Tell someone that you and your better half are expecting, and the first thing out of their mouth will be, “Congratulations!” The next will probably be, “Sleep while you can.”
With newborns waking every two to three hours during their first three months, parents are coming up short on the seven to nine hours of nightly sleep recommended by the National Sleep Foundation. Sleep interruptions are the most severe with newborns, but can carry on in the following years as little ones navigate potty training, nightmares and the urge to climb in bed with their parents.
For co-parenting couples, striking the right sleep balance with one another can be difficult, but it will be one of the most important things you can do for the sake of your child, your relationship, and your overall health. With that in mind, here are three tips to help parents strike a healthy sleep balance.
1. Divvy up the newborn night shift
Many couples choose to put the responsibility of night feedings on one person’s shoulders, particularly if that individual is a stay-at-home parent or breastfeeding mom. But with most babies not sleeping through the night until the six-month marker or beyond, this can be extremely taxing.
Studies have shown that sleep deprivation affects our abilities to interpret how our actions affect others and the other way around. So, unless we want to see our spouses become insensitive, socially-inept zombies, it’s probably best to split up the night.
Approach night feedings with shifts. If one of you is naturally a night owl, let that person stay up later to tackle the first feeding while the other snoozes. Then swap so the night owl can sleep until morning. Another alternative is to switch on and off nightly, with one person getting a full night’s rest, while the other answers the baby.
For breastfeeding mothers, these ideas may mean pumping ahead of time and getting your baby used to taking a bottle. No matter which method you choose, remember to be flexible with your routine, and acknowledge that from time to time, one of you may need to lean on the other for a little extra sleep.
2. Talk it out
If your current sleeping setup isn’t working, make time to talk about it with your partner. Have the discussion when you’re both rested (more on that to come) and when you’re free from distractions (yes, your children count as distractions.) This will give you both a leg up in your abilities to listen and express yourselves.
Resist the urge to frame the conversation around who does more on less sleep. Instead, explain the ways in which you’re struggling and ask for help. Odds are your partner has also been holding in strong feelings on this topic, so be ready to hear them out.
Since parenting takes teamwork, try thinking of this conversation as reworking the playbook you and your teammate have been running. It’s not getting us the results we thought it would. How do we adjust so we can both feel like we’re winning?
Lastly, be ready to have a conversation about sleep balance a few times over the course of your child’s life. Your kiddo’s sleep schedule will continue evolving as they grow. Keep the lines of communication open with your partner and you’ll both sleep happier.
3. Sleep more. Bicker less.
Yet another motivation for striking a sleep balance, studies have shown that lack of sleep leads to more frequent and severe conflicts among couples. When you and/or your better half aren’t getting enough sleep, you’re more likely to bicker and have a harder time resolving the issues.
If something’s bothering you, sleep on it and say your piece after getting some shut-eye.
Bonus tip: Take turns sleeping in or napping on weekends.
It may sound like a no-brainer, but Saturday and Sunday are the only days of the week where one of you can catch up on sleep while the other watches the kids. Try alternating weekends, or have one of you take Saturdays, while the other gets every Sunday.
There’s no one-size-fits-all for sleep-deprived parents, but we hope these tips have given you some new ideas to try or inspired you to have a conversation about sleep balance with your partner. Just remember: you both deserve empathy, and you both deserve a good night’s sleep!
He said, she said. Venus, Mars. The battle of the sexes isn’t limited to waking hours. When you don’t get your way in terms of sleep, it usually means less sleep. Which leads to to more crankiness. And then all bets are off, grrr.
How do both of you happily coexist in the same bed? If you sleep differently, the answer could be a split king adjustable bed. A Split King has two twin-size mattresses that can be raised and lowered separately on top of one king-size adjustable base.
Here’s our handy guide to some of the top bedtime relationship issues a Split King could help resolve.
He snores, she doesn’t.
44% of all men are habitual snorers. Thankfully, Split King adjustable power bases have one of the greatest features ever developed for womankind: the Anti-Snore position. Raise the head of his side of the bed, and usually that locomotive roar will subside. Settle flat on the other side of bed and, ahhhh. Can you say #bliss?
She needs to check emails, he wants lights out.
Even though we strongly advise against it, we know many of you work in bed, arrgh. If you must, at least allow the saner partner some peace. You can dash off some late-night emails with a fully raised head and support under your knees to hold that laptop or tablet. Meanwhile, your partner can adjust to whatever sleep position works best, perhaps lying flat on his side. He can avoid all that bad blue-screen light and enjoy all that sleep you should be getting, hint, hint.
