How to Survive Nighttime Nursing
  1. How to Survive Nighttime Nursing


    Caring for a newborn baby might be one of the times in life that is hardest on our sleep. Not only do around-the-clock feedings disrupt sleep, but it also comes right on the heels of the physical marathon of pregnancy and labor.

    What helps during this time is to focus on the positives: along with all of the bonding you’ll be getting with this new addition to the family during this time, you’re also helping along a future super-sleeper as they settle into the regular routine that we all come to enjoy. It’s just an undeniable fact that getting through this stage takes some work.

    Let’s take a look at why this time in your baby’s life wreaks havoc on your sleep, and some tips you can follow to help make the burden on you a little lighter.

    Sleepy, hungry baby

    Although it probably doesn’t seem like quite enough to you, your newborn actually sleeps a lot. Newborn babies clock in an impressive 15 to 17 hours of sleep a day, and this sleep usually comes in 2 to 3 hour intervals. Adding to the peculiarity of their sleep schedule is the fact that newborns have yet to develop the circadian rhythm that keeps us in tune with our daytime-nighttime schedule, so waking up at 3am or 3pm really makes no difference to them (but makes quite a big difference to you).

    Newborns are also hungry a lot of the time. Part of this is due to the fact that they have very small stomachs, which means that they can get full on less but they also become hungry at a more rapid rate. Babies also digest breast milk and formula quickly, which is why they are often ready for a full meal every two to three hours.

    With all of these interruptions, your sleep will become fragmented, due to waking up every few hours. Fragmented sleep means less deep, restorative sleep, causing you to lose out on some of the important benefits of a full night of sleep. One of the impacts of this loss is expressed through a lack of stability in your emotions. You becomes less understanding of other people, you react with greater negativity when things don’t go your way, and you have a harder time reading the emotions of others.  

    How to Survive Nighttime Nursing


    Tips for getting better sleep

    • Keep your baby close by. Whether you get a bassinet attached to your bed or just give the baby a spot somewhere in your bedroom, this helps you do away with the frequent nighttime trips down the hall, allowing you to quickly scoop up your baby from nearby and remain comfortable in bed. Along with the convenience factor, this also cuts down the time that you have to spend awake going from your room to baby’s room.

    • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Whether it’s a partner, family, or friends, turning to them for assistance can help you get the boost you need. Try and get into the habit of making bottles of breastmilk or formula during the day so your partner or someone else can take over the night shift feedings occasionally.

    • Keep up with sleep hygiene. Make sure when you’re getting up to feed during the night you’re still keeping it dark (or as dark as you can while still being safe). Make use of white noise during feeding time, as babies grow used to sleeping through sounds in the womb, and this can actually be a comfort to them, helping them get back to sleep quicker (which means you do too). Watch your caffeine intake; we know it’s almost impossible to get through this time without it, but too much caffeine late in the day will keep you up later into the night.

    Take care of you, too

    In all the craziness of this nighttime feeding frenzy, don’t forget that you need to try and take care of yourself. If at any time you find the stresses of this sleeplessness overwhelming, make sure to consult a doctor as soon as possible. Remind yourself that this time of little sleep and constant wakeups will pass, and soon your baby will be getting a healthy night’s sleep all on their own—and so will you!


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  2. Lightning Round: Sleep Interruptions
  3. Lightning Round: Sleep Interruptions


    Has something been keeping you from getting your best sleep? Unsure of what you can do to fix it? We’ve listed out the most common sleep interruptions here along with some possible solutions, for your reference.

    Lightning Round: Sleep Interruptions


    Parent

    So you’re a parent and your kid(s) interrupt your sleep. Now, this one falls under the slightly uncontrollables of sleep: they’re your kids, after all! If you find your child (or children) are making their way into your room at night, there are many ways of handling this, and no one right way. You might end up spending a few years with a small human kicking, punching, and cuddling you through the night. You might take up stricter measures to keep kids sleeping in their own beds. Follow your intuition: they’re your kids and you’ll know what is best.

    • Do: Consider how your sleeping arrangements are impacting the quality of both your sleep and your kiddo’s sleep and daytime wellbeing.

