Being a mom in general can be exhilarating, exciting and the best thing ever. It can also be simply exhausting. When I was married, if I hit that wall of tired like we all do, I could beg a day to sleep in and recover just a bit. But as a single mom, sleeping in is a superior luxury only afforded a few times a month, when the kids are with their dad.
After I became a single mom, every little thing began to keep me up and wake me up at night. From the daily stress of "getting it all done" to a sneeze or cough that had me hopping out of bed to make sure my kids were OK, I was not getting any sleep, and it was starting to affect my parenting.
Sleep is essential to everything we do, so I needed some solutions — and fast. Plus, we really need sleep for our health and well-being. We need to be at our best to juggle all of the needs our kids have all day, every day.
"Not only does poor sleep put people at an increased risk of suffering from depression and anxiety, but it can also increase their chances of developing immune deficiency and heart disease," says Dr. Andrew McCulloch, former chief executive of the Mental Health Foundation.
Below are some ways in which I have improved my sleep, and thus, my mood.
Yes, I know how valuable "mom" time is. Some days, I crave it. But while trying to reset that sleep clock, going to bed when your kids do can help. It may take a while — for me, it took about a week — to actually fall asleep at 7:30 p.m. But I got some good sleep before noises in my kids' room started waking me, and I retrained my body to actually calm down and let sleep come.
Little noises at night get me up and send me running to check on my kids. Generally, it is nothing. But these little trips were causing me to have very erratic sleep, thus adding to my exhaustion. When I received a mattress topper that included a cooling-and-heating feature and fans that blew gently all night long, I realized that I could not hear the little things anymore. I can still hear "Mommy!" and crying if my kids need me, and I can hear a disturbance should one come, but I don't jump at every toss and turn my kids have anymore. My sleep pattern is more stable with the machine. Something as inexpensive as a loud fan would work!
I have very little time on my hands during the week when I don't have my kids. Usually, I take that time to work, do laundry, do chores and pay bills. However, I am learning that an hour's nap is not only beneficial to my sleep but also to my health and happiness. My kids are all still little, so I have a hard time napping when they are home. But if I can sneak in a power nap on the days they are gone and push off the chores until later, I find that my whole day goes a little better.
I am guilty, guilty, guilty of getting my kids to bed and then watching shows and playing electronic games or working until the wee hours of the morning. It was excruciating to turn all of this off and actually go to bed. It probably took months for me to break the habit! But when I did — and some nights are still a challenge — I learned that I was a lot more productive during the day and a lot more relaxed with my kids!
In college, years ago, I had a serious insomnia issue. I would study all night, go to class all day, work my two jobs in the evening and just plain never sleep. I went to my doctor when I started having serious issues as a result. He told me that I needed to retrain my body to sleep. He said that when I lay in bed, I should envision my different body parts falling asleep. I do that now when I cannot get my mind to stop talking to me. I start with my toes and move up my legs until finally, I am at my head and I allow my eyes to close. "Thinking sleep" helps me fall asleep faster, and that is a big bonus for healthier sleep.
Most single moms have a few weekends a month during which their kids go to stay with their dad. Mine do, and I am not ashamed to admit that sometimes, I look forward to those times. I used to wait until their weekends away to get everything done. I found that I was so busy "catching up" that I would put sleep on the back burner. After a while, it felt like I was busier on the weekends when I was alone than when the kids were home. I have since learned to let myself sleep in — as late as I want. I take long naps whenever I want, and I arrange everything else around getting really good, quality sleep when my kids are gone. Instead of being even more tired when they come home, I am relaxed and ready to take it all on!
Sleep seems to be the thing that busy people give up first when they need more time — but sleep is the one thing we all need to get more of. It has been proven time and time again that women who get more sleep are slimmer, healthier and younger-looking than those who sleep erratically. To be a better mom, I need to take better care of me. That starts with more consistent, lasting sleep.
These few things have helped me, and I've noticed a difference. How do you get more sleep as a single mom?
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