It was 3:30AM.
My daughter was 2 weeks old
I had seen every hour on the clock.
Earlier in the evening I had sent my husband to bed because he needed to work the next day. But here I was: exhausted, desperate and about to ruin his slumber.
I ran into our spare room where my husband was sleeping, handed him the baby and tried to get two hours of sleep in a row. I come back for the baby a couple of hours later to see HIM sleeping with the baby in his arms! It was my Oprah ‘a-ha’ moment: sleep is not a luxury, it’s a necessity!
While we may chuckle with a friend about how exhausting parenthood is, your child’s infancy (and sometimes beyond) can bring parents many sleepless nights if baby isn’t sleeping well–and that is no laughing matter. When we have tired babies, we have tired parents and tired parents are more likely to be involved in an accident, have a higher risk of heart disease, be obese, and even experience anxiety or depression. Sleep deprivation is no joke. And we know that after baby is 6 months and their circadian rhythms look more like adult ones, having broken nights of sleep means they feel just as tired and cranky as you do!
However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. There are a few basics you need to know about baby sleep before you make any changes to way your baby falls asleep. Here are the basics that will answer the most common baby sleep questions and hopefully provide you with a starting point in helping your child become better rested.
“What?” you ask.
Yes! You read right. A sleep dance!
If I asked you to think about your sleep dance it would likely look like this: You hop into bed, take off your socks and turn to your right side. But in another 2 minutes you’re going to shift to your left side, put your hand under your pillow and shift your legs to and fro. These routines and actions are your sleep dance. And if your child or baby has you doing this dance for them (feeding, rocking, bouncing, swaying, pacifying etc.) it means that every time they wake, they will require that same ‘dance’ to fall asleep again…which is challenging because…
And neither will you for that matter! All human sleep is actually made up of several shorter cycles of sleep. Most adults have a sleep cycle of 90 minutes but because adults have independent sleep skills, we can get to the end of our cycle, wake, turn over and go back to sleep. A baby’s sleep cycle however can range between 30-90 minutes (depending on their age). This means it’s possible that a baby can wake every 30 minutes! And if baby does not have their sleep dance down, it means they will require a recital from mom and dad all night long! Some of you are nodding right now–if this is you, it means your baby does not have their sleep dance down and is lacking independent sleep skills
If baby has any sleep associations (things that lully them to sleep: rocking, patting, swaying, swings, pacifiers, dock-a-tots, nursing, bottles etc.) it makes falling and staying asleep extremely challenging because these associations will all stop working. Whatever lulling effect is created by these associations will eventually wear off and you’re left swaying a crying baby for hours. How many of you have had to run back to baby’s room several times at night to replace a pacifier? When we remove the pacifier (or any other association) baby will sleep deeper and more consistently going forward.
If you’re feeling like you’re ready to get you and baby to sleep, feel free to reach out! I (and many consultants!) offer free discovery calls to try to get a better sense of your sleep issue and let you know what working within a program may look like. You can reach me here: www.babysbestsleep.com/15mins
Good luck and teach that baby to dance!
You generally don’t think about how you sleep until you can’t sleep. But not being able to sleep can have adverse affects on life—and sleep position might be a factor.
An adult needs seven to nine hours of sleep a night, and if you’re not meeting that need, you might want to think about the position you’re sleeping in instead of fruitlessly counting sheep all night.
But is one sleeping position really “better” than another? We delved deep and here’s what we found out about these common ways to get some shut eye and the pros and cons of each position.
Congrats, back sleepers. Sleeping on your back is widely considered to be a good position for your spine and neck, as the back is straight and not bending haphazardly, as with some of the other positions. In fact, the best possible sleeping situation for your spine would be to sleep on your back, but with no pillow. Not that we are suggesting that (it sounds terrible)!
Bonus: there’s also some evidence that sleeping on your back leads to fewer wrinkles!
Sleep apnea is so directly linked to sleeping in this position that doctors literally recommend sleeping on your side to combat it. And any snoring associated with sleep apnea, of course, may impact partners or anyone nearby. Studies have also shown that those who sleep on their backs tend to be worse sleepers overall.
A very popular position. Sleeping on one’s left side in particular is good for pregnant women, as well as for those who deal with acid reflux and heartburn, making it easier for people dealing with those conditions to nod off.