    • Don’t: Feel guilty about the decision you ultimately make.

    If you’re feeling exhausted and frustrated, your pediatrician or a certified childhood sleep specialist can provide help and solutions.


    Lightning Round: Sleep Interruptions


    Pets

    Your four-legged friend sleeping in your bed can be a sensitive topic. You can find research both supporting and advising against the practice, but in the end, it’s up to you to weigh the pros and cons of getting sleep and snuggling with your pet.

    • Do: Consider how your sleeping arrangements are impacting the quality of your sleep and daytime wellbeing.

    If your pet is waking you up multiple times a night and getting in the way of a good night’s sleep, it may be time to evaluate moving your pet to their own bed at night, if only for a week to try it out. Your sleep will likely benefit.

    Partner

    Snoring partners can be a real and trying challenge—not to mention a health concern for you both! Snoring is a common symptom of sleep apnea, a real and dangerous medical condition, and partners of snorers report impaired sleep quality, frequent wakeups, and some even report hearing loss in the ear closest to the snorer. If your partner is a snorer, here’s a few ideas for you:

    • Do:

      • Try earplugs or a white noise machine. These simple bedroom additions may help alleviate some of the noise from a partner (though we realize not the most practical solution for parents of kids to wear earplugs).

      • Check out a wedge pillow or an adjustable base: these products can open up the airwave to reduce snoring.

      • Consider taking a “sleep vacation” from your partner for a week and test out sleeping in a different room (if this is an option) to determine if your daytime alertness or mood benefits. This is a telling test if a partner’s snoring is playing a bigger role in the relationship than either of you realize.

      • Encourage a trip to a sleep doctor for your partner if you notice their snoring results in gasping for air—sleep apnea is a dangerous and under-diagnosed condition where snorers actually stop breathing at multiple points throughout the night. A surprising amount of sleep apnea patients end up diagnosed because a partner said something.

    • Don’t:

      • Avoid having these conversations late at night. It can be a sensitive topic and you’ll do both of you a favor to save it for the daytime.

      • Don’t brush off symptoms of sleep apnea. Sleep is too important; err on the side of seeking a medical opinion if you’re unsure.

    Lightning Round: Sleep Interruptions


    Bathroom

    Waking up at night for a bathroom trip? This is pretty normal and nothing to be overly concerned about, but there are things you can do to reduce the chances of waking up for a bathroom break.

    • Do:

      • Evaluate how much liquid you’re consuming before bed.

      • Try tapering off liquids an hour before bedtime.

      • Be mindful that as we age, midnight bathroom trips can increase in occurrence.

      • Seek medical attention if you find you’re waking up every three hours or less to use the bathroom. This could be a sign of a larger issue.

    • Don’t:

      • Don’t drink coffee, soda, or tea close to bedtime: they act as a diuretic and will increase your urge to use the bathroom.

      • Don’t turn on a bunch of lights for nighttime bathroom trips. Consider adding a nightlight in the hall or bathroom to guide your way if it’s a frequent event.

    Sometimes we realize we need to use the bathroom in the middle of the night, but only after we’ve woken up from an unrelated stimulus (whether it is noise, light, or temperature). Attending to some of our other bedroom environmental details may help us bypass these nighttime wakeups in the first place.

    Happy sleeping!


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  4. Sleep's Role in Slimming Down
  5. Sleep's Role in Slimming Down


    If you’re currently trying or have tried to lose weight, you’ve probably heard ten times over the myriad best practices you should be following, but there’s probably a very simple one that’s been left out: getting a good night’s sleep.

    An estimated 160 million Americans are either obese or overweight, according to a recent study, which makes it the country with the highest proportion of overweight and obese people in the world, clocking in at 13% of the global total. Equally concerning, almost a third of Americans report that they are getting less than the recommended amount of sleep.

    Sleep scientist Matthew Walker in his book Why We Sleep suggests that these two statistics may be related, saying that insufficient sleep is “very likely a key contributor to the epidemic of obesity”. “Epidemiological studies,” Walker tells us, “have established that people who sleep less are the same individuals who are more likely to be overweight or obese”.

