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  • Writer's pictureRosie Nicholas

How a good night routine can set you up for better days

As a new mum without the promised 'village', I turned to my old friends social media and the internet for guidance, support and reassurance ("Google: is it normal to watch over your sleeping baby to check they're breathing?"). It's also a false sense of control and escapism when you finally get time to yourself. Anyone else grab their phone subconsciously as soon as they get a minute to themselves?

However, what I noticed a couple of years into motherhood was that those habits had evolved into mindless social media scrolling (and dare I say, addiction?!) every evening, in bed. I'd eventually prize my phone out of my hand and chuck it on the bedside table, annoyed at myself for being glued to it for so long, full of regret, and awake.

Because of this, one practice I introduced earlier this year was to leave my phone in a different room overnight. And boy has it had a positive impact! I realised a much healthier and more fulfilling way to bridge the gap between wake and sleep was to pick up a book; I actually now had time to read and it helped improved my sleep. Hoorah! Admittedly at first it was a parenting book (the brilliant Philippa Perry's 'The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read'), then came self-improvement, and now I'm reading for pure pleasure's sake.

This small act holds far bigger meaning for me, though. It's allowed me to carve out some sacred time where I put myself and my interests first. Waking up in the morning is still very difficult for our family (very early starts + our daughter's strong tendency for me over her dad), so being in charge of the end of my day is empowering after two years feeling out of control. Through this, I've rekindled my hunger for knowledge and learning - something I didn't think was possible again after my mind was so contorted first by baby brain, then by the ever-present mental load.

And let's face it, we spend between 1-2 hours every night preparing our little ones for the best possible sleep by giving them a consistent bath and bedtime routine (which includes reading!). Yet we don't give ourselves that same gentleness and sense of order. And I know it's 'cus we're all so bloody knackered. But how revolutionary would it be, if at some point, we could?

If you're not quite ready to let go of your bedtime phone habit, here are some other ways to optimise your sleep environment, and ultimately, your sleep. Although I urge you to try a phone-free bed, even just for one night...

1. Create a Relaxing Bedtime Routine:

  • Hormones like progesterone, which increase during pregnancy but drop off a cliff after giving birth, have a sedative effect. A relaxing bedtime routine such as stretching, taking a warm bath or practicing deep breathing exercises can enhance the body's readiness for sleep. Check out my free guide at the top and bottom of the homepage for my three top tips.

2. Control Exposure to Light:

  • Melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep-wake cycles, is influenced by light exposure. Hence why avoiding screens, including phones, before bedtime is important. A sunrise lamp, on the other hand, can help regulate melatonin production by simulating a natural sunrise and sunset, gradually preparing the body for sleep. A good friend has started using one recently and she highly recommends it!

3. Overhaul your Sleep Environment:

  • Creating a comfortable sleep environment is crucial. For pregnant women, using a body pillow can provide support and alleviate discomfort. Bed-sharing (if breastfeeding), reducing noise and keeping the bedroom cool can promote deeper sleep, even if nighttime wakings are frequent.

4. Stay Active During the Day:

  • Regular physical activity, adapted to the specific needs and limitations of pregnancy or postpartum recovery where appropriate, can improve sleep quality. Exercise can reduce stress, anxiety, and depressive symptoms, which often impact sleep for mums. This is a tough one though, as often when you're low, the last thing you feel like doing is leaving the house (believe me, I know). In this case, be kind to yourself and move on to another, more achievable option for now.

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