How to Get More Sleep to Improve Your Health•
Sleep deprivation: not fun—or healthy—for anyone.
One of the reasons we're so focused on sleep here at Kulala is because countless studies have shown how important sleep is for our health—regardless of our age.
Babies need enough sleep to grow and thrive. Children need sleep for the same reasons. And parents need sleep not only for their own health and well-being, but also in order to be at their best as caretakers.
While our goal here at Kulala is to help all parents get a better night's sleep, today, in light of the upcoming Women's Health Week, we want to specifically talk about what women, in particular mothers, can be doing to get better sleep for themselves.
Did you know that moms are often the parent whose sleep declines the sharpest after having children?
This may be obvious to you. But what you may not know is that there's research to back this up. In 2017, Kelly Sullivan, Ph.D. at Georgia Southern University, surveyed 5,805 men and women under the age of 45. The findings: women with children were 14% less likely to report getting 7 hours of sleep per night than women without.
They also found that for women, sleep deprivation worsened with each additional child. Mens’ sleep, however, was reported to be unaffected by having children in the household.
So we don't think it's radical to state that we really need to be spending more time ensuring mothers, in particular, are getting enough sleep.
That’s why we’ve put together this list geared particularly towards mothers, to ensure you’re getting the best night's sleep possible.
CREATE THE RIGHT SLEEP ENVIRONMENT
Sleep environment matters!
Think about it: you spend so much time creating the right sleep environment for your children, with blackout curtains, red light, and white noise. But did you ever stop and do the same for yourself?
If not, here's how.
LOOK TO THE LIGHT
Here at Kulala, we talk about how important light is to your child’s sleep. But did you know that light is also very important to your own?
Light is made up of different wavelengths that correspond to different colors. In the morning, sunlight has a higher proportion of blue light, signaling to our bodies it’s time to wake up. In the evening, the blue light in natural light decreases as the amount of red light rises—just look to the sunset, with its pink, orange, or red light. This decrease in blue light and increase in red light tells our bodies it’s time to get ready for sleep.
This is how circadian rhythm works.
Melatonin, the hormone released at night that regulates our sleep, has been shown to decrease in the presence of blue light. Artificial lights, like lightbulbs and the light from TVs, tablets, and smartphones, may look yellow or white to our eyes—but they all release some amount of blue light. Even candlelight has a small amount of blue light in it.
So it stands to reason to help us sleep as adults, we need to eliminate blue light from our sleep environments.
So while you’re doing everything to ensure there’s no blue light in your child’s bedroom during the time they’re supposed to be asleep—why not take a look at your own room?
To create the right light for sleep in your own bedroom, there are a few things you can do.
INVEST IN GOOD BLACKOUT SHADES
Make sure you're the one setting the hours you'll be sleeping—not the sun—by investing in good blackout shades. Blackout shades will help keep out that early morning sunlight that can signal to your body it’s time to wake up.
Which shades should you buy?
There are several options.
Amazon makes some basic, affordable, portable shades. For a more permanent, albeit slightly pricier option, Home Depot makes custom-cut blackout shades. And the New York Times recently did a great roundup of the best shades on the market; check it out and find the right ones for you.
TURN OFF OR DIM ALL SCREENS AN HOUR BEFORE BEDTIME
Screen time is best reduced at bedtime. And this is not only to get yourself away from stimulating content like the news.
The most important reason to eliminate screens is getting our eyes away from the blue light they emit. Smart phones and tablets that aren’t on Night Mode emit a large amount of blue light that will hinder your ability to get to sleep.
If you need your screen at bedtime, say, if you read on an e-Reader, that's okay. Just get one where you can set the screen to Night Mode. This means the blue light coming out of the screen is eliminated.
GET A RED LIGHT LAMP FOR YOUR BEDROOM
While the bulbs in the lamps in your bedroom may feel minimally invasive when it comes to light, the truth is all lightbulbs have a little blue light in them—except red light lamps.
Red light has been used in labs for years in order to allow scientists to work with their subjects, be they flies or another kind of insect or animal, without disrupting their sleep. Unlike blue light, red light does not disrupt melatonin production, which means it doesn’t disturb your circadian rhythm.
We’ve talked about the importance of red light in your child’s bedroom; but have you considered getting a red light lamp in your own bedroom, too?
An hour before bedtime, switch off all lights that aren’t your red light. This way, you’re signaling to your body that it’s time to get ready for sleep.
You can find red light bulbs in any hardware store. You can also buy a lamp made specifically for this purpose.
The Kulala Baby Sleep Lamp was designed with circadian rhythm in mind. It has an advantage over a plain red light bulb. It emits only wavelengths above 650nm, scientifically proven to support melatonin, circadian alignment, and sleep. It also has 3 settings:
- Dim, to use as a nightlight
- Medium, to use for any movement around the room
- High, which is bright enough to read by—but still won't interrupt your melatonin production.
As a bonus, it has easy 1-touch technology, is made of all non-toxic materials, and is a stylish lamp that looks great in any bedroom, child’s or adult’s!
If you’ve ever tried to go to sleep in a place that's too hot, you may have tossed and turned a bit. Why?