    What does this mean for you? Well, if you’re currently looking to lose weight, you should make sure that you are getting a good night’s sleep. The science behind it has a lot to do with one of the most important factors of weight loss: your diet.

    Skimping on sleep makes you hungrier

    Sleep performs two very impactful duties when it comes to your goal of keeping at a healthy weight:

    1. A good night’s sleep gives you the needed energy to get up off the couch the next day and get to your workout.

    2. Sleep puts the brakes on your brain’s impulse control, helping you to both eat better and eat just the right amount.

    Sleep's Role in Slimming Down


    As we all know, the challenge to eat right rather than gorge on what we may be craving can be a bigger struggle sometimes than getting through the most vigorous workout. The good news? A great sleep can make this choice a bit easier to make.

    Your appetite is fueled by two hormones called leptin and ghrelin. Ghrelin tells your body when it should be hungry, while leptin signals to your body that you’ve eaten enough. A study at the University of Chicago found that operating on four or five hours of sleep decreased concentrations of leptin and increased levels of ghrelin, throwing them out of their proper balance—a clear sign that your body’s hunger has gone off the rails.

    A similar study found that not only does poor sleep encourage you to eat more often than you should, but it also makes you reach for high-fat and high-salt snack foods more often, as your brain’s impulse pushing you toward immediate snacking satisfaction grows stronger on less sleep.

    Poor sleep’s sabotaging of your health even extends to your workout: research has shown that being sleep deprived and attempting to shed weight results more often in the loss of muscle rather than actual fat.

    Sleep—your best workout partner

    As we like to talk about, there’s practically no limit to the amazing positive effects that consistently good sleep can have on our health. The other side of this? Your body’s most important functions will begin to break down and fail without the right amount of sleep. To ensure that your body is working with you in your weight goals, a good night’s sleep is a must.

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  6. The Night Shift and Your Sleep
  7. The Night Shift and Your Sleep


    Over a quarter of Americans reportedly work the night shift—a significantly higher amount than most European nations. This means it’s very likely that you or someone you know works throughout the night, catching sleep during the day when everyone else is up and at ‘em.

    Night shift workers obviously don’t choose this schedule because they hate sleeping at night when most others do, but rather because it fits their life’s schedule, or it provides certain benefits, or simply because overnight work is part of the nature of their chosen profession, such as it is for many positions in the healthcare field.

    While shift work obviously has some negative effects on your sleep, we’re not here to tell shift workers to go in tomorrow and quit. Rather, if you or someone you know feel that overnight work is having serious consequences on their or your health (including getting good sleep), it’s very important that a doctor be consulted as soon as possible.

    What are some of these negative impacts of night shift work? We’ve laid them out here, along with some tips for getting better sleep even when working the graveyard shift.

    Why shift work is bad for sleep—and your health

    An overnight work schedule goes against your natural circadian rhythm (which dictates your sleepiness and alertness throughout the day), and so, even if you are awake all during the night, your body is still pushing you constantly to sleep—even if it’s not obvious to you. Despite what many say otherwise, it is a fact that no amount of experience in night shift work can help you “learn” how to overcome a lack of sleep and develop a resilience to it.

    The unfortunate truth is that longer experience with the night shift really means an increased risk of health complications, including:

    • Metabolic problems

    • Heart disease

    • Ulcers

    • Gastrointestinal problems

    • Obesity

    Perhaps most alarming is the World Health Organization’s classification of overnight shift work as a Group 2a “possible carcinogen”.

    The Night Shift and Your Sleep


    Dealing with the night shift

    As promised, here are some good sleep tips to help lessen the impact of shift work. Share them with a friend who’s working nights, or apply them to yourself starting today:

    • Take naps. A 20 minute nap before your shift, and (if possible and permissible) a 10 or 15 minute power nap during a break will help give you a small burst of energy.

    • Eat well. Try to avoid irregularly-spaced meals consisting of fast food. Keep a balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and grains. Also, don’t eat a large meal closer than an hour to when you plan on heading to bed.

