183. Getting more sleep as a mom (giving up the nightowl life)

I am a decades-long nightowl, but it doesn’t always serve me well in motherhood. Some years ago I made ‘sleep’ my health goal (not becoming a morning person, but simply heading to bed earlier). I want to share the benefits of sleep and strategies that can help you give up that nightowl life. 


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In this episode I talk about:

  • How sleep was handled in our upbringing
  • How technology impacts our experience of motherhood
  • The cultural expectations for sleep and self-care as it pertains to moms
  • How moms are trying to get self-care, in ways that it impacts their sleep
  • The benefits of sleep
  • Being a nightowl, the benefits and the costs
  • Strategies to set a sleep goal
  • Addressing the things that keep us up
  • Strategies to make sleep easier
  • Building up self-trust with yourself
  • The need for rest
  • Having more rest in your day and week


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Full transcript (unedited)

Hey friends, it’s Shawna, your nerdy girlfriend and counselor from simple on purpose.ca.  And I’m excited for what we’re going to talk about today we’re going to talk about the topic of rest. We’re continuing on with the series on meeting your needs. In the last episode, we talked about nourishment. And I told you, I was going to continue on sharing these basic needs, we have these basic actions of self care. And I don’t want to tell you what to do. But I want to share my journey with it. And with each topic, I want to address the culture that impacts how we relate to this basic need, and how I’ve changed my own mindsets about it over the years. Additionally, the strategies that have helped me with this basic need that have helped me to take better care of myself. Today we’re going to talk about sleep and I want to share with you how I went from what I see myself as a night owl. A morning tragedy. tragedy is a good word for it. And someone who never really intentionally rested in a week. And I think I’ve really become someone now who loves an early night. I love a good tuck in. I’m not a morning tragedy, maybe I’ve downgraded but maybe a morning bumbler would be a better, I’m still not awesome in the mornings. And I think I am someone who prioritizes rest in the week. And you maybe can feel that I’m painting a picture of how I used to be this night owl. I have been a night owl since I can remember. I was a teenager with insomnia. That’s how I would have labeled myself. I just adopted that mold of being a night owl. And that reputation of just being a miserable human being upon the waking hours. If you ask my little sister, she’ll tell you, the many glares and snares that her otherwise happy sister would dish out to the whole family at seven in the morning like these innocent bystanders.

Just getting my wrath, my morning wrath. And as a teenager, I can really remember laying in my bed in the dark stressing about it. Sometimes just listening to the staticky am radio wondering what other people do to fall asleep. I at one point I even was prescribed sleeping pills, I thought, hey, maybe that could solve my problem. But instead, it just gave me nightmares. And it made sleep even harder.

I can look back on the version of me in my late teens my early adulthood. And I can clearly see the symptoms of Graves disease, Graves disease, which I would be diagnosed with around age 27. But with most people with autoimmune diseases, we’re the sum of our symptoms. And we’re going to a doctor with these individual symptoms. And they’re treating individual symptoms and setting instead of putting that puzzle together and treating the actual problem.

And the culture that I grew up in, I’m talking about how our culture influences how we’re meeting our needs. I would look around and see that my parents stayed up a lot to no one was really saying, hey, get to bed or no one was getting to bed themselves. My mom wouldn’t be on the computer or folding laundry and watching recorded episodes of all my children. Remember that soap? She had it all on those VHS and I thought Oh, it’s okay. Like people stay up late, everyone seems to figure it out. And I had evidence to say that that was true, because I feel like I really did figure it out. It wasn’t a big problem. You know, I had to stay up late in college to do homework. And as a young adult, you’re staying up late with friends. I mean, sure, the world is built for morning people, but I could just live off coffee, I could skip a day I could figure it all out. And it really wasn’t until I became a mum that how I managed to sleep was creating a problem for me. On one hand, of course, there’s a lot less sleep in general. And mums spend a lot of energy wondering how everybody can get more sleep. And then on the other hand, when you don’t sleep well, you don’t act well. And that was very evident for me in my most tired days of motherhood.