This also has to do with circadian rhythm.
Our bodies are programmed to get sleepier when it’s cooler. In fact, our internal temperatures actually drop when bedtime is getting nearer. This decrease in temperature signals to our brains it’s time for bed. But if you’re in a warm environment, that can counter your natural internal temperature decrease, so your brain doesn’t receive that signal.
So what can you do to address that?
1. Adjust your bedroom temperature. The ideal temperature for sleep in a child’s bedroom is between 68 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit. For adults, it’s even lower; around 65 degrees Fahrenheit is the general recommendation.
2. Take a cold shower just before bed. This can also lower your body’s internal temperature and signal to your brain it’s time to go to sleep.
3. Drink cold water. This will also help drop your internal temperature, before bed and if you wake up during the night and are too hot.
4. Look at your sleep position. Sleeping curled up in a ball helps your body retain heat. Conversely, sleeping with your arms and legs flung out, away from your body (assuming you have the room) can help cool you down.
5. Dress appropriately for bed. Obviously, sleeping in flannel is not a good idea if you’re looking to cool down. Sleep in PJs made of light, breathable fabric. (OR—skip the PJs all together!)
For more tips, check out this article on staying cool for sleep from The Sleep Foundation.
Now that we’ve created the perfect sleep environment for ourselves, we have to address another big factor when it comes to sleep: schedule.
A REGULAR SLEEP SCHEDULE
Schedules: not just for your children.
Studies have shown that adults who go to bed and wake up around the same time every day get overall better sleep. Just as we’re training our children’s bodies to expect sleep at the same time every day, we can do the same to ourselves.
We’ve already discussed the importance of circadian rhythm when it comes to light. Circadian rhythm is also important when it comes to your sleep schedule.
- Find your ideal bedtime. Many of you know this, but if you're not sure, get up at the exact same time every day for 1 week. Adjust your bedtime each night until you sleep easily and soundly all night and feel rested during the day.
- Figure out how much sleep you need. If you wake up during the night and can't fall back asleep, or wake up too early in the morning and can't fall back asleep despite blackout shades, your might need less sleep than you think. Go to bed later every second day, in 20 minute intervals. However if you fall asleep instantly, sleep like the dead, and still feel groggy the next day, you might need more sleep. Keep the morning wake time the same, but go to bed earlier, every second day, in 20 minute intervals.
- Give yourself time to adjust. It takes a few days for our bodies to adjust to a new sleep schedule. So make the changes above slowly. Stay on a particular schedule for at least 2 days, and then make the next change. When you feel like you've found the sweet spot, stay on that schedule. Repeat every single day—even on weekends and vacations. In doing so, you're helping your circadian rhythm help you sleep.
ADDRESS YOUR CHILD’S SLEEP PROBLEMS
Of course, the perfect bedroom environment and the right schedule isn’t going to help if you have a child who isn’t sleeping through the night.
If you’re a brand-new parent, you’re going to be sleep-deprived for the first few months—that part is inevitable and normal. Newborns sleep in shorter cycles and need to eat more frequently than older babies and children.
But once your child has reached the age and size when it’s appropriate to help them learn how to sleep through the night (babies should be at least 11 pounds, which a typical full-term baby reaches at around 3 months of age, and should have slept for a 5-hour stretch at least once), we encourage you to help them learn how to do so.
First, check their naps. Daytime sleep controls nighttime sleep. The Kulala app can help you with a nap schedule and will adjust depending on your child's age. We suggest sticking to it as much as possible—even when it means waking your sleeping baby. Counterintuitive, we know! But if your baby sleeps too much during the day, they will sleep less at night.
Once naps are in order, look to their nighttime sleep.
Check with your pediatrician before implementing any kind of sleeping schedule, as if baby has health problems or weight gain problems, it may not be time yet. But once you have the go-ahead, we suggest beginning to implement our gentle sleep training method.
- Go through your nighttime routine to let baby know it’s time for bed.
- After the routine, put your baby into their bed and leave the room.
- Set yourself a no-feed period at least one hour less than baby’s longest ever sleep stretch.
- If baby cries during the no-feed period, wait 90 seconds before entering their room.
- During that 90 seconds, distract yourself. Say something like “Everything is okay, my baby is fine. I'm waiting 90 seconds before going in.”
- If baby stops crying, great! They're learning to self-soothe.
- If not, that’s normal! It usually takes a few rounds.
- Enter baby’s room after 90 seconds and placate them (shushing and patting them gently). Leave after one or two minutes.
- If baby is still crying, or cries again during the no-feed period, wait another 90 seconds and repeat.
- This may take a few nights. But eventually, your baby will get used to soothing himself back to sleep.
This method is easier on both baby and parents than a lot of other methods out there. It may take a few days, but using this method, you should be able to help your little one how to sleep through the night on their own. This not only gives better sleep to you, the parents, but also to your child.
More tips, on your child's sleep and your own can be found on our Instagram. You can also consult our founder’s book, How Babies Sleep, for more on child sleep and how to help them achieve it.
And if you need even more personalized help, download our app to chat one-on-one with our sleep experts!