Common sleep issues (and their solutions) for mums

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At first, you tell yourself you'd do anything if your baby would sleep through the night. Then, she does. But now it's you who's struggling to get some zzz's. What's going on?

Here are the top four reasons I struggle to sleep - along with expert advice on how to fix them.

Reason 1: But I don't wanna go to bed! 

While I don't lie down on the floor and tantrum because it's bedtime, I do avoid going to bed, and it's pretty easy to understand why.

Once the kids are asleep it's par-tay time in my world. (And by party, I mean it's time for me to curl up on the couch with a bag of marshmallows while watching The Bachelor.)

I don't have to get up to wipe someone's bottom, get someone a glass of water or do anything for anyone. In other words, it's heaven. So why would I want to go to bed just as the night's warming up?

Solution: Sleep physician Dr David Cunnington understands why we do this - it's totally normal. 

His advice is to establish a good bedtime routine for the kids so they go to sleep at a reasonable time. This then leaves us adults with plenty of time to unwind, without needing to go to bed too late ourselves.

Reason 2: Once I'm in bed, I can't stop thinking


When my husband's head hits the pillow it takes him approximately 3.142 seconds before he's deep in la-la land. While I'm happy for him that he has such a wonderful ability to fall asleep, I'm also jealous. You see, as soon as my head hits the pillow my mind fills up.

I'm kind of like SJP in I Don't Know How She Does It (the part where she lies in bed and makes all those lists; not the part where she runs in high heels in the snow. Ain't nobody I know that can do that.)

My mind just keeps going and going and going ...

Solution: To combat overthinking, Dr Cunnington recommends doing your thinking out of bed. Then, if you find yourself overthinking once you're in bed, he recommends getting up and doing something else till you're sleepy again.

"Don't smash out work emails or play games on your iPad, but do something that is relaxing or nurturing like reading a book," he says. 

Reason 3: I want it too bad

You know how cats can sense desperation and head straight towards the person that's least interested in them? I think it works the same way with sleep.

I want sleep so bad, I scare sleep off.

All day I walk around in a coffee-perked-up haze of yawns and promises to myself about having an early night, but once I'm lying in bed it's like sleep can smell how desperate I am and stays away accordingly.

Solution: "Sleep comes when [the] mind and body are ready, not when we will it to come," explains Dr Cunnington. He says too many people go to bed at the time they wish to go to sleep, but then lie in bed trying desperately to nod off.

"A better approach is to not go to bed until we feel sleepy - that is, heavy eyelids or getting 'head nods'."

Reason 4: The kids ...

Finally, when I do succumb to sleep, a little someone is up. The hard part is that it could be any of my three children. 

When I had my first baby I had some bizarre notion that once she started sleeping through the night I could kiss our kid-related sleep issues farewell. Little did I know that children could end up waking during the night for a multitude of reasons, regardless of their age.

There are fevers, nightmares, trips to the bathroom, important questions ("What happens if someone has never eaten spaghetti, Mummy?"), and general nighttime waking.

Of course if my husband gets up for one of the kids, he simply presses 'pause' on his sleep button, and 'play' again once he's back in bed (and boom, he's fast asleep).

But if I get up, my sleep button rewinds and I find myself right back again at the beginning ...

Solution: It's actually normal to wake up at least twice during the night, says Dr Cunnington - and this happens to everyone, not just parents.

The key, he says, is not to stress about the fact you were woken and get caught up thinking things like, 'I'm having such a bad night, I'll be so exhausted tomorrow'.

Instead, he advises relaxing and just letting sleep happen. "Most people find once they stop trying to sleep, sleep comes."

The truth is, I knew being a mum would be tiring, but I didn't realise how often I'd be the cause of my own sleeplessness. But tonight, I'm going to take Dr Cunnington's advice on board and aim to sleep easy.

I just hope my kids do too ...

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