Did you know when you live in the middle of the woods, sometime in the spring, during the night, you will hear an ear-piercingly loud baby screech that causes you to jump out of bed and think someone is dying?
Well, now you know, and it’s not a baby. It is a mating call. A fishercat or a fox will make this sound to attract a mate. I’ve spent most of my adult life sleeping peacefully (of course, not when I had babies). I hit my mid-40s, and for some reason, my seven to eight hours of sleeping bliss no longer exists. Even when there aren’t loud screeches, getting sleep eludes me while dealing with my foxes at night.
Among all of the worries of mothers is the nagging knowing that we need a good night’s sleep to feel our best and increase our long-term health and wellness. We’ve all read many articles and books about getting our children to sleep well; how about ourselves? What do you do when your children sleep well but you do not? How do I put those foxes in my head to bed and get some good mom sleep?
I’ve tried plenty of things to remedy this situation, most of which cover the issue with a bandaid instead of the underlying causes. These things include weighted blankets, using melatonin at night, limiting electronic use in the evenings, and being active during the day. All these are great and have made falling asleep easier; my issue is the three a.m. alert and loud brain, the screeching baby even though my babies are all sleeping.
I decided a new year meant I needed to tackle this not sleeping problem head-on and make some real changes. No more bandaids that worked, as well as me opening my window and telling the foxes to shut up. I decided to start a sleep diary, using one from The Today Show, and get some data on what was happening.
I also suffer from an anxiety disorder and see a therapist once a month. Life lately tells me I need to talk to her more and get help with some of the stress that yells at my brain and prevents me from falling back asleep.
I tracked my sleep for one week. Of course, I had a decent week of sleep! Only one night, I was up between three and four in the morning but wasn’t awake for long. The tracking showed me how some habits may not be helping me in the long term. I drink coffee, but maybe it’s a bit too much. I have some alcohol, but perhaps even one isn’t good. I think I’m going to bed at a decent time, but maybe I need to make it a little earlier.
I know how plotting your own self-data in and of itself can be helpful, and for me, that seems to be the case here. Keeping better track of what is going on has helped me see patterns I didn’t think were troublesome. I also noticed I frequently stayed in bed for nine or more hours! If I had told my younger mom self that this would be a problem for future me, I would have jumped for joy. Sometimes, too much of a good thing doesn’t work either.
What I’ve Learned
I’ve cut down on my coffee, drinking more decaffeinated drinks. I’ve had more days in a row that don’t include one glass of wine or a beer. I’m being mindful of what time I actually fall asleep, making sure I add in the 10-15 minutes I need to fall asleep first. It is a priority to have eight full hours until my alarm goes off, ensuring I get up pretty quickly afterward.
I’ve increased my therapy sessions to every three weeks instead of four, hoping the life stress of the stage I’m in (about to have three teenagers!) doesn’t continue to sound like foxes screaming in the middle of the night.