Last week I hit a wall. Our family had been on a hamster wheel of contagious illness for a full five weeks. We had been rotating through stomach bugs, summer colds, and ear infections.
Not only had I been sick myself, I had been the go-to caregiver for several weeks.
Between spending nights sitting up so my congested baby could doze on my chest and cleaning up puke early in the morning, I was absolutely beat.
My kids were finally well, but I was sick and exhausted from surviving on just a few hours of sleep night after night, and I had to call in reinforcements. My mom loaded up my kids in my van and sent me to bed, demanding I not get up until they get back from the park and lunch.
I fell in bed and found myself unable to sleep. It didn’t make sense. I was so far behind on sleep, why was it impossible to doze off?
It definitely wasn’t the first time being a mom brought me to the end of my rope, and I’m certain it won’t be the last. For years since becoming a mom, I have dealt with on-and-off insomnia that has kept me from getting the rest I need to be my best self.
If you’re a mom, I’m sure my story sounds familiar, because there really isn’t anything special about my life as a completely worn-out mom. Every day, moms like me are giving up on sleep to care for their families and spending their waking hours working non-stop to make sure everyone’s needs are met.
As a result, we’re all really, really tired. The reality is that most moms are putting in longer hours than any other occupation out there, and that is the reason that we’re all so tired.
The Truth About Mom Life
The truth about mom life is that many moms are putting in more hours than some of the most demanding professions out there.
A new study organized by Welch’s surveyed 2,000 women to find out how many hours of work they are putting in each day. The average mom is “clocking in” around 6:30 in the morning and doesn’t stop until after 8:30 in the evening, according to the data they collected.
Of course, we all know most moms aren’t taking the weekends off, either. So, when you take into account the fact that being a mom is a seven-day-a-week job, most moms are putting in 98 hours of work each week. Talk about exhausting!
Moms aren’t just tired, they’re also struggling to take care of themselves. A little quiet time is essential when you spend most of your time caring for tiny humans, but most mothers can barely find space in their day to take care of this basic need. In fact, the average mom only gets one hour and seven minutes to herself each day, according to Welch’s.
When you’re exhausted and over-scheduled, caring for your family well feels impossible. So it makes sense that 4 in 10 moms told Welch’s that their life feels like one non-stop to-do list. They also admitted they were having a hard time keeping up with their workload, and 72 percent felt they were too busy to make sure their kids were eating a healthy diet each day.
Most moms aren’t all that surprised by this data. We know just how tiring the job can be, and we know how difficult it can be to get a good night’s sleep. Feeling like you’re constantly drowning in a list of to-dos with no time to recharge or care for yourself is discouraging, to say the least.
The first step is taking charge of your mom life.
Many moms are so focused on giving their family the best that they forget that wanting motherhood to be fun is okay, too. Being tired might be inevitable, but that doesn’t mean mothers should give up on their hopes for an enjoyable and fulfilling family life.
The first step to taking charge of your mom life, whatever that means for you, starts with getting some sleep. We know that struggling with sleep has an impact on mood and may even contribute to depression in certain individuals.
We also know that poor sleep is related with an increased risk of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and other serious health issues. Lastly, we know that running on little to nosleep is dangerous; safe driving and safe work performance require us to be well rested.
In a nutshell, you cannot be your best self or enjoy your day-to-day life when you are running on empty.
Some phases of motherhood may more marked by sleeplessness than others, and it may be true that sometimes interrupted sleep can’t be helped (#newbornlife). But when you finally can crawl into bed at night, it is essential that you are doing everything you can to get the best sleep possible.
So many moms like me find they are facing sleep troubles even when their kids are sleeping well. They have so much on their plate, they’re feeling too anxious or stressed out at night to sleep.
Insomnia, even when it is only occasional, is a burden. To take back your nights, keep reading to learn how to start getting some sleep.
Avoid these four things if you’re not sleeping well.
Moms need all of the energy they can muster to keep up during their 14-hour workdays. If you’re are struggling to sleep, there is a chance you could be making matters worse with negative habits you may have picked up unknowingly.
Staring at Tech
We’re all guilty of spending a little too much time on our phones, but using screened devices before bed can be seriously detrimental to sleep. Blue light emitted by screens throws off our circadian rhythms by signaling our body to make less melatonin, according to Harvard Health.
Melatonin is a hormone that is essential to getting to sleep, so if you’re feeling wired at bedtime, using your phone or computer is probably making it worse. Most experts suggest turning off your tech at least half an hour before bed, but some suggest wrapping up screen time as early as two hours before you plan to catch some Zs.
Tossing and Turning
Okay, so picking up your phone when you can’t sleep is clearly a bad idea, but what should you do instead? Even though it may seem like common sense, staying in bed and trying to make yourself fall asleep actually makes matters worse.
When you are experiencing sleeplessness, trying to force the issue can increase your anxiety, which in turns makes it more difficult to sleep. Instead of tossing and turning, sleep experts suggest getting out of bed and leaving the bedroom to do something relaxing, like reading a book. Once you feel drowsy again, head back to bed and give getting some shut-eye a second try.
Over-the-Counter or Prescription Sleep Aids
For the occasional bout of insomnia, sleep aids can be a big help, but taking them on a regular basis isn’t a great idea. The truth about sleep medication is that extended use can increase sleeplessness because your body can develop a dependence on it.
Once your body adjusts to a sleep medication, you may actually have a harder time sleeping without it and need a higher dose to get sleep, according to WebMd. If you must take a sleep aid, reserve it for your most difficult nights, and look for other options for the in-between.
Stimulants Before Bed
We all know that coffee makes the world go round, especially if you are an exhausted mom. But consuming caffeine too late in the day can have a serious effect on your sleep. Giving up caffeine six hours before bed is what the National Sleep Foundation recommends, since caffeine remains in the body for a long time.
Caffeine isn’t the only stimulant that can mess with your sleep. Working out before bed can also keep you awake. It’s best to avoid anything that could disrupt your sleep after lunchtime if you are having a hard time catching your 40 winks.
So if these are the things you should avoid when you are struggling to sleep, what should you do instead?
Experts suggest creating a solid bedtime routine and sticking with it. Instead of picking up the phone before bed, pick up a book until you begin to feel drowsy. Avoid too much light or too much noise in the bedroom, and keep up with your routine even when you feel discouraged. If all else fails, see a doctor, they can help you figure out the next best step.