5 am wake up call. It’s easy for me. I’ve always been an early riser. Even before kids came into the picture, 8 AM was sleeping in for me. I’m just naturally not a night owl. Now, I know what all those sleep-deprived parents out there are thinking. But don’t envy me just yet. While being an early bird has certainly served me well since becoming a parent, lately, I too have been struggling with waking up (early or not), let alone getting out of bed.
To tell you the truth, I can’t even think of a parent I know who isn’t tired — even those who have always considered themselves early risers. According to statistics, 59% of working moms are sleep-deprived. The struggle not to continuously hit the snooze button is REAL. Especially for all you non morning people out there.
Arianna Huffington, co-founder of Thrive Global, and co-founder and former editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post, has done a lot of research in this area and she calls sleep “the latest feminist revolution”.
In her TED talk, Huffington explained that “the way to a more productive, more inspired, more joyful life is getting enough sleep.” According to Huffington, women are going to lead this revolution by “literally sleeping their way to the top.”
I’m all on board for prioritizing a good night of sleep, especially my lately tired self.
There is so much research on the health benefits of getting enough hours of sleep: boosts your mood; helps you maintain a healthy weight; decreases your risk for cardiovascular disease; improves memory; sharpens attention; lowers stress levels, helps you live longer, the list goes on and on.
There are also loads of resources and experts out there that know a lot more about how to wake up early, sleep, and sleep training than I do. But, after seven years as a working mom, what I can do is share a few tips on making a habit of waking up early that have worked for me with the hope that we can all finally achieve healthy sleep and feel good about being a morning person.
Tip #1: Set a bedtime routine and stick to it.
You have to make sleep a priority. And, since your sleep depends on the hours your child is sleeping, you have to start there.
Once you’ve mastered the art of bedtime routines and figured out a manageable sleep cycle for your little ones, it's time to do the very same thing for yourself.
Prioritize your sleep schedule; pick a bedtime that will let you fit in a good night of sleep before you wake up earlier than you were ever used to.
So, let’s say that your baby wakes up at 3 AM. If you get into the habit of going to bed at 9 or 10, that gives you a good 5- to 6-hour stretch of sleep, and then you can nap until your alarm goes off in the early morning. If you’re well past middle of the night feedings, consider what time you need to wake up in the morning and how many hours of sleep you need to feel rested (it really is different for all of us).
My own bedtime ritual is pretty simple and works for me. Just like I’ve done with my girls, I’ve set a bedtime for myself and have created a routine that helps trigger my mind to understand it’s time to fall asleep. I wash the day off my face, do a check around the house and then snuggle into bed to read. Admittedly, there are many nights I only read a sentence or two before my eyes are ready to close, but I pick up a book no matter how late it is.
By following the routine, even on nights I’m up well past my bedtime, I have an easier time falling asleep.
Tip #2: Re-evaluate your evenings.
If you have an early bedtime, you’re really going to have to look at your evening routine.
Are you used to spending some quality time in the evening with your spouse when the kids go to bed? If so, would you both be willing to go to bed early and wake up early to talk, exercise, or even just share a cup of coffee together?
How much time are you spending on your devices? Are you watching a bit too much TV or binge watching a new series? No judgement - that was me with the latest release of Orange is the New Black! To save yourself from the lure of the screen, it's beneficial to set an official turn off time for everyone in your household so there are no distractions when it comes to sticking to your bedtime routine and getting in a restful night of sleep.
Another helpful thing to do is to review all the things on your nighttime to-do list and figure out what could be left for another time. Laundry, anyone?
If you use your evenings to catch up on work, consider going to bed earlier, so you can get up early. I’ve been trying this one lately and while I’m a morning person, I’ve been getting so much more done.
Tip #3: Conquer the alarm clock.
When I go to bed on time for a few nights in a row, I usually wake up early on my own. But, that doesn’t always happen, so I use alarms.
I have two of them. One is on my Fitbit that gently wakes me up 10 minutes before the second one sounds. The second one – on my phone – is stationed across the room so I have to stand up and walk to turn it off.
At that point, although I dread the thought of walking over to turn off the second alarm most mornings, I’ve already had 10 minutes to wake up and once I’m standing, I have less of an excuse to return to bed.
There are other ways to conquer the alarm clock. I’m not a fan of waking up in shock with loud, buzzing noises. If you’re like me, or if you’re not naturally an early riser, try setting your alarm to something soothing – a favorite song, sound or podcast. There are also apps that use wake-up tasks that won’t let you turn off your alarm until you’ve completed the tasks.
If you prefer a more natural option, try light and sound therapies to gently wake you up.
Tip #4: Watch what and when you’re eating/drinking.
Desserts, sugary or caffeinated drinks, wine or other alcoholic beverages. While it’s tempting to indulge in a glass of wine or other sweet treats after the kids go to bed to unwind, consider what it might be doing to your sleeping patterns.
Late-night snacking is often associated with stress eating, which can lead to overindulging in high-fat comfort foods. Ice cream, anyone?
I'm an all or nothing kinda gal, so I try really hard not to eat anything after 9pm. But, if you need to snack, do it right. Choose healthy and nutritious snacks that can help you have a restful night.
Instead of the wine or sugary treats, opt for a few crackers with cheese or a tablespoon of almond or peanut butter with a slice of whole wheat toast. High fibre cereals with milk or fruit with nuts are healthier options that help you feel satiated so you can sleep better.
And, when you sleep better, you wake up hungry. I like to think about what I’m going to have for breakfast when I go to sleep. You can even leave some of your breakfast items out the night before and set the timer on your coffee machine. When breakfast is ready, it’s so much easier to wake up.
Tip #5: Establish YOU time.
Early morning rising means more YOU time. You’ll get quiet time and can create your own morning routine to jumpstart your day. Whether that means waking up earlier to enjoy a warm cup of coffee or tea, working out, or using the extra time to catch up on e-mails and work, doing something you never have time for, or using the time to get your day ready, you’ll feel like you own the world while your kids are still sleeping.
My most successful days are when I wake up early and work-out. Within 30 minutes I’ve checked off my very first item on my to-do list – success!
You can also use this extra time to set the mood for the day. Remember, our thoughts are creative forces.
Setting intentions, using visualization techniques, meditating or even just sitting in silence can help you connect with your inner self, offer clarity and set a positive mood that will help you glide through your day — and in turn your sleep schedule.
Lights out, power on, tired parents everywhere. You can all be morning people!
Lisa Durante is a working mama who believes in the power of AND. She offers strategies and insights, as well as resources and programs to help you design a career and life that works for you as a working mama. Get new tips and free resources every week at LisaDurante.com.