He sleeps one way, she sleeps another.
Side and back sleepers often enjoy a little elevation. Stomach sleepers, not so much – flat is best. In an adjustable bed, to each his or her own. No need to compromise. There are also different positions that help alleviate pain and allergies. If you have a sore back, you can sleep in Zero Gravity position, while he fights his allergies with a raised head. Or if you’re pregnant, you can sleep flat on your side, while he nurses that ankle sprain with elevated feet.
She sleeps like a nomad; he sleeps like a rock.
If one of you moves a lot while sleeping, it doesn’t have to disturb the other’s sleep. The small divide in the Split King keeps your partner from rocking your world in ways that you do not appreciate. It’s like hanging a Do Not Disturb sign on your side of the bed.
The infinite number of positions achievable in a split adjustable king can also help to alleviate many medical conditions like restless legs and keep both partners sleeping comfortably.
He gets up early, she sleeps in late.
Many power foundations have programmable massage features or raise-to-wake alarms. If the adjustable base is well-designed, you can enjoy either feature (or both) without the vibrations or moving parts disturbing your partner. Some also have nightlights under the bed, allowing you to hit the bathroom or even make a late-night fridge run without disturbing your partner. How considerate!
She’s cold, he’s a furnace.
Or vice versa. For many couples, it’s not a matter of fighting for the blankets, it’s fighting off the blankets as well. With a Split King, one of you can pile on extra twin blankets on your side of the bed, the other can forgo blankets altogether and sleep with a lightweight organic cotton sheet.
One caveat: if you’re a maximal cuddler, a Split King has a very small gap between the two mattresses which some people find less comfortable. If that’s the case, you’ll have to weigh the pros and cons, i.e., cuddling versus crankiness. The gender gap can be further accommodated with a mattress that can be customized in firmness on both sides for each of you.
All in all, a Split King has some big advantages that can promote harmony, increase the amount of restful sleep you both get and work well for most couples. We wish you luck bridging the divide and sleeping happily ever after. For our obsessive explanation of what a Split King base is, click here.
As kids, we were excited about summer vacation. No school. No homework. Just relaxing and fun for three months. Fast-forward to you being the parent; summer vacation is not as exciting. Without school, what are your kids going to do all day? Sleep the days away and stay up all night? Without the structure of school, your kids’ sleep schedules can be completely nonexistent during the summer months unless you seize control. Our summer vacation sleep guide for kids can help. Below you'll find some ways to keep kids on a sleep schedule while still allowing them to enjoy their vacation.
Set a summer bedtime.
Because kids don’t have anywhere they need to be every day, they would stay up all night if they could. But just like during the school year, kids need a bedtime. Set a summer bedtime and a wake-up time, too. It is okay to let your kids go to bed later and sleep in a little, but within reason. Setting these times is a way to make sure they don't stay up all night and sleep their days away.
Every parent knows that kids somehow tend to have so much energy come bedtime. To help them get to sleep, give them a late-night snack that promotes sleep. Foods like cherries, strawberries, tomatoes, and milk contain melatonin, which is what the body naturally releases when it is tired. Assisting the body into its natural state while sleeping can help your kids fall asleep faster.
Keep them active during summer vacation.
Help them sleep by getting them involved in summer activities. There are camps that will keep the kids active during the day – great for them and handy if you work outside the home. Also, you can send them to a summer camp that focuses on a specific activity, like a sport or performing arts; ask your friends on FB for some reccos. Summer camps usually have the schedule and structure that is similar to a school schedule. Keeping your kids busy and active during the day can tire them out, so they are wanting to go to bed at night and can wake energized.
Muggy nights. The enemy of sleep.
While getting ready for sleep, the body releases melatonin and the body temperature decreases; making the bedroom cool can help the body cool off faster. Sleeping in a cool room during the summer months can be a challenge, depending on where you live. Running your air conditioner all night is not your only option. Because the temperature drops at night, opening a window to get a nice breeze can be all they need. You can also use a fan on low to circulate the cooler air around the room. Between 60° and 68° is an ideal temperature range for sleeping.
Traveling with kids. Oh, the joy.
Traveling tends to mess up everyone’s sleep schedule, especially when traveling to a different time zone. To help kids cope better, try keeping their naps and bedtimes the same as if they were at home. This may help avoid the possibility of having a whiny, tired child because they didn’t get enough sleep. You can bring something that your child sleeps with at home, like a stuffed animal or blanket, which can make sleeping more comfortable for them. Also, plan your summer vacation travel times so that you're in the car (or on the plane) during naps and bedtimes, which can make traveling with a child easier and quieter.