I feel like when we’re talking about culture, it’s also worth talking about technology, because it impacts our current experience of motherhood. And I had my first two kids in 2011 and 2012. And I would spend my nights nursing and scrolling Pinterest or back then what the original version of Instagram was. Remember that like that real cozy, connected version of Instagram, that raw that genuine photos in the moment. And I was also listening to podcasts on productivity and blogging because that was something that I was wanting to do. And from everything I was reading from everything I was hearing, I put together this rule that in order to maximize my personal potential as a mum, I had to become a morning person. In the concept of being a morning person, I plan to do a whole separate podcast on that. But what I think is important to consider, especially for moms, is the cultural expectation that if a mom needs some time to herself, she should get up at 530 anymore.

Honey, get in her exercise, drink this smoothie journal, her emotions or whatever, and get herself ready for the day. This is society solution to self care for moms. And I’m not going to knock it because I have friends who do this. I have clients who do this, I know women who do this, and they actually get a lot of value out of it to them. That’s a great, like a great morning a great experience for them. To them, it’s a solution for self care. But you know what my solution to self care was for years, it was staying up late, staying up watching trashy TV, eating the most delicious hits of crunchy chips of dopamine, scrolling through social media without guilt that my kids are seeing me stare at a screen, texting all my mom besties probably doing a chore we that I didn’t get around to all day. And then I hit the bed, maybe scroll some more. And in those last quiet moments, my brain would just get flooded with all of the anxiety, of all of the things all that mental load that I was just carrying around like a brain full of mental clutter all day long. And then what happens when we wake up Instant Regret should have gone to bed sooner, maybe even some shame that I haven’t figured out a better morning routine. And the promise that I’ll go to bed early tonight, a promise that I’m going to break.

It was about 2019 when I was setting goals for myself for the year. And when I got to the health category, I decided that sleep was going to be my focus. And a big part of this I’ve shared this before is how watching my mom deal with early onset dementia really brought me face to face with my own health, I was paying attention to my health. Because after all these things are hereditary. So I have that fear and that urgency driving me and I was at a place especially years ago, reading articles listening to many doctors about the risk factors for them for dementia. And all of them sounded like the basics of self care, diet, movement and sleep. And so in 2019, when I got to that health card category, I said sleep is going to be my focus. But I was going to approach this all differently.

What was different for me was I wasn’t going to make it about how early I got up, I was going to focus on the night time on the getting to sleep. Because for years, I shamed myself for not being a morning person, I felt like this sub optimal human, I lacked discipline, I lacked motivation. I was a weak human who lacked the basic skills of waking up at 630. Like all of those very productive, shiny, happy people in the world. This is a topic I would get coaching on over the years, I would try hacks, I would set goals like get up and work out at 6am when at the time, I didn’t like working out and like sure didn’t like getting up at 6am. So I had set all these goals. And now I was going to set it in a different way I was going to approach this differently, and do the work of being a well rested human instead of trying to be a morning person.

So I started to read a lot about sleep. Like I mentioned, I was listening to advice and opinions of experts. And part of it was to understand that this is something that’s going to help me mostly I wanted to really increase my motivation, this was actually very important to me to increase my motivation for going to sleep earlier. Because I really needed the benefits to outweigh the cost. Simply because of what I had to give up. Not being a night owl anymore would cost me something, it would cost me those wonderful like three hours of indulgent nonsense, where I could unwind and have the things that I looked forward to all day long. So I had to really pay attention to what the benefits of sleep are going to be for me in my life. And I will say this, that when I set this goal, I was out of the baby and toddler stage, which means my sleep could mainly be dictated by me and not semi nocturnal children who are taking turns getting up every night. I mean, it’s also still worth me saying though, that my kids still wake me up. Sometimes they have nightmares, they can’t sleep, they’re not feeling good. That hasn’t really gone away.