    • Communicate with your employer if you believe your lack of sleep caused by your work schedule is a danger to the workplace environment (or to your own personal health). Let your family or roommates know about your sleep schedule and how they can help you get the sleep you need.

    • Practice good sleep hygiene. Cut off caffeine at least three or four hours before you plan on going to bed. Avoid exposure to sunlight on the drive home by wearing sunglasses, and put up blackout curtains in your bedroom. Try to wake up and go to sleep at the same time every day, even on days off and holidays.

    • Practice consistency as much as possible. Our bodies love routine. If you can have the same days on and off each week (and the same sleep schedule), it will benefit your sleep.

    Conclusion

    While sometimes we must put up with less-than-ideal sleep for whatever reason, we should always be careful to ease as much of the impact of this on our bodies as possible. Your sleep (and your health overall) will thank you!


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  8. Don't Lose Sleep Over Stress
  9. Don't Lose Sleep Over Stress


    Unless you happen to be living on a far-off island all by yourself, without phone or television, living off a simple diet of coconut water and local vegetation, chances are you know of at least one thing that’s causing you to worry right now. If you’re like most people in today’s fast-paced world, there is a whole slew of things causing you to be concerned every day.

    Having these worries is completely normal. It’s when our worries are left to develop into long-term stressors that we should make sure to take a step back and take some precautions for the good of our health.

    Where stress really hits us is our sleep. High stress means poor quality sleep, and poor sleep does no good for our stresses. This cycle continues to build up on itself, stirring up a hurricane of stress with you right at the center.

    Before we cover how you can break out of this cycle of stress and sleep loss, let’s first look at how exactly the two feed into each other.

    How stress affects your sleep

    When you go through a high-stress period, your body will likely begin boosting its production of stress hormones, which under normal conditions are supposed to lower as evening comes on, enabling you to relax and fall asleep. A high amount of stress hormones sticking around into the night means that your ability to relax at bedtime is crippled—cue the nighttime racing thoughts.

    Don't Lose Sleep Over Stress

    How sleep affects your stress

    When you’re sleep deprived, your sympathetic nervous system flips on your “fight-or-flight” state, and keeps it on for a long period of time. This high stress response obviously does no good for dealing with the stress you already have, but it has negative impacts on your health as well, such as causing a rise in your blood pressure, which increases your risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

    When you lose out on sleep, you are also less able to deal with the difficult situations that may be causing you stress. When you’re sleep deprived, your brain is less agile—you’ll find problem-solving more difficult, and your memory less solid and dependable. When you’re trying to balance a busy schedule, trouble remembering is the last thing you need.

    Keeping your bedroom stress-free

    Dealing with high stress requires making your rest an even higher priority. Here are two tips to help you make that happen:

    • Take a moment to mentally decelerate before bed. Whether it’s reading a chapter of a book or listening to calming music, you should find something peaceful to do right before you go to sleep. The idea is to separate yourself from the busyness of the day that’s now coming to an end, allowing you to wind down and give yourself a break for a little while.

    • If racing thoughts are keeping you from falling asleep, you should get out of bed and go to a different room to relax and take your mind off trying to sleep. You want to make sure that your brain associates your bedroom only with rest and sleep, not stress.

    Protect your health

    Whenever you’re going through a stressful time in your life, chances are your body is feeling it too. Always remember that taking care of your health even in the midst of stressful situations is crucial.

    Part of taking care of yourself is making sure that you’re getting the right amount of sleep. As you know now, going without will only increase your stress and compound the negative effects.

    If you believe your stress has been impacting your sleep for an extended period of time, you should consult with your doctor as soon as possible to work with them to find a treatment that’s right for you.


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  10. 4 Easy Additions to Your Bedroom
  11. 4 Easy Additions to Your Bedroom


    How did you sleep last night? Did it give you a spectacular recharge, or was it on and off, leaving you in the lurch come morning? You may not have considered it before, but is your bedroom environment helping or hurting your chances of getting a great night’s sleep? If you’re at all in doubt, you may want to consider making use of one or more of these easy bedroom upgrades to help upgrade your nightly slumber:

    • Eye mask: a low-cost solution for creating a dark sleep environment. Even a sliver of light can give your body trouble with trying to start up the sleep process. An eye mask is a great way to cover all your bases when it comes to light in your environment.