Summer vacation can also bring an increase in sleepover invites. Sleepovers can be one parent’s night off, but another parent’s nightmare. Sleepovers usually mean all-nighters, never-ending sweets, and cranky kids afterward. If you are the hosting family, set rules for things like last call for snacks and bedtime. Making the kids go to bed and cutting off sweets can lessen the chance of all the parents having sleep-deprived children to deal with for the next few days. If you are the parents with the night off, you should prepare for a sleep-deprived child the next day. Try foregoing sweets the day afterward, because chances are your child overloaded on sugar during the sleepover. Also, allow a short nap, if necessary, and then get them to bed at the normal time. The sooner you can get your child back on schedule, the more you could shorten your time dealing with an ornery child.
Back to school.
About two to three weeks before school starts in the fall, begin adjusting the bedtime to allow for a full night’s rest with the designated wake-up time during the academic year. Every day, move their bedtime up by 15 minutes until you have reached your goal time. This slow transition will make getting up earlier easier for them and you.
When it's summer, sleep is usually the first thing everyone foregoes to fit in as much fun as possible. We hope that these suggestions will make sure that your kids have the energy to enjoy every minute of their summer vacation and also to help you cope.
Congratulations, and welcome to motherhood for the first, second, or greater time. It is the hardest job you will ever have but it comes with the greatest benefits package. For me, the most difficult part of the newborn period is sleep deprivation. My daughter needed to nurse every 2-3 hours for one week, and every feeding felt like an eternity. My husband is very helpful, but he needed sleep once he went back to work. And even though there were very special bonding moments with my little girl during the night, it still felt very lonely being the only person up multiple times while extremely fatigued and hormonal. I know you have been there, too, my friend! So, what can we do to maximize sleep time and to make the most of the little sleep we can get? Here are my favorite tips for sleeping with a newborn baby, all of which I have been using since the birth of my second child just a few months ago.
Sleep When You Can
Everyone says it, and it sounds so easy to sleep while your baby sleeps. But it’s hard! You have bottles and/or burp cloths to wash, visitors to entertain, and a precious bundle to stare at for hours and hours. All of these threaten to rob the much-needed sleep of a new mom. First, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Have family or friends come to hold the baby, change diapers and/or do household chores while you take a nap. If you do not have people who will help in this way, and you can afford it, go ahead and hire someone. Many night nurses or postpartum doulas will come to your home to help during the newborn period. And it doesn’t have to be for a long time, either. We hired someone to help for several nights around week 6 when my exhaustion and my baby’s crying were at their peak. These people are angels in disguise. If you don’t feel comfortable with help overnight, hire someone to assist during the day so you can nap. Sleep is a necessity after having a baby, not an option. You’ll be better able to function after some rest.
Once you’re able to sneak away, make sure your sleeping environment is perfect. Hang blackout curtains, use a noise machine and wear comfortable pajamas. You can finally enjoy sleeping on your back again! If you had a c-section, keep an extra pillow in the bed so you can place it over your abdomen as a brace when you cough, laugh, or sneeze. An adjustable bed is amazing for post-C-section recovery because it raises you into a sitting position (for nursing or getting into and out of bed) preventing you from overworking your abdominal muscles until recovery is well underway. The adjustability of a bed is also helpful after a vaginal delivery, especially if you had tears since you can find the sitting angle at which there is minimal vaginal pain.
Another tip: set yourself up for success by having everything you need near your bed. On my bedside table, I had two pacifiers, two burp cloths, a nursing pillow with pocket that held gas drops and vitamin D (important to give babies that are exclusively breastfed). Other stuff on the table? My journal of my baby’s activity (I was so tired that I couldn’t remember which side I nursed on the last time), plus water and snacks for me. I also had a basket with all diaper changing supplies, because walking across the room to the changing pad was too much sometimes.
A sleeping baby is a thing of beauty. They need the same things we do to rest: a dark and quiet room at a comfortable temperature. Babies also need a bedtime routine, a nonverbal way of telling them that it’s time to settle down. Our routine was going into the bedroom, turning on the noise machine, swaddling, turning off the lights, and rocking for 5-10 minutes until she showed signs of sleepiness (yawning, closing her eyes, breathing slowing down a bit). Then I placed her in a co-sleeper and patted her leg until she was nearly asleep. There are plenty of variations on this theme; find what works for you and your baby, because you will be doing it multiple times a day for several months.
