One of the biggest challenges of motherhood is the lack of sleep. I get too few hours and my sleep gets constantly interrupted. I do not function well without enough sleep. I do things like screw in a new light bulb and declare the lamp broken because it didn’t light up when I switched the light switch. The switch that regulates a totally different lamp, you know. I am just a whole lot dumber than I used to be. But more worryingly, I feel a little angrier, more vulnerable, and less optimistic about the world, feelings that block growth and happiness.
Now, this would be easy to fix since the problem is so well defined. But between my baby waking up every 2-3 hours at night and the toddler having trouble falling asleep in the evenings, I just never get enough sleep. So I try to nap in the day. But then I have to lie down when the baby has fallen asleep and force myself to switch my thoughts off. For me, the moment my head drops onto the soft pillow, my brain starts to dredge up all the thoughts. You know them, the thoughts about the shopping list, and unanswered messages, the internal reminder to empty the cat toilet and to mail the letter for the tax department. Thoughts.
All the thoughts also like to sneak up on me after the 3am feed. It’s the perfect time to worry about how best to sell the car, isn’t it? Now for years, I have been using mindfulness exercises to try to bring on sleep. Sorry to the mindfulness experts out there, I know that’s not the purpose, but mindfulness was long the best tool in my sleep box.
Until I finally tried the Sleep stories on the app Calm. My husband has been using them for ages and has gifted me a pair of sleeping headphones a few Christmases ago. But it took the draw of listening to Matthew McConaughey that finally made me try them. He had just recorded a story and who wouldn’t like to be soothed into slumber by his southern drawl. It worked magic. Maybe 7 minutes in, I was asleep. I have been using different stories for 15 days now, both for nap-time and after waking up for feeds at night, and it works every single time. It’s like I found the sleep switch. What I love about it is that falling asleep has become something passive, I just have to listen to the story and out go the lights. Beforehand calming down was something active to be achieved by me focussing on a mindfulness process. Much more work, much lower success rate.
I have since also played Sleep stories for children to my toddler. After we read to him and the nighttime ritual is over, he can still take some time to fall asleep. While the Sleep stories have not worked quite as magically for him as they do for me, they still send him off into dreamland more often than not.
We are using the app Calm and I can wholeheartedly recommend it, despite the quite steep price tag. We can share it on Apple Family so it’s not quite as expensive. It offers wonderful guided mindfulness exercises and meaningful additions like a breathing timer and some mindful yoga instructions. And of course the Sleep stories. Written by diverse authors and read out by actors, scientists, astronauts, artists, and sometimes the authors themselves. I am already looking forward to tonight’s story.
From Denmark with Love,
Getting enough sleep is a constant challenge for parents of young children. Finding an easy segue into sleep cuts down on the time it takes to fall asleep and makes napping easier. Here I recommend the use of a modern version of the ancient good night story. Different apps provide “Sleep stories” that just capture the mind enough to avoid the pitfall of thinking too much while trying to fall asleep. Works wonders for this mama and also sends my toddler off to sleep.