Sam Sadighi, Sleep Consultant at Easy Sleep Solutions, shares some useful insights into how to get a better nights sleep
Whether you’re loving or loathing the idea of your maternity leave coming to an end, you know that you need to get as much sleep as you possibly can before you head back into the workplace. Having said that though, that can often be easier said than done.
So I thought I’d tell you about the top two problems I’ve come across with my clients who have returned to work after having a baby, including some advice on how to get better sleep when you are returning back to work.
1. Your baby’s still waking multiple times a night and isn’t napping well during the day.
I frequently get calls from Mum’s who have realised they only have a couple of weeks until they return back to work and have finally admitted to themselves (and their partners) that they’re going to need to bring in the big guns to get their little one’s sleep sorted, so that they are on top of their game when they’re back at work.
While you may have felt like you could cope (albeit barely) on limited sleep while you have been on maternity or paternity leave, you realise that actually those coping strategies (whatever they may be) aren’t going to be as easy to implement when you go back to work.
So how can you help your little one (and you) get the sleep you all need?
Timing is everything
While there can be multiple reasons for your little one not sleeping well, often simply tweaking the timings of naps and bedtime can make a really big difference to how well they sleep. In their first year of life, their sleep needs change significantly. So the number and duration of naps for a 5 month old will look very different to that of an 11 month old.
Below I’ve included some information from the National Sleep Foundation on the average amount of sleep babies and infants need. Of course, this is just a guide, but can be really helpful as you work out the timings that suit your child best.
Recommended hours of sleep in 24-hour period
Approximate number of naps per day
6 ➡️ 3
3 ➡️ 2
2 ➡️ 1
1 ➡️ 0 (stopping around 3 years old)
Depending on the time your little one wakes up, a bedtime of between 6pm and 8pm is perfect. Many families choose around 7pm so that, as parents, they can have an evening to just be adults before heading to bed themselves.
It’s really important to make sure we make that time for ourselves and our partner (if we have one), especially as you’re transitioning back into work. Otherwise it can feel like you’re being everything to everyone, super mum, rockstar employee, but also feel like you’re failing miserably. I know, I’ve been there!
Obviously we can’t force our child to sleep when they blatantly aren’t tired, nor should we. But often, what seems like them just being wired and wide awake is actually signs of them being overtired. When your little one is overtired, their sleepy and wide awake hormones are out of sync, meaning it’s going to be a lot harder for them to fall asleep.
The easiest way to overcome this is to try an earlier bedtime (although it might sound counter-intuitive!). Try bringing bedtime forwards for at least 3 days and see how they get on. I’d love to give concrete examples here, but, unfortunately, it really depends on your child and their age, but try using the timings above as a guide.
2. Your baby’s sleeping ok, but you’re having difficulty falling asleep, and-or waking for prolonged periods of time during the night.
When we’re returning back to work after any time away we can feel a little anxious, let alone when we’ve been out of the workplace for months after having a baby.
This anxiety or nervousness is perfectly natural, but, can, unfortunately, impact our sleep.
Maybe it’s causing you to lie in bed unable to fall asleep, or you’re waking in the night ruminating on things? And of course, the longer we lie there, the more we clock watch and start to berate ourselves for still being awake, reminding ourselves how dreadful we’re going to feel the following day.
It then becomes a vicious cycle - we’re perhaps not performing as well as we would like to be because we’re tired, but we’re not getting the sleep we know we need because we’re not performing as well as we would like.
So how do we overcome this pattern of negativity that’s affecting our sleep?
Well, there are lots of ways, far too many to mention in just one article. But the biggest thing I’d like you to do is not be too hard on yourself!
Don’t suffer in silence, there’s no shame in asking for help. Whether that’s from your partner, friends, relatives or even from a professional like me.
I suggest you find time to sit down (not too close to bedtime) and make a list of the things that are keeping you awake - you might be able to get this all out in one session, or potentially over a series of nights.
If there are things that are within your control, work out a reasonable plan for how to deal with them, including delegating where necessary.
If there are things that are worrying you that aren’t in your control, then make the conscious decision not to worry about them (easier said than done, I know!).
But most of all, be kind to yourself. Don’t forget, you’ve created a tiny little human! That’s a huge achievement, you have every right to feel proud of yourself.
Try not to sweat the small stuff - none of us really know what we’re doing, it’s just some of us are better at pretending we do than others.
Sam Sadighi is a Certified Practitioner for families, teens and adults who have difficulties with their sleep, and the owner of Easy Sleep Solutions.
She uses research and evidence-based techniques for both children and adults to help them regain the sleep they need, including Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Insomnia for adults and older children.
As a busy divorced mum to two girls (aged 5 and 7) she understands only too well how important it is for familial harmony that everyone gets enough sleep!
If you would like more information on the services she offers, why not visit her website www.easysleepsolutions.co.uk, or follow her on social media @EasySleepSolutionsUK on both Facebook and Instagram.
For more ideas to help you make your return to work experience a brilliant one, read these:
Rebuilding respect as you return to work
6 simple actions to overcome imposter syndrome and develop greater career confidence
How to set healthy boundaries as a working parent that really work