You get to decide where your baby sleeps. Recent recommendations say that sleeping in a separate area (bassinet, co-sleeper, crib) in the same room as parents is best. However, that must be balanced with your ability to rest. My babies were both very noisy sleepers. As long as they were in the room, I could not sleep, which was not safe for me or them. So, they slept in a co-sleeper in my attached bathroom. I was near enough to hear a cry or cough but far enough away to not hear every grunt and sigh. This is a very personal decision that you should make with input from your pediatrician.
A special word for all moms: let the mommy guilt go. Whether it be about breastfeeding,sleeping in the same room, asking someone else to care for your baby, or balancing this baby with other children–just do your best, then move on! This is a beautiful time but also a tough time, and it will pass quickly. Take a deep breath, get rest when you can, and try to savor the quiet moments with your newborn. If you are feeling overwhelmed or depressed, seek help immediately; you can’t and shouldn’t deal with these emotions alone. As one of my favorite people used to say to me, and this is advice definitely worth taking: be kind to yourself.
Dr. Bailey is an ObGyn and a reproductive endocrinologist and infertility specialist. She treats patients who are having difficulty conceiving or who have complicated gynecologic conditions, following women throughout early pregnancy. Her expertise in sleep and women’s health, including pregnancy, stem from professional as well as personal interests. As a mother of both a newborn and a toddler, she knows how important it is to get a good night’s rest. She has used the Reverie Sleep System throughout both of her pregnancy and postpartum periods with excellent results.
We think of sleep as the most relaxed state our bodies can reach—and, for the most part, that’s true. Yet there are exceptions. One of the biggest ones is a phenomenon that is the epitome of non-relaxation. It’s characterized by tension and destruction that somehow slipped its way into the chilled-out world of sleep: bruxism.
What Is Bruxism?
If you’ve never heard of bruxism, you’ve likely heard of its more common name, teeth grinding. The condition, however, refers to not only grinding but also unconscious gnashing and clenching of the teeth (oh, the drama!). Doing this in your sleep (sleep bruxism) is considered a sleep-related movement disorder, a class of conditions that occur near or during sleep and affect the quality of your shut-eye.
Nighttime bruxism, which afflicts 8% of adults, can also have repercussions on your waking life. It can lead to tension headaches, damaged teeth, disorders in the tempromandibular joints (TMJs), and receding gum lines. Not to mention all the side effects that come with inadequate sleep. When it’s severe enough, the sound of grinding can also create sleep issues for your partner. Not exactly a soothing lullaby.
There’s evidence that those with nighttime bruxism grind their teeth during periodic arousals of the cardiac and respiratory systems during sleep. These arousals trigger increased muscle activity (in this case, in the jaw) and can happen up to 15 times a night. What makes someone more prone to this is a complicated question.
What Causes Bruxism?
There’s not a general consensus, but the cause is likely different from person to person. Possible causes of nighttime bruxism include abnormal tooth alignment; acid reflux into the esophagus; and use of certain anti-depressants or stimulants like coffee, alcohol, tobacco, and some illegal drugs.
Research also suggests that those with other sleep disorders like sleep apnea or snoring are more likely to suffer from teeth grinding. In fact, one study showed that sleep apnea is the highest risk factor for bruxism in the general population.
However, the most common cause—to which about 70% of bruxism cases can be attributed— is anxiety and stress. When daily stressors are not addressed head on, the body still needs to process that emotional strain. Think about your body’s reaction when something upsetting or stressful happens: you tense up, perhaps clenching your jaw and pressing your teeth together. Those with bruxism experience this while they’re asleep, as a response to concerns that go unaddressed while awake.
How Do I Know If I Have It?
Self-diagnosing bruxism can be tricky, since you’re asleep when it happens. However, here are some signs that indicate it could be an issue:
- Flattened, fractured, or chipped teeth
- Tooth sensitivity
- Pain, fatigue, or soreness in the jaw
- Headache, especially in the temples
- Your partner notices the sound of grinding or clenching.
How Do I Treat My Bruxism?
If you think you are might have bruxism, your first step should be to make an appointment with your dentist or doctor. Explain the symptoms you’ve been experiencing and anything in your life you think could be relevant (new stressors, a change in sleep patterns).
In many cases, your dentist will recommend a mouth guard to keep your teeth separated at night (with the added bonus of reducing any cringe-inducing sounds for your partner). There are a number of different mouth guards to choose from, but most dentists will recommend the hard, custom-fit guard, since it’s both smaller and more effective at preventing grinding.
If you have an associated sleep disorder, your teeth grinding will likely improve after you address the other issue. In one study, those suffering from bruxism and sleep apnea saw an improvement in both conditions when only the latter was treated.