Anyways, let’s talk about how it feels to get more sleep. So if you are in a stage of your life where you feel like this is doable, and you want to motivate yourself to head to bed earlier, you want to move away from that mom rebellion party to come in and start tucking yourself in earlier than I’m going to tell you some of the benefits that I’ve learned about sleep that helped motivate me that feel like it’s going to be a bigger benefit than a cost for me to go to bed early. So I’m going to share some studies and research I’ve came across I’ll make sure to link this all in the show notes as well.

Getting good sleeps getting your like seven to eight hours, you know the jury’s even out on what the ideal number is really. But the amount of sleep that feels good for you. Getting sleep is good for your brain. And it kind of cleans up your brain in a way. It’s called memory consolidation. And I like to think of it because I’m a little bit nerdy this way. It’s like defragging the C drive. defragging the disk drive. If you have Windows

It takes all of these like broken up scattered files, and it sorts them in order, and it cleans out all of the junk it doesn’t need. So that’s what is happening in our brains. All the memories information from the day, it’s being consolidated, what’s being kept in, the rest is deleted. And you need sleep to do this. Crazy, right. And so when they talk about the risk factors of Alzheimer’s and dementia, this is one of the big things that they’re pointing to. So this is this information is a really big motivator for me brain health. If I want to ensure that I’m keeping my brain healthy, and sleep is a simple way to do it, kind of a portraying that. Another really interesting benefit I’ve come across is that it helps us process emotions, and recover from emotional experiences, which takes some pressure off, you don’t have to figure out all of your feelings right now. Because your brain is going to be doing some of this for you while you sleep. We know we feel better when we have a good sleep. And even the advice sleeping on it can be really actually scientifically true and beneficial.

And feeling better is just worth paying attention to look how you handle your daily life, from a little bit of sleep to a good sleep. I can remember a day a while ago now. And I felt so good. Like to the point where I was kind of getting curious that this isn’t normal to feel this good. And I open up my Fitbit data and for whatever reason, I was just looking at it. And I realized it had been a long time since I had a really good sleep. And I just had a really good sleep that night. It was that simple. I was like what hack did I come across in my life, it was sleep.

A lack of sleep slows down our reflexes, our reflexes, reflexes, our reaction time, we’re more irritable, we feel tired, in which is just an uncomfortable feeling right to feel tired. We feel under resourced, we make poor decisions. We have weaker willpower and discipline, and melatonin and cortisol. So the sleep hormone and the stress hormones, they’re interconnected. We really can’t underestimate how much sleep is impacting our mood and our stress in our daily life. And you know, I mentioned melatonin and cortisol, all of the hormones in our body are doing this dance. Sleep is also helping us regulate blood sugar levels, it’s helping us regulate our appetite. Sleep is a time for our muscles to repair to clean out those dead cells. So it’s helping our our muscles actually grow, sleep helps strengthen us, it also helps our immune system getting a lot of rest is what we’re told when we need to recover. And we often don’t listen. But our body is releasing cytokines during sleep, which help our body fight infection.

I don’t know about you, but I look at this list like muscles and feeling better and brain health and regulating things like stress hormones, and appetite hormones. And I think we’re actually trying to solve a lot of these problems in our day with protein powders, green juices, more coffee, calming strategies, the next feel good thing, when sleep could actually help solve a lot of it for us. So those are the benefits of sleep in my books in when you do it, you feel it, you feel that it’s true. Now I want to move on to strategies that I have found helpful for me if this gives you ideas, great, try them out. The first one that is underlooked. But very important is to address what you are giving up. When you go to bed earlier, what are you giving up and start to explore that a bit. You might be giving up what feels like the funnest part of your day, or the time to do chores that you’ve been putting off all day. And you want that sense of accomplishment or you just want to get it done. Or you might be giving up connection time with your partner. And maybe you don’t want to give those things up. That’s fine just on that. Or maybe you look at that list and think like I don’t want to give it all up. But maybe I could be a bit more flexible. Maybe it’s not an all or nothing situation. Look at your list of what you would be giving up if you went to bed earlier and ask yourself, what are other ways I can get what I’m looking for maybe throughout the day, maybe throughout the week. And then when you’re ready set a simple goal. I started with a very simple goal to be sleeping by 11 and up at seven. Really a lot of the science says we should try to stick to the same sleep and wake time all of the time. So making small adjustments like 15 minutes or half an hour. And gradually increasing those adjustments over time can help us lift our sleep schedules.

