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Who doesn’t want a glorious, uninterrupted, seven-to-nine hours of sleep and all of the ensuing health and psychological benefits that come with it? If only our small humans got the memo.
But forget sleep anxiety when your baby or toddler interrupts your slumber – if a solid block of shut-eye is the stuff of your wildest dreams, these expert hacks can help you make up for it.
Finding time for sleep as a parent with young children can feel impossible.Credit: iStock
Schedule a reverse sleep-in
Luxurious lie-ins are likely a distant memory, so postpartum doula Naomi Chrisoulakis advocates for a “reverse sleep-in” to reclaim the lost hours.
“I’ve come to really enjoy the luxury of hopping into bed as soon as the kids are down for the night and reclaiming a few hours of sleep for myself,” she says.
Chrisoulakis, whose children are now six and two, blocks out Monday and Tuesday nights for TV-free time.
“It’s time for me to read my book, chill out and go to bed and sleep by 8.30 or 9pm,” she says.
“If you get a couple of [early] nights to help with that sleep debt, you are also going to be able to better show up for [other] evenings with your partner or your TV show.”
Strategise your naps
All you need is 20 minutes to reap the benefits of a nap, so try to kick back as soon as your toddler goes down to nap or you start your work lunchbreak, so there’s still time to knock over some life admin or do some mindless scrolling before you’re back on the job.
“You’ve got to be careful that you don’t sink into deep sleep or you might struggle to fall asleep that night so set an alarm for 20 minutes then get up and do some star jumps or something to wake yourself back up,” says sleep scientist Dr Carmel Harrington, author of The Complete Guide to a Good Night’s Sleep.
“Even give yourself permission to nap every second or third day – you’ll be much more restored and alert, and able to do things more efficiently.”
Emma Maidment, mother, mentor and meditation teacher from Flow States Collective, bundles her chores with caring for her two-year-old River to guarantee her a window to nap when he goes down.
“I give him a couple of spoons and cups to splash around with some dish soap – he thinks it’s the best thing ever and I can clean up the entire kitchen,” she says.
“Then I can bank that time for myself when he’s asleep.”
Getting to bed early two nights a week can help you catch up and bank some sleep for later.Credit: iStock
Listen to yoga nidra
If you find switching off difficult, or crave a supercharged rest, find a yoga nidra recording on an app like Insight Timer.
A meditation teacher will guide you through a 15-30 minute body scan that some people report feels as restorative as four hours’ sleep.
“Essentially you lie down and you’re taken through a guided relaxation of the body, consciously relaxing muscles from the toes to the crown of the head, then you do some breathing techniques and a guided visualisation,” Maidment explains.
“It slows down the brainwaves to allow you to experience deep rest and move into a subconscious state. And by [tuning into] a voice guiding you, it keeps your mind occupied so you get that mental break from thoughts about things to do.”
Float away exhaustion
Wellness coach Lyndall Mitchell recommends regular “sensory deprivation” sessions in a floatation tank for sleep deprivation restoration, with benefits that can stay with you for up to 12 weeks.
The light-free, sound-proof floatation tanks allow you to float in 35C water that’s full of salts and magnesium to release muscle tension, calm the nervous system and alter brain wave activity.
“The idea behind floating is to blend with the [body temperature] water so you don’t know where your body ends or where the water begins, and you get to truly rest without pressure or pain,” says Mitchell, founder of Aurora Spa.
“The benefits include decreasing anxiety, depression, blood pressure, cortisol levels and chronic pain. For an affordable at-home solution, you can use Epsom salts in a warm bath to relax the body.”
Step out of the settling
Baby sleep expert Dr Daniel Golshevsky believes there is hope that most otherwise-healthy kids can turn a sleeping corner, and he suggests seeking expert help if your child’s sleep is continuing to keep you up at night.
“Change is possible, often with quite small, simple measures,” says Dr Golshevsky, of the Dr Golly Baby Sleep Program.
“A lot of parents I see say they don’t have the energy to make a change but I say, make the investment in improving the [sleep] association because everyone benefits in the long term.”
Often he says it’s helpful if the non-primary carer, or grandparent or friend, steps in for some night-time settling and to help build new habits.
“Clear the schedule for a weekend – ideally a long weekend – and use that time to break the circuit and [take time] to recover during the day,” he suggests.
“It usually takes three or four days to create a new habit or sleep routine – it’s a few hard nights for a lifetime of bliss.”
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