For almost every case of nighttime bruxism, however, stress management is a smart idea. Good sleep hygiene, meditation, and more proactive ways of dealing with life’s stresses can be enough to treat bruxism without any medical intervention. Plus it has the added bonus of making your days more enjoyable as well. So take some time to relax during your days. You and your partner are likely to escape the grind and enjoy more restful nights.
There’s something special about reading a bedtime story with a child. Many kids are extra sweet at bedtime, so you get quality time and bonding to the max. You’ve likely already shared your favorite classic books with your kids or grandkids. Several times, right? Goodnight, Moon. The Hungry Caterpillar. The Velveteen Rabbit. The Missing Piece. Green Eggs and Ham. They’re all so wonderful, sigh. But eventually, you need some new material. So what can you read with them now?
Have no fear. We recently went to a good bookstore for kids in search of best new picture books that might wind up being classics.
We’ll start by sharing our own criteria for what makes a good picture book. It must have a good, engaging story. The writing has to sparkle. The pictures need to feel fresh, graphic or otherwise charming. It needs to be human. And the book needs to be original in some way, not the same old sappy stuff and clichéd stories. Lastly is the “it” factor: the book should evoke some kind of emotional response. Ultimately, we need to empathize. Or laugh. Or be delighted. Or enlightened. Truth be told, our standards are very high, and most books wind up in the rejected pile.
Looking for books that have won prestigious children’s literary awards like the Caldecott or Newbery medals can be helpful, but not always. They’re usually easy to spot, with large embossed gold or silver stickers at the top. We’ve found these awards generally guarantee a certain quality of writing and illustrations, but don’t necessarily mean you’ll get a good, engaging story. It also seems like books with a sense of humor are often overlooked by the judges. So don’t limit yourself to award-winners.
After weeding through books for several hours, we’re happy to report that the genre is alive and well. Here are some newer bedtime books on the shelves right now that are worth a look. The books don’t have an age range on them, so we guesstimated.
Unlike Other Monsters
Written by Audrey Vernick, Illustrated by Colin Jack
Zander is a monster. And monsters do not like or need friends. Until a little red bird hangs out with Zander and interrupts his world view. A humorous story with fun, active illustrations. More here.
Still a Gorilla
Written by Kim Norman, Illustrated by Chad Geran
Cute story about a young gorilla who longs to be someone else. Big, flat, almost Japanese-style illustrations. For the pictures, think Curious George meets Pokemon. More here.
Hello, My Name is Octicorn
Written by Kevin Diller, Illustrated by Justin Lowe
Half unicorn, half octopus, Octicorn feels insecure because he’s different. In the book, Octicorn works through all the reasons he’d be a good friend. Turns out, they’re excellent reasons. Expressive, earnest, mostly black and white illustrations with a splash of color. Nice story for a child who’s different or to teach kids about tolerance. More here.
Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!
Written and Illustrated by Mo Willems
Caldecott Honor Book
A mischievous pigeon tries every excuse and guilt trip in the book, all the ones that kids typically use to try to get their way. Simple, doodle-style illustrations that evoke an old-style cartoon. We think most kids will be able to see themselves in this book, a great quality for a book to have. More here.
The Day the Crayons Quit
Written by Drew Daywalt, Illustrated by Oliver Jeffers
EB White Read-Aloud Award
Duncan wants to color but his crayons are tired. So they all go on strike. Each crayon writes him a hilarious protest letter based on its typical duties by color. Red is mad that he has to work so hard year-round, especially Christmas. Beige is tired of being the poor man’s brown. Full disclosure: we are in love with this book. The “delight” factor is high. Just buy it! More here.
Written by Taye Diggs, Illustrated by Shane W. Evans
Written by actor Taye Diggs, this is about Mike, a mixed race boy with an awesome head of curly hair. In a rhyme, he proudly explains who he is to the world, with love and support from his parents. Colorful and modern illustrations. Exuberant and freeing text. More here.
On the Night You Were Born
Written and Illustrated by Nancy Tillman
New York Times Bestseller
Sweetest book since Goodnight Moon. A parent poetically recounts the events of a magical night. On the night her child was born, word rang out across the land. The polar bears danced and all of nature celebrated. A book that is validating, comforting and just all-around AWESOME. More here.
Quit Calling Me a Monster
Written by Jory John, Illustrated by Bob Shea
An engaging rant by a monster about being called names, even though he rather deserves them due to bad behavior. A witty romp with a protagonist who rather reminded us of Oscar the Grouch. Endearing, active illustrations. More here.
