How to Get More Sleep, Better Sleep, Feel-Rested Sleep

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I fall into bed exhausted after a full day of learning and playing and homeschooling and working and assuming the role of referee to my wrestling quarantined kiddos. It's a long day when you know you have nowhere to go and nobody to see and tons to get done. I wake up, bee-line to my coffee machine, and daydream about the moment I get to crawl into my bed again. 

Don't get me wrong, I'm grateful for all the family time. I love going for bike rides, and watching movies, and getting to see the little students my babes becoming, and going for walks--up and down my own block--with my husband (the closest we get to a date lately), and getting to eat three meals a day as a fam of five. But, man, I would love having 24 hours to kick up my feet and do absolutely nothing. To rest, relax, and catch up on Zzz's. 

Sleep is so important--now more than ever. With all the anxiety and uncertainty around COVID-19, I have been struggling to fall asleep, stay asleep, and get quality sleep for weeks now. I toss, I turn, and I stare at the clock in frustration. My kids are all off their routine too. We're staying up later to watch movies every night. They're not as physically exhausted without school to suck up physical and mental energy. And we're all on more screens than I'd like to admit.

While it's a work in progress, we are working on prioritizing sleep as we enter our 11th(?) week of sheltering in place. I know that if we're all rested, we'll be calmer and happier throughout these crazy days at home together. Here are some shifts we've made--I feel a difference... and that's not just the coffee talking.

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Establish a morning routine

I admit that I have been sleeping in way more than I ever did pre-pandemic. My hubs has been "doing the mornings" with our 14 month old and two bigger kiddos, and it's been amazing to catch up on some morning Zzz's. But I'll tell you something--I miss the morning vibe. It's my favorite part of the day (once I emerge from the fog)--everyone is fresh and relatively happy--and when I am most productive at tackling my workload. When I don't have this time to hustle, the day doesn't seem to go as smoothly. I struggle to get my work done. I struggle to motivate the kids. I struggle to get myself showered and feeling human--and then I end up more exasperated and exhausted earlier in the day. I love sleeping in, but not at the expense of the rest of my day.

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Get all the outdoor exercise

Now that the weather is more cooperative, we are outside as much as possible. I set up a desk on my porch. My kids even do their virtual lessons outside. We go on the swings in between assignments. We go for long walks multiple times a day. We get on our bikes at least once in the morning and once in the evening. I want to wear these kids out with sunshine, fresh air, and physical activity. And I want to feel more than mentally deflated at the end of the day--I want to feel like I've given it my all.

Reestablish a love of reading

A weird thing happens to me when I have a baby to take care of. I stop reading. This happened after I gave birth to all three of my children; for a year or more after they were born, I was unable to successfully pick up a book and read. I lost the patience and the stamina; I wanted to use my "me time" to do work or clean the house or get ahead on projects. Reading always went on the back burner. But with my mind racing and my anxiety high, I decided to try to rekindle my love of reading with a light and mindless beachy read. And it's working. Instead of television before bed, I pick up my book for 15 minutes.

Turn Off the Screens

Speaking of tuning away from television, I'm trying to more mindfully use our family's screen time. My kids spend more than two hours a day using a laptop for their virtual learning. The second their distance lessons are done, they want to watch YouTube or play on their Nintendo Switches. It's frustrating that they want to go from screen to screen to screen. I've decided to cut out all the screens during the school week; believe me, it was a struggle at first. But it's a compromise, and they get unlimited free-for-all screen time on the weekends. We do start a family movie every night at 7, and it's something we now all look forward to each day. It's a great way to wind down the evening before bed.

Tone Down the Caffeine/ Sugar

As I mentioned, the first thing I do in the morning--before I greet my family-- is pour a cup of coffee. It's my vice, and I won't be giving it up any time soon. But you know what I have curbed? My midday espresso habit. Yep, I'd pop in a Nespresso pod at least three times during the afternoon. I thought I needed the jolt and the jitters to help me push through the afternoon. But I've tried to replace all but one of these PM pick-me-ups with a glass of water or a cold seltzer. I certainly don't need to be shaking in bed at night because I've gone a little overboard on the caffeine front. 

Likewise, my candy-happy kids have been curbed of their sugar habit. We got to a point in quarantine where they were eating junky cereal for breakfast and then having candy snacks throughout the day. I finally put my food down, and now they get one small treat after lunch and another after dinner. No more crazy sugar crashes.

Destress the Day Away

Going for solo and family walks at the end of the day helps me clear my mind. We do this before we start our evening shower/bath/movie routine, and it resets me. I put away my work, and concentrate on family time. 

Another thing I started doing was performing breathing exercises before bed. I use the Calm app for three minutes, and it helps stop the ticker of headlines going through my mind; it quells the questions bubbling in my brain. A few deep breaths and I feel in control again. If I wake up in the middle of the night in a pandemic panic, I do it again. 

How are you prioritizing sleep and well being in this crazy time? We'd love to hear!

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