The first night my son slept in his own room, he was 6 months old. We were quite happy with the set-up of having him in the co-sleeper next to us and hadn’t really planned a length for his stay there.
On the faithful night of his move, he woke up when we went to bed around 11 pm and he just didn’t want to settle down. Nothing helped.
Feeling Pretty Desperate
He didn’t want milk, he didn’t want to be soothed, his diaper didn’t need to be changed, no fever or signs of illness.
He just cried and cried and then cried some more. Even when being held, he was still protesting. We were taking turns trying to settle him down. And I remember clearly sitting on the couch with him in the living room around 1 am feeling pretty desperate.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t do my best thinking around 1 am with a crying baby in my arms.
Dad To The Rescue
Thankfully, dad stepped in. He is usually great at soothing and putting the little one to bed, but this time even his dad energy couldn’t save what was left of the night. He was strict like I couldn’t be at that point and put our son in his own room, in his own bed. The same bed he hadn’t spent more than 30 minutes sleeping in before that.
I remember being able to smile at how he had a conversation with our upset 6-month old about how if he didn’t want to be held by mom or dad nor sleep in our room and nothing else was the matter then he was going to put him in his own bed.
We sat on the couch, hearing him cry and feeling pretty conflicted. What if something is the matter and we’re not reading the signs? Is crying it out like this hurting him? Holding him hasn’t helped so what to do?And after 5 minutes of guilt tripping myself, it was quiet. Not a sound. It felt so eerie.
My son had fallen asleep in his own bed when nothing we did helped. He woke up at 8 in the morning!
You would think we woke up refreshed and relieved, but neither of us had gotten a good night’s rest. Almost 7 hours in bed, worrying, tossing and turning.
One of the changes in our brain chemistry when becoming mothers is this state of hyper vigilance we can fail prey to. It includes a constant alertness, scanning the room for possible dangers, (unreasonable) anxiety, which can be extremely exhausting and will also interfere with a good nights rest.
Tired, But Wired
This is what happened on that night. Hyper vigilance and unreasonable anxiety made sure we woke up like we had partied the whole night. It’s a common problem when mothers are in a depleted state. You really want to sleep and know you need it, and when you finally get a chance to sleep, your overactive and wired brain prevents you from resting.
Sleep better tonight!
There are a few things you can do that will reverse this trend regardless of the prospect of a crying baby waking you in the middle of the night.
1. Light Management
Our bodies are very rhythmic in their processes and dependent upon light to follow this rhythm, called a circadian rhythm. Without a lot of daylight our eyes who are the main regulators of these mechanisms can’t give the proper signals to our brain.
Make sure you take that 5 minute walk outside during your lunch break, take the baby out for a stroll and try to be outside as much as possible.
If you’re reading this at night then mimic the amount of light there is naturally, which is not a lot. Technology (TV, phones, laptops and if you live in a big city all the light pollution) emits a lot of blue light, which stimulates our brain into thinking it’s daytime. So if you can avoid these as well. And if you make sure you get a total black out in your bedroom then you are way ahead of the game.
You might want to consider a sleep mask to make it even darker when you’re sleeping.
2. Shower and vagal stimulation
Before you go to bed tonight, step in the shower. When you’re almost done turn the water to lukewarm or cold if you can handle the latter. Start with your feet and then slowly work up to your face with lukewarm/cold water. Count to 30, if you get to 20 seconds that’s fine too.
The whole idea is to stimulate your vagus nerve. This nerve is responsible for your ‘rest and digest’-responses. The cold stimulates this nerve and will get you into a state of relaxation really quickly.You might think the cold will wake you up, but I promise you that you will enter deeper relaxation as you go to bed.
The lazy mom trick is to wash your face for the same length of time with cold water before going to bed.
Sleep experts tell us to keep our phones out of the bedroom or to put them on flight mode. I agree with both, but real life makes it really hard to part ways with our devices. So let’s use them for good instead of evil.
Download this awesome app (full disclosure: I’m not an affiliate) that makes use of the newest technology to generate tracks that will help calm down your busy mind and get it into to deep sleep. Make sure it’s not on too loud so you can doze off listening to the soothing voice and strange beats. This really works like a charm and becomes more effective in helping you fall asleep faster over time.
It also works on flight mode and will be useful tool to help you get back to sleep after an interruption.
4. Wine Before Bed
That glass of wine before bed is not doing you any favors. It’s called a night cap because we fall asleep faster and are then tricked into thinking we are getting deeper sleep. But alcohol really does a number on your sleep.
Research has found that one of our sleep stages, called REM sleep (Rapid Eye Movement) is reduced by alcohol before bed. This stage is so important for moms who are feeling depleted. Because less REM-sleep has an effect on how alert you are during the day, it influences your memory and also robs you of much needed restoration.
I’ll have a mocktail 🙂
p.s. in case you’re wondering: my son has been sleeping in his own bedroom ever since and we’ve recovered from hyper-vigilance except for the occasional ‘is he still breathing check-up’.