The Wonderful Things You Will Be
Written and Illustrated by Emily Winfield Martin
A lovely rhyme as a new parent speculates on all the possibilities life may hold for her child. Somehow this book perfectly walks the line between schmaltz and honest emotion. Charming illustrations. More here.
Voice of Freedom/The Fannie Lou Hamer Story
Written by Carole Boston Weatherford
Illustrated by Ekua Holmes
Robert F. Sibert Honor Book
Caldecott Honor Book
Coretta Scott King Award/John Steptoe New Talent
This book is a serious work for children and somewhat hard to explain, because it deals with racism. The youngest of 20 children, Fannie Lou Hamer was born to sharecroppers and grew up to be a civil rights leader. Carole Boston Weatherford, a writer of many books about African American heroes, has taken the true elements of Hamer’s life and translated them into a compilation of different short stories and prose. The result is moving, sad, joyful, angry, inspiring and true. The fine art illustrations are incredibly beautiful and unique. This book would be best read a few pages at a time and discussed in detail between adult and child. More here.
If you want to look for picture books on your own, we’ll make a plea for going to a good local brick-and-mortar bookstore. It’s way, way easier to find good books in person than online, unless you already know exactly what you want. In a bookstore, you can always read the entire book, unlike online where you just get a preview. Plus bookstores are places full of knowledge and great vibes, the kind of business that’s great to have in your neighborhood.
Happy reading, and may your little one drift off to sleep easily, enriched by a great book and your loving, undivided attention.
It’s that time of year again: back to school. If you’re like most of us, you’re wondering where the summer went. Whether you’re celebrating having your kids out of the house or feeling a bit wistful about it (or both!), the issue remains: your kid needs to get into a school-year routine. And one of the most difficult part of that routine to re-establish? Sleep.
Yes, the transition from the bedtime-doesn’t-matter mode of summer to the homework-plus-soccer-and-school-starts-at-seven mode of the school year can be rough. Kids aren’t used to the new schedule, they miss their summer freedom, and on top of that, the stress of school-year obligations can make falling asleep more difficult than it normally is. When you consider that quality sleep is a key factor in academic performance for school-age students, this is a big issue.
Thankfully, there are a number of ways you, as a parent, can help your child de-stress and get quality rest once the school year starts. Here are a few back to school sleep tips.
Little Ones (Kindergarten to Second Grade)
- Steer clear of stimulation.
As bedtime gets closer, avoid any games or activities that will wind your child up. Oftentimes this means active games like tag, video games, very funny/scary shows, or anything else that gets them particularly excited.
- Give a warning.
It’s also best to start your child’s bedtime routine well before actual bedtime, since young kids often need a while to get used to the idea that they have to go to sleep soon. If they don’t like being told what to do, focus on a choice: “Bedtime’s in 45 minutes. Would you like to read Book X or Book Y together?”
- Keep it consistent.
With kids in this age range, parents often play a major role in their bedtime routine. Do everything you can to keep that routine consistent—the order of events, the timing, maybe even the words you use. Consistency is key for quality sleep.
- Love the lovies.
If she doesn’t already have one, give your child a “lovie” to go to sleep with. Having an adored stuffed animal or blankie to cuddle with can be a great relief to little ones with anxieties keeping them up.
- Talk when you tuck. When you tuck your child in, build in time to talk. Nighttime often brings out kids’ worries, and having time to talk about them with a parent can help relieve concerns and help them fall asleep more easily.
- Breathe deep.
Deep, belly-filling breathing calms down the whole nervous system. Happily, it’s something that anyone at any age can do. Teach your little one how by having him lie down, putting a hand on his belly, and breathing so that his hand rises. If he gets stressed out or worked up, do ten slow, deep breaths together.
Elementary Age (Third Grade to Sixth Grade)
- Turn off the tube.
The no-stimulating-activities rule applies here, too. For this age group, you need to be particularly vigilant about cutting off TV or video game use as bedtime approaches. Not only can it get kids riled up, TV screens can also have an adverse impact on natural sleep cycles.
- Don’t wing it on the weekend.
This is the prime age for slumber parties, which makes it hard to get your child to stick to a weeknight bedtime on Fridays and Saturdays. Still, enforce this policy when you can. Maybe rule out sleepovers until October. Staying up late on weekends will make Sunday (and often Monday) nights very difficult for both of you.
- Consider the afternoon.
When thinking about getting your kid to sleep, it can be easy to focus only on the hours before bedtime. But remember that everything leading up to bed matters as well. Help them plan their afternoons so they include time for homework, physical activity or just to chill out. Otherwise they may have a pile of obligations—or excess energy—remaining when it’s time to hit the hay.
