Mommy’s Top Sleep Mistakes and How to Turn Them Around Tonight


This post is part of an editorial series, “Sweet Sleep,” brought to you by the Fort Worth Moms Blog. We hope these pieces provide you with helpful information, encouragement, and insight as your navigate your family’s sleep journey.

tired mom leaning on arm of chair

It’s no question good sleep can be elusive for moms. It seems to be in the “Top Five Parenting Drags” for all but the lucky few who happen to have kiddos who emerge from the womb sleeping soundly through the night. (By the way, if you’re one of the lucky few, please consider not mentioning this to the rest of us. No amount of caffeine will allow us to gracefully ignore that comment.)

So we have to accept that sleep may not be great for a while — a relatively long while. 

But many mamas may accidentally add to the problem. I know I sure did. Honestly, it wasn’t until I was in a position to need to teach others about behavioral strategies for good sleep that I really understood it myself.

There are many of these “sleep hygiene” strategies, some of which are more well-known than others. For a full list of my favorites, check out this sleep hygiene strategies handout I give regularly to my patients in my work as a clinical psychologist.

There are also habits of our own we can change to improve sleep. I’ve narrowed down my top five sleep strategies for moms:

1. Take Away Your Own Screen Time

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard patients with insomnia tell me they watch TV or play on their phones before bed. Oh yeah, I’ve done it too. It’s kind of addicting, right? Sadly, there are multiple reasons this is a sleep killer.

First and foremost, the wavelength of light emitted by screens has the pesky side effect of suppressing our sleep hormone (melatonin). In addition to that, light of any kind tells our old-school agrarian brains that it’s time to get up and start plowing the fields. Yep, our brains are still well developed for the pre-iPhone era. They’re also pretty well tuned to become alert when they detect an unexpected noise. I mean, these old school brains needed to survive the unexpected bear or lion attack. Thus, the chimes, bings, dings, and text updates from your fellow sleepless mamas aren’t doing you any snooze favors. You’ll have the best results if you power down the screens 30 minutes before sleep and silence your devices for the night (or keep them in another room entirely). A break from social media may be the best thing you’ve done yet.

Here’s’s take on the topic: How Technology Affects Sleep.

2. Get Yourself Out of Bed

We can accidentally condition ourselves to experience insomnia by “trying” to fall asleep or by laying in bed too long attempting to sleep. After a few nights of this, our brains say: Ahh, yes, Brenda’s back in bed again. I know what time it is. Time to solve all the world’s problems for two hours!

The best way to break this pattern and recondition your brain to strongly associate your bed with sleep is to:

  1. Use your bed only for sleep and sex. The more uses your bed has, the more confused your brain will be about what your intention is when you get in it.
  2. Only get in bed when you’re already sleepy.
  3. Get out of bed if you’re not asleep in 20 minutes. Don’t check your phone or watch a screen. Instead, go to another dimly lit room and do something boring. Yes, totally boring. Finally, a use for the phone books they continue to deliver!

Don’t be surprised if these changes take a little time to show results. You’re reconditioning a brain that’s well-trained for insomnia.

3. Ignore the Clock

Almost everyone can relate to the thought: If I fall asleep right now I’ll be able to sleep for five hours.

It’s the clock-watcher’s mantra, but there’s two problems with it. Problem number one: A lot of us use our phones as clocks (see sleep tip number one). Problem number 2: All that calculation and anticipation keeps your brain pretty active (and awake!).

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what time it is because knowing the time will never help you get to sleep. It’ll only stress you out and keep you from the thing you desire most: sleep, sweet sleep.

sweet sleep editorial series4. Limit Caffeine

I’m not saying quit your Starbucks habit. However, 8:00 p.m. is not the ideal time for a Dr. Pepper. Cut off caffeine about six hours before you want to hit the hay for better success.

5. Put the Wine Glass Down

The number one non-prescribed sleep aid that I hear about from patients is alcohol. Will a glass of wine make you sleepy? Probably. But will it help you feel more rested the next day? Definitely not. Drinking alcohol before sleep can block REM sleep, the most restorative stage of sleep. And that’s just the start of it. Check out the National Sleep Foundation‘s compelling reasons to limit wine before bedtime.

It’s important to note that most of these tips aren’t just for adults. Kids can reap the benefits, too. Sweet dreams, moms!


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