Lifestyle

How sleep deprived parents can still thrive

February 2, 2022

I’m Dr. Lindsay
I'm a naturopathic pediatrician based in Colorado Springs offering primary care, chronic care & telemedicine appointments. I'm so glad you're here!
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About the Author

Hannah Nicholson is a Functional Medicine Certified Health Coach and student herbalist. She lives in Colorado Springs and supports mothers and their children to create lasting healthy habits to pass down through generations. You can find Hannah’s contact information, mothering blog, and herbal studies here.

As I sit down to write this, I have just tucked my 16 month old into our family bed and made myself a large cup of linden and chamomile tea for my own motherly-wind-down. My family’s personal journey with sleep after the birth of our son has taken a lot of trial and error. It has not been without tears, it has enlisted the support of Dr. Hollister, the support of trying to coach myself, and it has taught both my husband and me a lot about our values as a family. Our values are different than our friends, than our family, and maybe different than yours when it comes to sleep, but the constant value of support does not change. It is needed and it is not asked for nearly as often as is necessary in the realm of sleep. 

How does sleep change when you have children?

This is personal. I am not going to gloss over this with a big lavender piece of willy wonka’s sleep chocolate. Because sleep does change when you have children. You go from the opportunity to sleep prior to pregnancy, uninterrupted, for 7-9 hours. You get REM sleep. Your body uses sleep as a way to recharge. Then cue pregnancy. You may have strange dream and wake an inordinate amount of times to use the restroom each night. Your body is preparing for baby. And once baby comes, you are responsible for this little human’s life. This baby that was inside of you for 9 months is not going to just sleep through the night, nor should they. They need you. They want you. And as they grow older, they still feel an innate attachment to you. So yes, sleep changes, but it all depends on your family’s values which we will discuss more in this post.

How am I supposed to be sleeping as a mother?

Have you ever heard of the book “The Four Agreements” by don Miguel Angel Ruiz? If not, I highly recommend picking up a copy and a big cup of tea. In short, when you think about how you should be sleeping as a mother, the best piece of advice you can remind yourself of is to Always Do Your Best. Your best is never going to be the same from one moment to the next. The nights shift and your little ones change and grow and no two nights are the same. 

Instead, focus on sleeping the best you can on any given day. One day, that may mean that your best is a 3 hours stretch in between nursing in the middle of the night. And then the next night, your best is working to support and comfort your teething baby while up every hour until 3am. Maybe the next night, you have a unicorn of 8 hours of sleep in one stretch. Your best is always going to look different and that is OK

Consider your family’s values. If you have a partner, talk with your partner to discern what is important to both of you and also remember that your children are a piece of you. They play an integral part in determining your values as well. Ask questions. How many hours of uninterrupted sleep is important for you? What does it feel like to let your little one cry? How will this type of sleep impact your daily commitments such as work and mothering? What style of parenting and sleep most resonates with you? Ultimately, what values will make you the best parent you can be at any given moment?  Every family is different. Every circumstance is different. Determining your values can help determine how you go about sleep in your home. And your values are allowed to change!

How can I still reset and thrive when kids interrupt my sleep?

When I coach mothers, the intent is never to “tell”, it is to coach, to ask thoughtful questions, and to bring the mother to a point of realization that supports them in the healthy changes they need to make. But sometimes, ideas of how to make changes and feel better are warranted. Especially in this season of life!

Here are a few strategies and thought provoking questions to ask yourself as you journey through this season of motherhood:

  • Prioritize your self-care in other aspects of life. What brings you joy? What is stopping you from that joy?
  • Get outside and move your body. It sounds counterintuitive when you’re tired, but nature is healing. Step in the grass barefoot and inhale deeply. How do you feel?
  • Practice Sun & Moon gazing. Allow your body to reset its circadian rhythm each time you’ve had a tough go of a night. In the morning, step outside and gaze into the sun. In the evening, gaze into the moon. 
  • Enlist your community. Who is in your tribe? We were not meant to do this parenthood thing alone with just our partner. Find someone you trust to help you prepare food, clean your home, or watch your littles for just a few hours each week. Use this time to prioritize something that brings you joy.
  • Consider supportive herbs & adaptogens. Many herbs and adaptogens support your body’s ability to adapt to stress and lack of sleep. Consider working with an Herbalist or Dr. Hollister to determine what is best for your body during this season.

Why is this important for my children?

Do you remember how we talked about values and being the best parent you can be at any given moment? This is why allowing yourself to rest and reset after a long night is arguably as important for your family as getting a solid 7 hours of sleep in a row. I am sure you’ve heard it a thousand times before, but in order to fill the cups of others, your cup must first be full. So, in order to support your children to the fullest, you must be your best self each day. Remember though, your best will look different from day to day.

If there is one piece of encouragement I can leave you with, it is that your sleep WILL return. Seasons change, children grow, and sleep improves. You’ve got this!

Looking for natural sleep remedies for your kiddo? Schedule a free consultation here.

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Hi, I'm Dr. Lindsay –
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