- Make a list together.
At this age, kids can feel overwhelmed as their school demands increase at the same time that extracurricular activities and social dynamics become more important. Alleviate these stressors by spending some time helping your child create a list of all her obligations and decide when she will tackle each one.
Teenagers (Seventh Grade to Senior Year)
First, a note about teens: this is a special category, since the body’s circadian rhythms actually shift during teenage years, putting their natural needs in direct opposition to the demands of school schedules. Their bodies want to go to bed later and sleep in the next day, yet school starting times continue to creep earlier. It’s an unfortunate situation, but there are ways to make it more pleasant for all parties involved:
- Halt the homework:
Establish a cut-off time before which your teen must have completed all of his or her schoolwork. The mind needs time to calm down after doing anything stressful or mentally demanding, so cramming for an exam or cranking out a report right until it’s lights-out is a recipe for staying up all night. If your teen consistently can’t get work done before this set time, and talk with them about ways you can help them manage their work.
- Pare down the obligations.
It’s become par for the course for college-minded teens to be in every club, sport, and volunteer activity offered in their town. While engaging in after-school activities is wonderful, be careful that your teen doesn’t get worn thin by all they have to do. Especially since all that stress can prevent them from falling asleep when they finally do get to bed. One activity they care passionately about is just as good as three they can barely stay awake through.
- Be firm about the phone.
Set a no-phones-in-bed rule. Not only will this prevent the phone screen (and stimulus on the phone) from disrupting their sleep, it will also help preserve the bed as a sleep-only zone. Your teen’s body will come to understand this unique purpose of the bed and react accordingly when she crawls inside.
Back to School Tips for All Ages
- Watch what they eat.
Make sure your kids don’t have any heavy meals or sugar close to bedtime. If any of your kids have started drinking caffeine, set a none-after-noon rule.
- Mind the environment.
Make sure your child’s bedroom is sleep-friendly. Keep the temperature cool, purchase dark curtains if it gets a lot of ambient light from outside, and make sure it stays comfortable and clean. If you can’t help the noise level in your child’s room, consider getting them a fan, white noise machine, and/or earplugs.
- Encourage relaxing recreation.
Sometimes it can feel like screen-free, non-school-related activities are figments of the imagination, but they do exist and are extremely helpful for relaxing before bed. Coloring, knitting, reading individually or aloud, and meditating are all good options that can be adapted for different ages.
- Set a bedtime.
It’s simple, old-school, and it works. Sure, this can be difficult as children grow older, but having a consistent bedtime helps your child sleep better overall and prevents a nightly debate over how late he can stay up.
Perhaps most importantly, year-round and not just for back to school: model good sleep behavior and teach your kids that good sleep powers great days. Good luck and may your whole family sleep well.
- Steer clear of stimulation.
You’ve been planning for this moment for months, maybe even years, and it is almost time to meet your new baby. Congratulations! For some of you, this will be your first overnight stay in a hospital. While I strongly believe the hospital is far and away the safest and best place to have your baby, it is not an environment that is conducive to a good night’s sleep. But, let’s be honest, neither is motherhood. Here are a few tips to help you get as much rest as possible so you can take excellent care of your little one.
#1 Your overnight support person is your ally
Your overnight support person may be the most important part of your sleep plan. He or she should be excited about being helpful and should be supportive of and respectful of your boundaries. Communicate very clearly with this person before, during, and after your hospital stay about how he or she can help you.
#2 Visitor control can be key
Let the front desk staff and your nurses know if you want to refuse visitors at any point to get rest. The staff can be your greatest advocate and may even pretend that it is their recommendation that you do not have visitors at that time.
#3 Think about your pajamas
Pack comfortable pajamas- both heavy pajamas and light ones since the room temperature can be unpredictable. Layering is helpful as is wearing very loose clothing, especially around your waistline if you have a c-section.
#4 Take advantage of the comforts of home
Bring your own pillow (or pillows) and maybe even your own blanket. This will increase your comfort level dramatically.
#5 Control those blaring hospital lights.
An eye mask will be your best friend if your room’s window faces the east or west and will allow you to try to rest anytime of the day.
#6 Mitigate the noise
A noise machine or speaker playing your own music can drown out noise in the hallway and relax you. Have your playlists ready before going to the hospital. Theft in some hospitals is an issue, so assign your overnight support person to hang onto any electronics.
#7 Lights out early
An early bedtime may be beneficial to maximize the number of hours you can attempt (interrupted) sleep as some doctors begin seeing hospital patients very early in the morning (think 5:30am in a busy hospital). You can always go to sleep again right after they leave.
