Q. I'm finally getting my little one to sleep at a decent time and actually have some time to spend with my husband and get things done at night. But now, I'm having a hard time falling asleep. Do you have any suggestions?
A. Thanks so much for bringing up this important point. Good sleep hygiene – the habits or techniques around our sleep routines – are just as critical for parents as they are for babies and children.
I'd need more information to get the complete picture, but when you say "get things done at night" I assume you may be working on your computer or iPad or cell phone. This generation of parents is super tech savvy – to a fault. But you also need to know when to turn things off.
Many of my clients take their cell phones or tablets to bed with them so they can work, check emails or surf the Web. And many keep their cell phones next to them to use as an alarm clock.
But there may be physical ramifications to taking your work and technology to bed with you. The blue light emitted from TVs, laptops, tablets and smartphone screens disrupts the brain's natural melatonin production and can cause you to be more alert. Good sleep, just like regular exercise and a balanced diet, is critical for optimal health. Yet, more than 40 percent of adults say they rarely get a good night sleep. Poor sleep hygiene is a major contributor to sleep disturbances.
According to productivity expert Tracey Gritz, you are fooling yourself if you think you are getting more done by working in bed at night. "What is most likely happening is that you are going to bed late, your sleep is broken and, lack of good sleep may actually be decreasing your productivity," says Gritz, owner of The Efficient Office.
So if you're guilty of "do as I say, not as I do," start now establishing healthy sleep habits for yourself as well as your children. Begin by not using the bed as an office (use your imagination here for how to use your bedroom, which shouldn't be hard since you have a wee one in the house). Go screen-free at least an hour before bedtime, and incorporate some relaxing routines to unwind and prepare for sleep. Try a warm bath, some gentle yoga and a good book. Keep cell phones and tablets out of the bedroom so you aren't tempted to check them if (or when) you wake during the night. Don't use your phone or tablets when your little one wakes for a middle-of-the-night feeding, either. A dark, quiet space will help baby return to dreamland more easily, too.
If you have a question about your child's health or happiness, ask Pam or any of our experts by sending email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pam Diamond is a parent coach, postpartum doula, baby sleep consultant and owner of First Daze & Nightzzz, LLC. Pam’s goal is to help parents and babies get off to the best possible start. She helps families fix what’s not working and enjoy what is. She lives in Cary with her husband and two teenage children. You can learn more about Pam on her website: First Daze & Nightzzz, or email her at email@example.com.