Sleeping on the left side is thought to be hard on the stomach and lungs (it puts pressure on those organs), and, as side sleepers will know well, the chances you come out of the morning with the dreaded dead-arm due to numbness are high. Switching sides can help.
A slight variation on side sleeping, the fetal position has you curled up with your legs tucked in. This position has some of the same benefits as sleeping on the side: it’s great for those who are pregnant (but not too pregnant!) and for overall blood circulation, and it’s actually more popular than the standard side sleep. It’s also good for snorers.
Curling up too tightly in this position might become a bad habit as you get older, as it can restrict breathing in your diaphragm. It can also leave you aching in the morning, especially if you have arthritis. If you’re a fetal sleeper, try to straighten out when you can to help ease your breathing.
There’s a virtual guarantee that you won’t snore.
Sleeping on your stomach can be hard on your back, as it tends to flatten the spine. Stomach sleepers can also strain their necks if the head gets turned to one side all night.
If you are already in the habit of sleeping on your stomach, you might want to try using pillows to train yourself to eventually sleep on your side. Your back and neck will thank you for it.
The fact of the matter is that people sleep in whatever matter they find the comfiest, and knowing the pros and cons of each position may not change that. But if you’re experiencing aches, back pain, or an angry partner due to your snoring, it might benefit you to try out a different position. Here’s to peaceful nights and restful days.
With summer coming to an end and the days getting shorter, we all want to feel as energized as possible as we wake up. When it comes to waking up fresh, happy, and ready to tackle the world, there are a bunch of tricks to try. Start your morning feeling more rejuvenated and centred with these tips.
For most of us, falling asleep is never as simple as putting head to pillow and shutting our eyes. If you’re in need of a few proven tricks for courting slumber, deep and restful, you’ve come to the right place. Read on!
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Weil’s technique is simple, takes hardly any time, and can be done anywhere in five steps. Although you can do the exercise in any position, it’s recommended to sit with your back straight while learning the exercise. Weil also recommends you place the tip of your tongue against the roof of your mouth, just behind your front teeth, and keeping it there through the entire exercise. Here we go!
This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.
The most important part of this process is holding your breath for seven seconds. This is because keeping the breath in will allow oxygen to fill your lungs and then circulate throughout the body. It is this that produces a relaxing effect in the body.
[More at Dr. Weil.com]
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Research conducted on two groups of insomniacs at the University of Glasgow found that reverse psychology can genuinely help people fall asleep.
While one group was left to their own devices, the other was told to stay awake for as long as possible but banned from moving around or watching TV.
Guess who went to sleep fastest?
[More at YouTube]
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No, not the booze bottle. (Drinking alcohol may help you get to sleep, but it’s a central nervous system depressant. When it wears off, you become more alert.) Instead, make sure your bedroom is cool, and then hit that hot water bottle.
Every night, as the body falls asleep and its systems switch to standby, its core temperature drops. Think of it as akin to a car that’s parked on a driveway after long, hot drive. By preparing a cool sleep environment—between 60 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit, 16 and 20 degrees Celsius—you’ll help your body’s core temperature reduce quickly and naturally, which creates the feeling of drowsiness.
The trick to avoiding a frigid sleep is the water bottle. Placed by your feet, the heat dilates blood vessels in your lower limbs, shifting body heat from the core (where it is while you’re awake) to the extremities (where it is when you’re snoozing happily). Enjoy!
[More at BBC]
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This guy may be goofy, but he makes a strong argument for one of our favourite sleeping positions—on our side, hugging a pillow, a slender bolster between the legs. It’s partly a matter of personal preference, partly a matter of science. The basic idea is, regardless of your sleeping position, you should attempt to keep your ears, shoulders, and hips aligned:
[More at U of U Health]
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You know how sleepy you feel after Thanksgiving dinner, when your belly’s full of turkey? That’s the tryptophan talking—turkey’s rich in it. These six sleep superfoods have way more tryptophan than does turkey. More importantly, they’re easy to consume before bedtime. Who needs Ambien when Mother Nature’s on your side?
