Conscious parenting means bringing our very best to the job of raising our children. We cannot do this when we are chronically sleep-deprived. And our children aren't faring much better...
Is anyone getting enough quality sleep these days? The kids stay up too late doing homework, watching TV or texting with friends. Parents are wiped out from work and family duties, but too wired to sleep peacefully. Even the cats are chasing each other around the house at midnight.
What's an overtired, cranky and bleary-eyed mom to do?
1. Do a bedroom check for each member of the family. Are your sleep spaces conducive to a good night's snooze? Make sure none of the rooms are too hot or too cold; too dry or too humid; too noisy or too quiet. Does one room get too much light or noise from the street outside? Is the room farthest from the thermostat always freezing? Does someone need a humidifier to sleep comfortably?
2. Take a lesson from Goldilocks. How are the beds in your home... too hard or too soft? Too many pillows or not enough? Are the bed linens too scratchy or the covers too heavy? Ask your kids what they like about their beds and what would make them feel warm and cozy. You might be surprised by their answers.
3. Clear the clutter. If you have to move four loads of unfolded laundry off your bed before you climb in, you might have a clutter problem. If you are climbing over boxes of old shoes, navigating between piles of old books, or dodging your partner's old golf clubs on your way to slumber town, your stuff may be keeping you awake at night. Even if the rest of your house is a complete jumble, resolve to make your bedroom a clutter-free zone. Clear the decks and make room for a restful night.
4. Follow the sun. Don't fight your circadian rhythms. Get up with the sun and get out in the sun, as early in the morning as you can manage. Get lots of natural sunlight throughout the day. As the sun sets, start slowing down your own activities and prepare for rest. A good practice: When you put the kids to bed, don't go back to work. Your bedtime should follow as closely after theirs as possible. No later than 11 pm.
5. Eat for good sleep. Feed your family a healthy diet with small, regularly spaced meals. Make sure family dinner is completed two to three hours before bedtime. No one enjoys sleeping on a bloated, gurgling tummy. Be kind to your digestive systems and let them get some rest at night, as well.
6. Exercise wisely. Make sure everyone gets physical exercise during the day, but not too late in the day. Get "good tired." After dinner activities should be more in the nature of a relaxing walk, rather than a rousing game of football.
7. Banish the electronics. I know more than one person (like my younger son) who swears they can't fall asleep without the TV on. Decide for yourself, but if you are having trouble sleeping, I recommend turning off or even removing the electronics in your bedroom. This includes televisions, cordless phones and computers. And don't forget to power off the cell phone!
8. Prepare your body for rest. Take a quiet bath. Brush your teeth. Try doing about ten minutes of gentle stretching or light yoga just before bed, so your muscles will be relaxed and loose for sleep.
9. Prepare your mind for rest. Take any thoughts swirling around in your poor brain and dump them onto a piece of paper. Update your To-Do list. Pour your feelings into a journal. Bless it and let it wait for your attention in the morning.
10. Prepare your spirit for rest. Make your own family "good night" rituals. You don't have to be the Waltons here, but make it a habit to reconnect with your spouse and children at the end of each day. Resolve any open arguments or at least agree that there is something you will deal with respectfully and lovingly tomorrow. Don't let anyone go to bed without knowing how much they are loved and appreciated.
11. Set your sleep intention. Write yourself an affirmation and repeat it often. "We always sleep soundly and well, awakening full of energy and excited about the day before us." As you settle down at night, visualize your house as a peaceful haven, with all of the family members enjoying beautiful sleep. If you want to awaken at a specific time, set that intention as well. "I will awaken at 6 am, bright and cheerful." No alarm clock necessary!
12. Snuggle up. Put on your comfy pajamas and head to bed. Breathe. Give thanks. Say a prayer. Know that tomorrow will be absolutely wonderful.
If you need a little help settling down to sleep, try the music of Steven Halpern. He has a number of CD's for sleep and relaxation. They relax me like nothing else I've tried. Enjoy!
If, on the other hand, you need absolute silence to slip into dreamland, you might want to try, Hearos Xtreme Protection Ear Plugs. Keep a pack on the bedside table. These might be especially wonderful if you happen to share sleep space with someone who snores.
(Just a reminder: Chronic loud and disruptive snoring might signal an underlying health issue. Check with your health care professional.)
For information on how much sleep our children really need, see "Healthy Families: How to Keep Your Kids (and Yourself) Feeling Great During the School Year!"
Need some inspiration for your own conscious parenting practice? Try, "10 Ways to Be a Conscious Parent."