#8 Skip the interruptions
Request that no vital signs be taken overnight. This should not be a problem as long as you are healthy and had an uncomplicated delivery.
#9 Minimize your baby’s crying if possible
If your baby is as content as can be while being held but wakes up and cries uncontrollably as soon as you lay him or her down, your baby may be experiencing reflux, which is milk and stomach fluid moving backwards into the throat instead of staying in the stomach. This is likely temporary, but temporary may mean days or may mean months. Initially, ask the nurse to help you prop the bassinet up in a safe way so that your baby’s head is higher than his or her stomach. This may decrease the reflux.
#10 Send the baby to the nursery if you need to
It is a very personal decision to either room-in with your newborn or to send them to the nursery. If you have had any complications and need more than routine recovery– or if you do not have a helpful support person – it may be in your best interest to send your baby to the nursery. As the mom, YOU get to decide. Do what’s right for you.
It is extremely important to take care of yourself so that you can take care of your newborn. Good luck, and welcome to the most difficult and rewarding experience of your life.
Dr. Amelia P. Bailey is a reproductive endocrinologist and infertility (REI) specialist in Memphis, Tennessee. She currently serves on Reverie’s Sleep Advisory Board.
As an Ob-Gyn in the third trimester of my second pregnancy, I am keenly aware of the many changes the female body undergoes while doing the very important work of growing a new life. Hormones surge, ligaments and skin stretch, and bones shift to accommodate your little one, who starts off as one cell and becomes trillions of cells by birth. Momentous, certainly. But it also sounds uncomfortable, right? It is. So what can we do to make sure these nine months are more joy than pain while nurturing our future astrophysicists? One of the most important steps is ensuring adequate nightly amounts of peaceful sleep in spite of our frequent bathroom visits.
Dr. Amelia Bailey, who is currently pregnant, came up with a DreamCell™ configuration for expectant mothers
On becoming a side sleeper
During your first trimester, you can sleep the same way you always have, even if you sleep on your stomach or back. Second trimester, though, we have to start making adjustments to improve comfort. I encourage side sleeping, a position that maximizes blood flow to the baby.
How Dr. Bailey rearranged her DreamCell™ springs
I bought my Reverie Dream Sleep System a couple years ago, and have had it for both pregnancies. It features a mattress that can be switched up to accommodate life changes.
This allowed me to develop my own personal DreamCell configuration that provides support for our beautifully enlarging bellies in a side-sleeping position (see image). Because the pink (softest) foam cells are in a line down the center, your body will more naturally stay on its side once you lie down in that position. You will notice that there are blue coils in the area where your tummy will rest to provide additional support there. To view a chart of the full configuration, click here.
Why a power adjustable bed can help
Because my Reverie bed has a power adjustable bed base, I can also adjust the head and foot heights to provide the support I need. The foot of my bed is completely flat, which keeps my back comfortable, while the head of my bed is almost 15 degrees (I go to the Anti-Snore position, then lower the head for 1-2 seconds). This just happens to be the arrangement that is most comfortable for me, but you should play around with the heights and find what works best for you. During your third trimester, you can use the same cell configuration and adjustment tricks but may need to reposition the head and foot heights to increase comfort levels. There are not a lot of studies that show a safe intensity of massage during pregnancy, so I play it safe and avoid use of the massage function on my bed until after baby is born.
Let’s talk pillows and linens
Many women feel warmer during pregnancy, so using bed sheets in natural, breathable fibers or sleeping with a fan may improve your sleep. I also use a large U-shaped body pillow that stretches to below my knees in front and back. This pillow provides support between my knees, under my tummy, and beneath my head while acting as a posterior barrier to prevent me from rolling onto my back. If you are a natural side sleeper, you may only need a one-sided pillow such as the Cool Down or Sweet Zone™ latex pillow under your head and the adjustable Sweet Slumber adjustable pillow between your knees. Look for pillows that meet your specific needs.
Rest, rest and more rest
Sleep is paramount during pregnancy to support maternal and fetal well-being and development. Getting comfortable may require trial and error as well as frequent changes while your body grows to house your little one, but it is worth the effort. A focus on resting while you are pregnant will pay great dividends during the upcoming nighttime feeding and snuggle sessions that you are about to have. Good luck; I will be in the same boat!
Dr. Amelia P. Bailey is a reproductive endocrinologist and infertility (REI) specialist in Memphis, Tennessee. She currently serves on Reverie’s Advisory Board.