    • Ear plugs: especially handy for travel when nighttime noise can be wildly unpredictable. It’s best not to make sleeping with ear plugs a nightly habit, as our ears need to drain and rest, but they are a great fix for an occasional few nights of rogue noise.

    • White noise: comes in many forms: a fan, an air conditioner/heater, an app on your phone, or an actual white noise machine. All of these things help to create a consistent aural environment so you’re less likely to be awakened by intermittent noises.

    • Lavender essential oil: long known for its relaxing properties. Try lavender in a diffuser or with a few drops applied to the wrists as part of a relaxing wind-down routine.

    4 Easy Additions to Your Bedroom


    While we often think of our need to relax and de-stress before bed, we don’t often consider aspects of our bedroom that might be keeping us up. If your sleeping environment isn’t perfect, make sure to grab one of these additions to help give you the leg up on sleep that you need.

    Sleep well!


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  12. Keep Your Cool at Bedtime
  13. Keep Your Cool at Bedtime


    Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night kicking off the blankets and feeling like someone turned your bedroom into a sauna? You might remember feeling all warm and cozy when you were getting into bed, but somehow during the night the heat just became too much. No, it’s not your body trying to play a trick on you—it’s actually just trying to tell you that it sleeps best in a colder room. Let’s look at the “why” behind this unique sleep factor, and some tips for getting your bedtime feeling juuust right.

    Why your body likes it cold at night

    In his book Why We Sleep, renowned sleep scientist Matthew Walker explains the connection between an evening drop in temperature and your body drifting easily into sleep: there are a group of thermosensitive cells that sit in the center of your brain which are able to detect a drop in your body temperature of a couple degrees. When this drop is detected by the cells, they send a signal to the nearby suprachiasmatic nucleus (or SCN), which is pretty much the CEO of your sleep.

    The message from these cells, along with the signal of fading daylight, gives the SCN the thumbs-up to let it know it can initiate the evening surge of melatonin. As Walker puts it, “[e]nvironmental light and temperature therefore synergistically, though independently, dictate nightly melatonin levels and the sculpt the ideal timing of sleep”.

    Your sleep’s attachment to lower temps at night ultimately stems from an evolutionary connection we have to the twenty-four hour cycle of warmth and coolness. Our ancestors who slept under the open sky (or tents or other shelters not far removed from the natural environment) got so settled into the habit of heading to bed in the dark that we also got used to the cooler temperature that would result from the setting of the sun.

    Fortunately for us, but rather unfortunately for our sleep, most of us now enjoy a little bit more sturdy, temperature-controlled shelters. With so much of our environment now under our control, it’s a good idea to look at how we can shape that environment to be nice and cool for our sleep no matter what.


    Keep Your Cool at Bedtime


    How to beat the heat:

    • The ideal temperature for falling asleep and staying asleep is 65 degrees Fahrenheit. The exact number can be slightly different depending on age, gender, and weight, but 65 degrees is the temp that everyone should generally be aiming for. So...

    • ...the best practice is to lower the temperature to between 65 and 68 degrees F in the evening. With the power of the thermostat comes great responsibility. When we neglect to lower the temp at night, our body’s core temperature is unable to drop, leaving us susceptible to a fitful sleep and nighttime wake-ups. If you’re unable to pick your temp precisely, you should try to make your room (or at least your body) feel cool, whether that requires opening up windows or turning on a fan.

    • A quick face wash or a hot bath make for great helpers. As we discussed above, our hands and face make useful tools for our bodies to dispense with our inner heat at night. Running water over your face and hands will help draw out the heat with even more efficiency. Similarly, a warm bath will invite blood to the surface of your skin (hence the flushed look of your skin after stepping out), helping to radiate out heat and lowering your body’s temperature.