Some strategies for meeting your goal that have worked for me is first of all, like I said, Knowing your motivation and why is it important to you keep listening to podcasts about sleep, keep reading about sleep and I mean once you start a star gonna show up in the algorithm so it’s going to be doing the work for you but like keep up on motivation on why you want to be doing this. Learn what keeps you up at night and and start addressing those things. For many of us it can be caffeine, paying attention to how we

You are consuming caffeine, maybe reducing intake to earlier in the day. Our phones keep us up not just the blue light, but the addictive nature of scrolling. You may have heard me mention years ago, I switched to no more phones at night, I’m only going to read books and I was like reading on a Kobo or whatever. And that really helped me a ton. It helped me get to bed earlier. But there’s still times that I just kind of want to catch up on social media, I haven’t done it all day. So I do scroll at night set a limit for yourself.

I’m also going to link the phone habits episodes, there’s some worksheets that you can work through if you want to set some intentional phone habits.

If you are on your phone, and you’re like I’m scrolling way too much try to switch to something more boring. I like to do a crossword puzzle, set your phone to grayscale, set it to have a red tint. I’m going to link a link in the show notes about that about setting up a red tint on your phone. And I’ll talk about why it’s important in a second. And another thing that can keep us up is mental anxiety.

Like I mentioned, we’re finally still we’re finally quiet. And our brain steps up on the stage. And it’s like, Hey, I’ve been trying to talk to you all day long, we have all of these things we need to stress about. And this happens to us at night. So a common tool is a brain dump before bed. And this is really writing out all of that mental chatter in your head all of the To Do lists in the errands that feel like they are just cluttering up your head. This is decluttering your brain. So give yourself like three minutes, set a three minute timer, a two minute timer, and just write down some lists on paper or saved into your notes app, just give it somewhere to live. And I’ll link it some more information on brain dumps in the show notes because those are one of my most favorite tools for reducing anxiety.

And so we’re focusing on reducing the things that keep us up. And now let’s talk about the things that help us sleep better. Most of us feel like we can’t relax at the end of the night. What helps you actually relax and most of us will turn to alcohol. And that can help us fall asleep quickly. But there’s more science showing that it might help us fall asleep quickly but it’s not actually giving you a well rested sleep through the whole night. Once it wears off, you actually have a poor sleep for the rest of the night.

Something that helps me relax that I’ve started enjoying is magnesium and I was taught this by our naturopath that my family goes to the benefits of ashwagandha and magnesium. And even my kids will have magnesium at the end of the night and I’m going to link what we use in the show notes. So we just have like a little hot magnesium drink. Try to make it cozy. I mean tea who wants to drink tea and if you’re going to be up go to the bathroom all night. Tea does not taste that good. I’m sorry, guys. Unless unless it’s coffee. I don’t want it in my cup.

So biased I feel like to last so I think tea is Garbage Water. Sorry you can unfollow but can we still be friends if I don’t like tea. Another thing that can really help relax is a hot bath. I mean water therapy. One of my favorite things to do at the end of the night is a hot bath and I just put the iPad on the stool in the bathroom and I watch a show that just I like to watch it’s kind of indulgent. Another thing that can help you sleep better is to consider your light sources. And I’m talking about the type of light that we’re getting in our eyeballs.

