she was born!)
I have another natural sleep aid I'll be talking about during this Thursday's Quick Class. Be sure to register to get the class meeting link!
What about you? What are some ways you support healthy sleep in your home?