There are few jobs as tough as being a mom. And in order for Moms to take the best care of their little ones, they also need to be taking good care of themselves, and that includes prioritizing sleep.
That’s why we’ve connected with sleep and parenting experts for their insights on why sleep is so important for Moms — as well as tips on how Moms can prioritize getting more and better rest.
There are few jobs out there as demanding as being a mom; children, especially when they’re younger, need near-constant care. And in order for moms to deliver the best care to their little ones, they also need to be taking good care of themselves.
Getting enough high-quality sleep is essential for moms, but it can also be a huge challenge. So the question is, why, exactly, is sleep so important for moms? And how can moms prioritize rest and get the high-quality sleep they need to show up for their kids and themselves?
Why is sleep so important for moms?
“Sleep is essential to our health,” says Dr. Kent Smith, sleep expert and president of the American Sleep and Breathing Academy. “That is true for everyone, but especially for mothers who often wear multiple hats and juggle numerous responsibilities within their families.”
Without proper sleep, moms can find themselves facing a host of health issues that make parenting (and life!) Significantly harder. “Being a mother is a full-time job in itself, and not getting enough sleep, combined with the stress of parenting, can quickly lead to issues with physical health, mental health, and cognition,” says Dr. Chelsie Rohrscheib, neuroscientist and head sleep expert at Wesper.
But let’s be honest, getting enough sleep as a parent, particularly a new parent, isn’t common or easy. “Research has found that adults tend to function most efficiently and effectively when getting somewhere between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night,” says Smith.
But very few parents are getting that much sleep (in fact, according to one survey, only 10 percent of new parents are getting at least 7 hours of sleep each night — and other research suggests that parents’ sleep doesn’t fully recover until their child is six years old) for a variety of reasons — including that their children aren’t getting that much sleep. “It is difficult to get adequate sleep when our children are not great sleepers, and / or we have multiple children that are not on the same sleep schedule,” says Chrissy Lawler, sleep consultant, licensed marriage and family therapist, and founder of parenting sleep resource The Peaceful Sleeper.
In addition to dealing with children’s inconsistent sleep schedules, the pressures and responsibilities of parenting — and all that tasks and to-do’s that go along with it — can make it hard to get to sleep at a reasonable hour. “When we put our children to bed at night, there are a million things to do that eat into the time we should be sleeping,” says Lawler.
But regardless of the challenges, if you want to feel your best — as a mom and as a person — you need to prioritize sleep. So how, exactly, do you do that?
Sleep when the kids sleep
Before kids, you probably got all of your sleep in one long stretch (for example, from 10 PM to 7 AM). But as a new mom, with your baby needing love, attention, and food at all hours of the day and night, you’re not likely to get that much uninterrupted sleep time.
Which is why, if you want to prioritize sleep? You need to sleep when your baby does — even if that means ignoring your to-do list. “When your child lays down for a nap or for the night, no matter what else you have to do, grab some sleep as well,” says Smith. “It’s tempting to try to get some housework or errands completed, but getting rest whenever you can will pay off in the long run.”
Practice good sleep hygiene
When it comes to getting better (and more!) Sleep as a mom, there are certain things that are out of your control; for example, you can’t control when your child will wake up in the middle of the night.
There are, however, things you can control, including how you spend the hours leading up to bedtime, and whether those hours help or hinder your ability to get a good night’s sleep. “Leave PTA projects, emails, social media, and the latest episode of that TV show behind — and focus on a more relaxing activity like reading, listening to music, or snuggling your kiddos,” says Smith. “Anything with a screen should be avoided, as the light in your device can cause sleeping difficulties by convincing your brain that it’s daytime.”
The more relaxing (and screen free!) You make your pre-bedtime hours, the easier it will be to unwind and fall asleep — and the better sleep you’ll get as a result.
When you’re exhausted — as many moms are! —You may think the answer to getting through the day is caffeine. But while one cup of coffee in the morning is fine, anything more than that can wreak havoc on your sleep.
“Although you [might] feel like you… need an extra cup of coffee (or five) to keep up with the demands of parenthood, too much caffeine too late in the day can keep you up all night, ”says Smith.
According to research from the Cleveland Clinic, caffeine can take up to 10 hours to fully clear from your bloodstream — which means that 2 PM cup of coffee can inhibit your ability to fall asleep at midnight.
Bottom line? If you want to set yourself up for the best night’s sleep possible, “try to keep caffeine consumption to the morning,” says Smith.
Get outside support
There is so much to do as a mom. So, “if you are finding there is not enough time in the day to get everything done and get the sleep you need, I highly recommend outsourcing what you can [and getting outside support]”Says Lawler.
Outside support can take many different forms. If you have a partner, it could be asking them to take on some of the night duties (like feedings) so you can get longer stretches of sleep. If you have family members or close friends you can rely on, it might mean asking them to come over and watch your kids so you can get in a nap. If you have the financial means, it could mean hiring out some of your household tasks (for example, getting your groceries delivered or using a cleaning service to clean your home) so you have more free time to catch up on sleep.
And if none of those options are available to you, a great place to get the outside support you need to get more sleep? Other moms.
Connect with other moms and / or mom groups in your area; often, they’ll have resources that can help you get back some of your free time (like meal swaps or babysitting trades) —time you can use to get more and better sleep.
Seek professional help when necessary
As a mom, there are steps you can take to get better sleep. But if those steps aren’t working, it may be time to call in the professionals.
“Consult with your child’s pediatrician if their sleep seems unusual or irregular for their age and developmental stage,” says Rohrscheib. “Speak with your doctor if you develop symptoms of insomnia or excessive sleep loss, or if you start feeling depressed or anxious.”
This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.
Deanna deBara is a freelance writer based in Portland, OR. She covers a wide range of wellness topics, including fitness, nutrition, relationships, and mental health. Her work has appeared on Greatist, Men’s Health, Ravishly, The Fix, What’s Good by The Vitamin Shoppe, and more.