You may have seen people around the internet’s talking about blue light blockers blue light blocking glasses. And one study that I came across a blue light is currently considered to have the strongest effect in synchronizing human circadian rhythms. Exposure to low levels of blue light as well as bright light during night or before bedtime may disrupt the circadian rhythm with severe general health implications. I’ll link that study in the show notes. So that circadian circadian rhythm is that our daily rhythm of our body where it’s secreting various hormones that control things like sleep and digestion, and light impacts that our bodies are made to sync up with the natural light of the world. So we have that morning light and that evening light where it’s more yellow or red and broad daylight is more blue and we’re very awake in broad daylight generally speaking, however, we’re living now in a world where we’re on screens all day, we move from one screen to the next constantly through our day and end our days on a screen. And that blue light is telling our bodies what to do what our circadian circadian rhythm should be. So when we are getting so much blue light in our day, without the triggers of the properly timed red and yellow hue lights, our body’s going to struggle to set circadian circadian rhythms. So blue light blocking glasses is one option. Getting natural light in the morning is another great option. I’m going to link Huberman lab with his toolkit for sleep. And Huberman Lab is a really great researcher Dr. Haberman, his podcasts are crazy long but he is just full of the most current research and tips and I’m going to make sure to link him in the show notes because he’s

been a big source of information for me as I’ve looked for all of the benefits and strategies for sleep. And finally, I hate to say, guys, but the science is out there that exercise increases the amount of deep sleep we get in the night. I mean, of course it does, right. We’re all hearing the benefits of exercise. So that’s going to be a whole other podcast. So let’s do one goal at a time. If sleep is something that you are really wanting to work on, the ultimate issue is building self trust. It means showing up for yourself, keeping your own promises to yourself, and being someone who does what they say they will do for you. I have a whole episode on this in the show notes. Of course, I’m gonna link it, the reality is we’re very good at showing up for others. If we have an obligation in the next morning with a person, we most likely will ensure we get to bed at a good time.

But what can really be most beneficial for us is doing this for ourselves as well. Over the years I’ve worked on going to bed early for me, because it’s what I want. Because I want to feel well rested, I want to feel like I’m doing this really seemingly simple thing that can impact not just tomorrow, but from what I’m reading the next decades of my life.

And as we wrap up, I wanted to quickly touch on the notion of rest, I have an episode on this that I’m going to link so I’m not going to go too much in depth. What I’ve come to understand is that we are not designed to be in a constant state of motion, and exhaustion. We are designed for periods activity and periods of rest. We need that rest to restore us for activity. I hate to hear women who are like I do all these things, and then I burn out and then I feel like I just am doing it all wrong. We often just aren’t giving ourselves enough rest within smaller doses in our life. Some of us think we need to earn rest, which is a whole other conversation, isn’t it earn rest. Many of us don’t want to rest because it means giving up that constant productivity, or the constant distractions that we are just vibing on. And some of us don’t know how to truly rest. We’re accepting cheap substitutes. Like, I’m going to just spend 20 minutes on the couch scrolling on my phone, and we’re calling it rest. We are not actually refreshed, refreshed from that that is not restful. So I do encourage you to try more periods of true rest in your day and in your week. The episode that I did in the past was on taking a day of rest as a mum.

It’s hard to do as a mom, isn’t it? Like how do we manage all the people in the chores and still feel like we’re taking a day of rest. And for me this looks like a Sunday for me. I call it church and chill. And I really ultimately try to be off my phone. The kids can watch TV, we can watch TV I am going to read that is my whole goal on a Sunday is to sit somewhere cozy, drink a coffee and read and just unhook myself from the busyness and the relentlessness of inner expectations, right. It’s almost like a personal internal thing where I am letting go of putting all that pressure on myself for the day. So go check that out, check out the show notes. They’re always full of as many links as I can think of that are related to the topic. And we’re going to carry on this conversation we’re going to keep talking about our basic needs. I’m going to talk about movement and connection. And like I mentioned that one getting dressed. It’s a really unique one that’s fulfilling some interesting needs for us. I would love to hear from you. As always guys. I love to hear back from you. I love this to be a conversation two sided. So please tag me on Instagram. If you are listening to this at simple on purpose.ca. Take me let me know what you’ve liked. or message me on Instagram at simple on purpose.ca. And if you’re part of this simple Saturday’s email, that’s the email that comes out twice a month. And it’s kind of like a behind the scenes, extra tips, extra insights, some links from the archives some fun stuff. If you’re on that email, you can also always hit reply and email me back there. Alright friends, have a great day.


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