2017 Update: We stand by these sleep tips for working mothers, but you may also want to check out our most recent discussion of how to deal with sleep deprivation as a working mom.
If you search on Amazon for “baby sleep advice” books, you’ll find more than 200 of them. Google “baby sleep advice” and you’ll get almost 35,000,000 results. Did you ever think you could use tips for babies and kids to get better sleep yourself? OK, maybe you won’t be sticking a pacifier in your mouth or gazing at one of those pretend aquariums anytime soon, but many other baby sleep tips can help parents, too. Some great sleep tips for working mothers include:
- Stick to a regular bedtime routine. For babies, a bedtime routine might be bath-book-feed — and you can create your own routine to signal to yourself that it’s time for sleep. Try something like this: 1) Put away your work and stop checking work email. 2) Write a list of things to do the next day so they won’t be swirling around your brain when you want to relax. 3) Change into your pajamas. 4) Do something relaxing and screen-free, like reading a book, journaling, or coloring. 5) Go to bed at roughly the same time each night (even on weekends). 6) Listen to something relaxing and/or boring, like “the most relaxing song ever,” a relaxing or purposely-boring podcast such as Sleep With Me, a white noise app, or an ocean-sounds Spotify playlist.
- Put away your phone, iPad, tablet, etc. Just like kids, adults should set aside devices before bedtime to get better sleep. This is a particularly important sleep tip for working mothers! Avoid looking at bright screens for two to three hours before bed, or at least use an app like f.lux, which adjusts your screen’s light according to the time of day. Any kind of light can suppress your body’s melatonin production (melatonin is a hormone that affects your sleep/wake cycle), but blue light, of which digital screens are a major source (along with CFLs), does this to an even greater extent.
- Speaking of light, try blackout shades. Blackout shades or curtains can work wonders for kids and adults alike. Here’s a tip: We saved money by only using one curtain of each pair of blackout curtains to cover each window in my son’s room, and we hung them up with a cup hook at each corner of the window frame. No one’s going to be featuring it in a home decorating magazine, but it’s easy and it works, and the shades are put to the side during the day, anyway. (I recommend using curtains that don’t have a row of grommets along the top; ours have one small one in each corner.)
- Another sleep aid that’s not just for kids: weighted blankets. Use a heavy comforter, or go for something designated as a weighted blanket from companies like The Magic Blanket or Mosaic Weighted Blankets, or Etsy sellers, some of whom do custom orders.
- Do some relaxing yoga. Like we mentioned in the Corporette discussion of insomnia and professional women, research studies have often found that yoga can help people sleep better — but be sure to avoid vigorous styles of yoga, because being too active before bed can increase your adrenaline and brain activity, which makes it hard to rest. Here are 15 specific poses to try, from Yoga Journal. (Yoga Journal also has recommendations for kids.)
- Read a sleep-friendly book. For babies and kids, this may mean The Rabbit Who Wants to Go to Sleep or Goodnight Moon. Grownups can read one of these 10 books recommended by Bustle (from Salman Rushdie to Eudora Welty) or check out the Paris Review’s “Sleep Aid, a series devoted to curing insomnia with the dullest, most soporific texts available in the public domain.” Titles include History of the Beef Cattle Industry in Illinois and Cold Storage, Heating, and Ventilating on Board Ship. Fascinating!
How do you try to get better sleep at night? Have you borrowed any tips for babies and kids in your own quest to get better sleep? If you’ve tried any of the tips above, which of them have been helpful? In general, what are your best sleep tips for working mothers?