[More at London Drugs]
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Sixty minutes before going to bed, turn your back on all electronic screens, media, and work. The time for screens and work is over. Computer screens actually trigger your brain to stay awake; the blue light they emit mimics sunlight (which arouses the brain, instead of relaxing it). Here are a few more tips:
[More at Sleep.org]
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How much sleep did you get last night? If you’re like many Canadians, it wasn’t enough. Research shows that 30% of us get fewer than 6 hours of sleep a night, with 47% reporting at least occasional insomnia. Rather than pursuing a better night’s sleep, many of us simply pour an extra cup of coffee and soldier on. Luckily, there are easy steps that you can take to combat poor sleep so you’ll wake up with the energy you need to take on the day.
In Canada, the shortening days are upon us. In the six months between the longest and shortest days of the year, Torontonians, Vancouverites, and Edmontonians lose six and a half, eight, and nine and a half hours of sunlight, respectively.
If you have children, you’ll know that a 9:00 p.m. bedtime, more than reasonable during the summer, means putting a kid down some five hours after the winter sun. Is he getting enough sleep? Who knows? When many Canadian parents factor in the back-to-school routines of dinner, bath, and storytime (and later, after-school activities, homework, and team sports), it’s hard to imagine getting kids to bed much before nine o’clock. READ MORE
It’s a commonplace of holidays: the turkey dinner concludes, your eyelids start to droop. You sneak away from the table to pour yourself into a comfortable seat and snooze the snooze of a thousand snoozes (at least until, ahem, the dishes are done).
The yawning doesn’t come over you because you’re lazy or full, although you may be both. Turkey contains an amino acid called L-tryptophan, which produces in the body two chemicals that make you want to get comfortably horizontal: melatonin and serotonin.
Interesting: Turkey, famous for its soporific effect, contains only modest amounts of tryptophan. A handful of other foods contain much higher concentrations of the amino acid. And all are cheaper and easier to prepare than a Christmas turkey.
More importantly, they’re easy to consume before bedtime, and will help you sleep more quickly and restfully. Who needs Ambien when Mother Nature’s on your side?
Sesame seeds are small, but they contain high amounts of tryptophan. Why bother with toast when you could simply throw back a handful, you ask? Bread’s carbohydrates increase your blood sugar, causing your body to produce insulin and, afterwards, the calming chemicals serotonin and melatonin—the ultimate drowsy combination. Sesame is the sleep superstar, but all kinds of seeds—pumpkin, squash, sunflower, in particular—are excellent before bedtime.
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Before bed, a handful of nuts is just what the Sandman ordered. Almonds, pistachios, and cashews (their butters are also excellent, just steer away from the heavily salted or sugared) are very high in tryptophan. Bonus: Nuts also contain magnesium, a mineral that calms your muscles and nerves.
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Fish are dense in tryptophan, in addition to being the best natural source of Omega-3s. Salmon is the champion, so definitely try it out. Whatever your choice, don’t neglect your Omega-3s. Research shows the fatty acids discourage intermittent waking through the night, and can add as much as an hour to your sleep. Small surprise, really: If there’s one thing salmon know about, it’s going the distance.
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Cherries are so efficient at inducing sleep, they might have been manufactured in a lab. Where most soporific foods induce the body to produce melatonin by first introducing tryptophan, cherries leapfrog the first step and give you a straight shot of melatonin. This is rare. (Melatonin is the chemical that most strongly influences your sleep-wake cycles.) One caveat: before stuffing your mouth, make sure you’re not allergic. Treefruit like cherries are difficult on some people’s systems.
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Experts don’t fully agree there is evidence that this age-old home remedy actually works. That’s because, like bananas, milk contains the amino acid L-tryptophan, which turns to 5-HTP and releases serotonin, which relaxes you. Milk is also high in calcium and magnesium, both known to have a relaxing effect. Milk alone may do the trick, but you’ll boost its effectiveness by taking it with a carb-rich oatmeal, granola, or toast.
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If you’re like me, you hear an echo of your grandmother telling you that cheese before bed will give you nightmares. Mozzarella is the exception to the rule. Pound for pound, mozzarella cheese contains twice as much tryptophan as the lean protein. May we suggest a piece of Silver Hill’s Squirrelly Bread with a single slice of tomato, laid over with fresh buffalo mozza or bocconcini, drizzled with balsamic vinegar, a few drops of olive oil, and freshly ground black pepper?
Now you’ve got the tools. Happy sleeping!