Meet Lizzie – Sleep Advice for Parents
Lizzie is a busy mum of two who also works part time. She falls to sleep quickly but often wakes throughout the night. She then struggles to fall back to sleep. She feels better on a weekend as she isn’t rushing out of the door for nursery/school/work. She regularly drinks caffeine after 5pm, and sometimes exercises after 9pm.
There are no obvious issues with Lizzie’s sleep environment, however she could invest in a blackout blind to stop light from waking her. She should also check her mattress is comfortable, the room temperature is between 16-18 degrees Celsius, sound levels are low and her bedroom’s décor is not vibrant, just in case there’s a distraction she wasn’t aware of initially.
Lizzie falls asleep quickly, so she could try going to bed a little earlier. Many parents opt for later bedtimes to maximise on their quiet evening time, however this can then lead to sleep deprivation.
Lizzie’s pre-sleep routine should be less stimulating. She spends a lot of time on blue screen devices, which interrupts her body’s production of melatonin, which tricks her brain into thinking it’s still daylight. She should not exercise in the two hours before bed, as this adrenaline can impact on her ability to sleep soundly.
During the day, Lizzie needs to stop drinking caffeine after 3pm. She should also ensure she is drinking enough water to stay hydrated, and should have her evening meal early enough for digestion to not impact on sleep.
If Lizzie’s children have sleep problems, this must be addressed as soon as possible. This will prevent their own issues from affecting their mum. Before bed, Lizzie could write down a list of all of her worries, which will help her mind to switch off. When she wakes during the night, she should accept that she is awake, and that this is not a big problem. This mindful approach often helps people to fall back to sleep, as they have accepted their situation and can therefore relax. Lizzie should avoid clock watching and would be advised to remove the clock from her bedroom, or hide it.
Lizzie’s programme allows her to wake at 6-6.30am during the week, however, she should try to follow this routine at weekends too.
8.30pm: Any exercise or meals should be finished by this time. Lizzie should stop drinking caffeine at about 3pm.
9.30pm- The Golden Hour: Lizzie should commence her wind down routine by writing down her worries, switching off her tablet and smartphone, and then taking a warm bath. If she wants to watch television, she should choose something funny or light hearted. If she is hungry, she should have a light snack of peanut butter on wholemeal toast or oatcakes and cheese.
10.30pm – Bedtime: If Lizzie goes to bed and doesn’t fall asleep within half an hour, she should get up and begin the process again. If she really struggles to fall asleep at 10.30pm, she should move the bedtime back gradually by 15 minutes. If Lizzie wakes during the night, she needs to accept that she is awake and realise it’s not a huge problem.
6-6.30am – Wake Up: Lizzie should aim to wake up at between 6 and 6.30am. Within half an hour of waking, she should have breakfast. Throughout the day, Lizzie needs to keep hydrated and ensure her body is well fuelled.
As with all sleep programmes, things may get worse before they get better, and it may take around three to four weeks for this routine to become embedded.