Why You Can’t Sleep Even When Your Kid Does

Running on no sleep? Mom insomnia is real. Here are the top five things that keep moms up all night and how to get over them so you can (finally!) fall asleep tonight.
Shutterstock

One of the most frustrating truths of #momlife: Some nights, even when your kids sleep, you don’t. Ask yourself which of these reasons for not being able to fall asleep could describe your situation, then try our tailored tips to catch some zzz’s.

You're stressed and anxious.

As one mom says: “It’s nice to be out of the baby wakeup stage, but older kids mean activities and budgets, birthday parties and holidays, not to mention the usual ups and downs of work, marriage, and home repairs. Because I’m so busy during the day, it seems like all of this comes flooding to the surface the minute I lie down in bed.”

How to get to sleep: Give yourself one or two 30- to 60-minute periods of zone-out time before hitting the sack. That means no work, no lunch prep, no cleaning up toys, and yes bath, yes relaxing book, yes sex. Most women need a solid seven to eight hours of sleep, so pinpoint your wake-up time and count backward, tacking on 20 minutes to doze off.

Still can’t quiet your mind? Get out of bed, turn on a dim light, and do something peaceful: Read, knit, or listen to a meditation app like Calm ($60 for a year of unlimited access) or Buddhify ($4.99 on IOS; $2.99 on Android). You can also try a calming essential oil like Aura Cacia Ylang Ylang Body Oil dabbed on your pulse points or Noctilessence Sleep Patches, which were created by a female scientist and use time-release technology to keep you inhaling soothing lavender all night long.

New research also suggests that taking five minutes at night to jot down your to-do list for the next day can help you fall asleep faster. The more specific you are (“Buy bananas, cheese, turkey” versus “Grocery store”), the sooner you’ll conk out.

RELATEDThe Best Ways to Cope with Your Everyday #MomStress

You can’t stand the snoring.

As one mom says: “I feel like I’m sleeping with a bear. I legit freak out if we’re traveling and I forget my earplugs. Sometimes I just end up sleeping on the couch.”

How to get to sleep: Download the Noisli app ($1.99 on IOS and Android) and mask the foghorn blasts emanating from your partner’s face with “pink noise”—a soft and soothing auditory experience that’s more waterfall than static. (Think of it as white noise’s cool millennial cousin.)

Or go old school and turn on a fan, or borrow your baby’s white-noise machine. Both will dampen the contrast between your room’s background din and the racket coming from your partner’s schnoz—and that will up your odds of sleeping through the night.

The room is too hot.

As one mom says: “When I was pregnant, I had night sweats all the time. Now, more than a year postpartum, I still can’t sleep under anything but a sheet without waking up drenched!”

How to get to sleep: The ideal temperature for adult rest is between 60 and 67 degrees. Keeping the room cool is especially important if you’re breastfeeding or you take antidepressants, as both can cause night sweats. If you can’t blast the AC, give yourself an arctic edge with temperature-regulating pj’s and bedding. The Lusomé line of pretty sleepwear, which includes everything from ethereal camisoles to menswearinspired nightshirts, employs sweat-wicking technology that pulls heat and moisture from your skin.

For linens and pillows, look for words like “cooling,” “breathable,” and “moisturewicking.” We like Cool-jams’ Cooling Rayon Bamboo Sheet Set as well as Simmons Beautyrest Black Ice Memory Foam Pillow.

RELATED21 Things No One Told You About Motherhood

You're overloading on screen time.

As one mom says: “After our daughter goes down, I’ll flick the TV on and start scrolling social media and mommy blogs. I don’t get to use my phone much at work, so that’s how I spend my ‘me time.’ The next thing I know,I’m watching Netflix, it’s past midnight, and I need to wake up at 5:15 a.m.”

How to get to sleep: The blue light shining from your phone, tablet, laptop, and TV tricks your brain into thinking it’s daytime, making it harder to fall or stay asleep. Set limits: Two hours before bedtime, turn off laptops and computers, and use a blue-light filter on your phone or tablet. (iPhones have a Night Shift setting, and Samsung Androids have a Blue Light Filter.)

One to two hours before bed, say good night to all screens, and switch to a book or a magazine. Research has found that reading in a warm and safe environment can help you reach a more relaxed physical and mental state. Don’t bring your phone to bed (hello, Pinterest rabbit hole!) and charge everything in another room so you can recharge.

You're making bad food choices.

As one mom says: “The more exhausted I am, or the trickier bedtime was, the more I’m, like, ‘I need chocolate!’ Then I’ll enjoy a glass of wine, maybe two, while watching TV.”

How to get to sleep: Sweets mess with your blood sugar, leaving you too wired to sleep. Alcohol helps you drift off faster, but you won’t enter the deep, restorative stages of REM as easily. Both contribute to overnight wakings. Instead, reach for sleep-friendly snacks that contain tryptophan (an amino acid that your brain converts into relaxing chemicals like melatonin and serotonin), whole-grain carbs (which enhance serotonin production), and calming minerals like magnesium and calcium.

Or, put simply: Eat half a banana and a handful of almonds, or a small bowl of oatmeal with milk. Still craving dessert? Make hot cocoa with milk, and add a handful of whole-grain cereal, or swirl nut butter and chocolate chips into vanilla Greek yogurt.

As for beverages, cut yourself off after one glass of wine or beer—two, max—and try to stop drinking one to two hours before bedtime. That will give your body enough time to metabolize what you had, so it’s less likely to affect your dozing.

RELATEDHow to Lose Baby Weight

Our experts: Steve Orma, Psy.D., a clinical psychologist in San Francisco and author of Stop Worrying and Go to Sleep; Cathy Goldstein, M.D., a neurologist at the Sleep Disorders Center at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor; and Leslie Bonci, R.D.N., owner of Active Eating Advice, a nutrition consulting company in Pittsburgh, and a sports-nutrition consultant to the WNBA.

Parents Magazine

Parents may receive compensation when you click through and purchase from links contained on this website.