5 Tips to Improve Your Sleep

We’ve all done it, sacrificed our sleep to get something big done. We think, “I’ll sleep later, I don’t have time, or I have to do this while the kids are in bed”… This week, my friend Karrie Brazaska joins us to talk about adult sleep and the importance of sleep in your life too.

Did you know your sleep is just as important as your kid’s sleep? In my opinion, your sleep is maybe even a bit more important. You need the energy to run your family and you are the one who sets the example for your children’s behaviors. Your kids look to you and want to be like you. You need to show them that sleep is a priority at every age.

Sleep has the amazing ability to clean out our heads and rejuvenate our bodies. I recently heard someone refer to sleep as our internal washing machine, cleaning us up each night as we sleep. Sleep is imperative to our overall health, yet many adults do not get the CDC recommended 7-9 hours of sleep. A recent report shows almost 35% of US adults are sleep deprived.

You might think that burning that extra midnight oil will actually help you get more done when in reality it does just the opposite. Lack of sleep leads to decreased productivity, stress, brain fog, and illness. Lack of sleep increases your risk of depression, heart disease, high blood pressure, weight gain, and stroke. Hey, you’ve got kids; you want to be there for them for the long haul! Your sleep is vital to your longevity. Plus, when we don’t get good sleep we are irritable, reactive, short-tempered, and not much fun to be around. That kind of sounds like our kids when they don’t get enough sleep!

So, how do you break away and get some sleep? Here are my five go-to tips to help every busy parent improve their sleep.

Tip #1 – Your Mindset

The first step in getting better sleep is to change your mindset. Sleep needs to become a priority to you in your mind. You have to start thinking about sleep being as important to you and your body as you do for your children and their bodies. Sleep is not a sign of being lazy or not working hard. Sleep is a vital function your body needs every day to clean up and survive what you put it through.

Did you know that your brain cells actually remove toxins and waste at night while you sleep? You need to give your body the time it needs to do its job to get you ready for the next day!

Tip #2 – Your Food

You might think what you eat and when you eat it really doesn’t matter for your sleep. Eating late at night actually causes a hormone boost and your stress hormone cortisol to rise. The last thing you need when trying to fall asleep is your stress hormones at high levels. Plan to eat your evening meal 2-4 hours before bed.

Another easy trick with food is to add resistant starch to your evening meal. This will help regulate your blood sugar during your slumber and help you achieve uninterrupted sleep. Resistant starches to add to dinner are as simple of cooked, cooled and then warmed up again white potatoes or rice. Cooked beans, sweet potatoes, or green bananas are also good sources of resistant starches. Don’t be afraid of the carbs. It only takes ¼ to ½ cup, so it is not a huge amount to get the help needed. They really will help you sleep.

Tip #3 – Your Bedtime Habits 

Creating routines and habits helps your body know that you are getting ready to transition into a new state, sleep. You do this with your kids when you give a bath, brush their teeth, and then read them a story. Your bedtime habit is just as important. It does not need to be long and drawn out but do the same thing(s) each night. You want to train your body and brain that it is now time to go to sleep. Some ideas to for your routine can include dimming the lights, listening to soft music, brushing your teeth, washing your face, taking a bath or shower. Play around and explore what works for you. Then, make a habit of doing it!

Tip #4 – Your Morning Light

Another great sleep augmenter is 20-30 minutes of outdoor light first thing in the morning. Ideally, you get outside within 60 minutes of walking, but with little ones that is not always realistic. So, just get outside when you can and for as long as you can. You want to actually see the light unfiltered, so make sure 20 minutes is without your sunglasses. This will help trigger cells in your eyes to produce melatonin that helps your sleep later at night. With the beautiful weather of summer, you can also get some sun on your arms and legs that will help produce more Vitamin D that is also helpful with sleep. So, get outside!

Tip #5 – Just Breathe

Another great tool to help you sleep is breathing. You can do this to help your body relax as you are putting your head on the pillow, as well as when you wake up in the middle of the night. Simply sit on the edge of the bed or lie comfortably in bed.  Breathe in a big, deep breath through your nose, hold the breath at the top and then blow the breath out completely and slowly through your mouth. Repeat this a few times. If your mind seems to be racing when you start this exercise, take a few moments to ponder what you are grateful for in your life or the positives from your day. Then focus on breathing. This will help put you into a more relaxed state and allow you to drift off to sleep in a state of peace and gratitude.

During the night if you happen to wake up or are pulled from your slumber because of the kids there is a quick way to get you back to sleep. My favorite “get back to sleep” breathing trick is a 4/7/8 technique.  You take a breath in through your nose for a count of 4. Hold the breath in for a count of 7. Then blow the breath out through your mouth for a count of 8. While you blow out, press your tongue to the roof of your mouth right behind your teeth.  Do this about 3-4 times. This breathing technique is also helpful when you lie down and can’t seem to get to sleep.  Just focus on the breath and do the 4/7/8 technique to help you fall asleep.

Make Sleep A Priority

These tips are some simple ways to help you get some much-needed sleep. In your mind, you may feel that you are not doing all you should be doing to meet the demands of your time if you take time and get some sleep. That is a mindset that needs to be adjusted. Sleep will help you be more productive and responsive to those demands on your time. You may find that with enough sleep you require less time to complete tasks and have more quality time with your family as your level of attentiveness is greater.

So make sleep a priority and use the tips provided to make sure you are able to get to sleep and enjoy some quality sleep. And if you think sleep should not be a priority for everyone, remember the statistic that 35% of adults are sleep deprived the next time you find yourself driving. One in three cars coming toward you and your family may be driven by a sleep-deprived adult.

If you would like more information on sleep for your children, or wish to have specific questions answered, join me in my Facebook Group Slumber Made Simple where every week, I host live streams, add new content and conduct weekly training sessions! My name is Courtney Zentz, a Pediatric Sleep Consultant, Lactation Counselor and founder of Tiny Transitions. As an award-winning specialist, I and my team help exhausted parents teach their infants & toddlers to sleep well every night with gentle, customized solutions and both group and private coaching options, so your family can all be at their best. Based in Philadelphia, I work in-home and virtually to provide the support that families need to all be at their best.