    • Take a look at your sleeping layers. Are your pajamas light and breathable? The same question goes for your blankets, as well. Be mindful of the fabrics you choose for the bed—synthetic fabrics like polyester trap heat more than natural ones like cotton, wool or linen.

    Don’t sweat your sleep

    No one likes waking up in the middle of the night, covered in sweat, kicking furiously at once-friendly blankets now turned into suffocating monsters, discovering that the cool side of the pillow has ceased to be. When it comes to sleep, the best defense is always a good offense: make sure to plan ahead, and lower the temp before settling into a deep slumber.


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  14. Why We Feel Tired During the Day
  15. Why We Feel Tired During the Day


    Pssst—your boss isn’t looking over your shoulder, right? Good, time for some truth: do you ever feel….well, just a little….sleepy during the day? And maybe, possibly, you’ve felt your eyes getting just a bit heavy during that post-lunch meeting on the new standard operating procedures for logistics record-keeping?

    If this sounds like you, the truth is that you’re really not alone. According to the most recent survey on the subject, 76 percent of workers feel tired many days of the week, and 15 percent even fall asleep during the day at least once per week. In fact, a lack of sleep among the U.S. workforce costs approximately $411 billion in lost productivity.

    Why are so many feeling so tired during the day? Well, the answer is not all that surprising: we’re not getting the sleep we need. Before we look at why this might be and how to beat it, let’s look at what’s going in our bodies when we can’t shake our sleepiness.

    Our sleep debt

    One of the main biological big honchos when it comes to getting you to sleep is a chemical in your brain called adenosine. From the moment you wake, adenosine builds up in your brain creating sleep pressure, and (as you can guess) this pressure comes to its peak in the evening, making you tired.

    When you don’t get enough sleep, adenosine concentrations remain very high in your body, as they haven’t been depleted by good sleep. Because of this, you have to slog through daytime sleepiness the next day, relying on the temporary fix of caffeine just to make it through the morning. Sleep scientist Matthew Walker in his book Why We Sleep calls this our “sleep debt”—and unfortunately it can never be fully “repaid”.

    Walker tells us that this sleep debt going unpaid continues to accrue every night that you get inadequate sleep. Carrying this debt for a long period of time then turns into chronic sleep deprivation, which nobody wants, but sadly so many just get used to as the new normal.

    Why We Feel Tired During the Day


    Why you may be tired during the day

    The sleep debt causing you to feel tired during the day could be building up in you for two reasons:

    1. First, the most obvious: you’re not giving yourself enough time to sleep. Solution? That powerful cocktail of best sleep practices that we call sleep hygiene. Go down the list and see if there’s something missing:

      • Stick to a consistent sleep schedule.

      • Exercise is great for sleep, but don’t do it too late in the day, as this can prevent you from falling asleep.

      • Avoid caffeine and nicotine.

      • Avoid alcoholic drinks close to bedtime.

      • Avoid large beverages and meals late at night.

      • Don’t take naps after 3 p.m.

      • Relax before bed.

      • Take a hot bath before bed.

      • Keep your bedroom cool, completely dark, and free of any screens such as phones, TVs, tablets, etc.

      • Get the right sunlight exposure, as this will help regulate your sleeping pattern.

      • Don’t lie in bed awake. If sleep doesn’t come on after lying in bed for more than 30 minutes, or you start to feel anxious or stressed, get up and do a relaxing activity in a different room, and head back to bed once you feel tired.

    1. You know that you’re giving yourself at least an eight or nine hour sleep opportunity, but you’re still feeling daytime tiredness. This may be a sign of something deeper going on, such as a potential sleeping disorder, which may be interrupting your sleep or keeping it from operating at its peak ability. You should consult your doctor as soon as possible and discuss possible solutions.


    The best day possible

    Though wanting to nod off during the day may not seem very serious, it is most likely a sign of deeper sleep deprivation, which everyone should begin to take more seriously. While it’s true that daytime sleepiness wreaks havoc on workplace productivity, the real takeaway here is that when you’re not sleeping well, you’re just simply not living your life to the fullest. Remember: making the most of tomorrow means getting great sleep tonight!

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