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Establishing a good sleep routine - for parents!

by Kate Brian

Once you've got your children settled into a regular routine and sleeping through the night, you expect to be able to get a good night's sleep yourself too - but sometimes parents find that once their sleep has been disrupted for a while, it's hard to get back on track. Whether you're tossing and turning and unable to get to sleep or waking up in the middle of the night and finding it difficult to settle down again, we've put together some top sleeping tips - for parents!

  • Don't drink lots of coffee or tea late in the day. Caffeine is notorious for keeping you awake, and if you consume a lot of tea and coffee before bed, this can affect your sleep. Don't forget that coke and chocolate both contain caffeine too.
  • You may find it helps you to sleep if you try to go to bed at about the same time each night. Setting a regular pattern will help your body to sleep in just the same way that it helps your baby.
  • Alcohol can disrupt your sleep - cutting back or cutting it out altogether may make a real difference.
  • Don't eat a large meal before going to bed. If your body is still digesting a meal, it may be harder to sleep. Very spicy or fatty foods can cause problems too.
  • Make sure your bedroom feels comfortable and restful. If there's lots of light in the room or if it is noisy, or even untidy and cluttered, this can affect your sleep.
  • Worrying can have a big impact on your sleep patterns. Lying awake brooding about things isn't going to help solve any problems, but you may find that writing your concerns down before you get into bed helps you to work out how you are going to address them. Some people write lists of what they are going to achieve the next day before they go to bed and find that this helps to reassure them that they are in control of what lies ahead.
  • If you really can't sleep, don't lie there getting into a panic about your lack of sleep as this will make it harder to drop off. You may want to try reading a book or getting up for a bit, and only going back to bed and trying to sleep once you are really ready for it.
  • Having a comfortable bed can help you sleep - if you've got an uncomfortable mattress and splashing out on a new one seems an extravagance, don't forget quite how much of your lifetime you spend in bed.
  • Don't spend hours on the computer just before bed. If you can do something relaxing at bedtime that may help, whether it's listening to music or a talking book, having a scented bath or meditating. Some people recommend keeping a very boring book by the bedside!
  • We all know about counting sheep, but you could try a variation on a theme by counting backwards from 100 - or perhaps 500 if you tend to take a really long time to get to sleep!
  • Try tensing all the muscles in your body, starting with your toes and working your way gradually up your body to your head. Once your whole body is tense, gently release the muscles starting at the top and working downwards.
  • Making sure you take some exercise and get out and about during the day will help you to sleep. If you've spent all day at the office, and have driven there and back, this may make it more difficult to sleep.
  • Some people find that drop or two of lavender essential oil sprinkled onto their bedclothes or pillow can help them to drop off to sleep.
  • Magnesium oil is another product that may help you to have a good night's sleep. Apparently many of us are deficient in magnesium, and this can lead to disrupted sleep patterns as well as difficulty getting to sleep. You can buy a magnesium GoodNight spray which combines magnesium with bergamot, chamomile and clary sage oils to give a lovely scent which helps you to get to sleep. The GoodNight spray is certainly worth a try if you're having problems sleeping.
  • Smoking can affect your sleep patterns, so if you do smoke and you're having problems sleeping, it's a good reason to stop.
  • If you're into yoga, you may find that a few gentle yoga exercises before bed can help you to drift off.
  • Taking naps during the day can make it harder to get to sleep at night. If you find you're tired during the day, try to go to bed earlier rather than taking a daytime nap.
  • Don't watch TV or use your laptop in bed as this can lead to wrong associations and make it harder for you to sleep. Some specialists even advise no reading in bed - although for others this can help them sleep.
  • It may help if you turn your alarm clock away from you so that you cannot see the time. Once people start thinking they are having difficulty getting to sleep, they often watch the clock ticking away and this can make the problem worse.
  • Don't expect too much sleep. Most people sleep between six and eight hours a night. Sometimes adults who expect to be able to go to bed relatively early and sleep right through until the morning do find it hard to sleep because they are aiming for more sleep than they actually need. As you get older, it is quite normal to need less sleep too. If you've had problems sleeping, try to limit yourself to seven hours in bed at first as this will help you to establish a proper sleep pattern again.

If you've tried everything listed above, and you're still having problems sleeping, you may want to see your doctor. Sleeping pills are usually an absolute last resort as they don't address the problem itself, but they can sometimes provide short term relief from insomnia.  Alternatively, you may want to try cognitive behavioural therapy or CBT which has been very successful with solving sleeping

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