Eight Hours Tonight: Sleep Tricks for Grown-Ups

When my oldest son was 9 months old and got back the opportunity to sleep at night without waking every 45 minutes, I thought, “Finally! Now I get to catch up on sleep!” I couldn’t wait to start getting my 8 hours of zzz’s again and knew I’d be much better for it.

However, I suddenly found myself facing an issue I’d never faced before. After so many sleepless nights over the last year, I had begun to struggle with sleep issues of my own and suffered with insomnia often. I felt like I needed to re-train my body to sleep well again!

As I trained to become a certified child sleep consultant, I learned that good sleep hygiene, schedule, routines and a great sleep environment aren’t just for babies! These things are invaluable for adult sleep as well.

It is recommended that adults get 7 hours of sleep as a bare minimum, but over one-third of adults don’t hit that mark.

In this blog post, I’m compiling all of my best tips and tricks for grown-up sleep, as well as things that helped me personally to get my good sleep quality (and quantity!) back.

Early bedtime

My best tip of all is super simple, but it’s a habit that I find many of us parents fall into without even thinking. When we are working or taking care of the kids all day- or doing both simultaneously!- nothing feels better than tucking the kids into bed and spending some time with your partner or having some personal time. I often use this time to work out, clean the house, binge on some Netflix, follow up with clients, take a shower, or tie up any other loose ends from my day. Even if I get my kiddos in bed by 7:00pm, that time goes FAST. I can’t be the only one that finds myself cleaning the entire house and then laying in bed with wet hair glued to my third episode of The Great British Baking Show at 11:32pm. Wait, am I really the only one? ????

Early bedtime is important for three reasons

  1. In a very practical sense, it just gives you more POSSIBLE time to sleep. If you go to bed at 9:45pm, and you have a less than ideal night where it takes you an hour to fall asleep and your kiddo wakes you up at 6:00am, you still got over seven solid hours of sleep. If you go to bed at midnight, it takes you 30 minutes to fall asleep and your little one wakes you up early or you have to get up early for work, you’re looking at 5.5 hours of sleep which is a huge difference in quantity and quality!
  2. We get our best sleep between the hours of 10pm and 2am! According to sleep research, we get the most out of our body’s natural rise in melatonin by going to sleep around 10pm. Sleep is most deep and restorative earlier on in the night, becoming more superficial past 2am. Sleeping at these times works with our body’s natural circadian rhythm, rather than against it.
  3. Just like kids, we get overtired! We might not have a huge meltdown about the cartoon character on our Band Aid when we get overtired, but our body does get that “wired” feeling when we ignore our sleepy cues for too long and our body becomes flooded with cortisol and adrenaline! Becoming overtired makes it much more difficult to fall asleep, stay asleep, and can cause early morning wakings.

Limiting screens

It’s well-known that a dim and dark environment is best for our body as we approach bedtime!

Ideally, we wouldn’t have our phones or televisions in our bedrooms, not look at screens anytime after 6pm, and this would greatly help our sleep quality. Modern-day screens, which emit blue light, can delay our circadian rhythm and suppress our body’s ability to secrete melatonin. Melatonin is the hormone that tells our body it’s time to sleep and helps us feel sleepy.

Yeah, I’m not giving up my TV time or Instagram scrolling after my kids go to bed and I doubt you are either! 

More practical advice I feel is to get blue light blocking glasses like these from Amazon to wear while you’re scrolling or watching TV. This is what I use! These glasses help to block blue light to encourage melatonin production and help you to fall asleep easier. I also recommend turning off the TV 30 minutes before you’d like to fall asleep and switch to reading or something else less stimulating. 

Reading

Speaking of reading! I didn’t look for any studies to back this up, but reading or praying has been extremely helpful for me personally when I struggle to fall asleep. Sometimes laying down and just willing yourself to sleep can make you automatically feel wide awake. Stressing about not being able to fall asleep can make this feeling even worse. 

Doing something that keeps your mind occupied while not being too stimulating can really help you wind down and begin to fall asleep. Reading on my Kindle or praying has always been my go-to when I find I’m having trouble winding down. There are lots of sleep meditations that you can find on meditation apps or YouTube that might help you as well.

Magnesium

Studies suggest that at least half of people in the United States are magnesium deficient. There are MANY studies on magnesium being helpful for a large number of things, including sleep (and anxiety, which can make sleeping really difficult!) This is a more thorough explanation from Psychology Today about the link between magnesium deficiency and sleep issues:

 “Insomnia is a common symptom of magnesium deficiency. People with low magnesium often experience restless sleep, waking frequently during the night. Maintaining healthy magnesium levels often leads to deeper, more sound sleep. Magnesium plays a role in supporting deep, restorative sleep by maintaining healthy levels of GABA, a neurotransmitter that promotes sleep. Research indicates supplemental magnesium can improve sleep quality, especially in people with poor sleep.” 

I personally take 400mg of magnesium glycinate around 8pm and it has helped me a lot! (Remember to run any supplements by your doctor, this is not to be taken as medical advice!)

Weighted blanket

We recently started sleeping with a weighted blanket and it has been a GAME. CHANGER. I’m not a sleep cuddler. I get too hot, stressed that I can’t move without waking my husband, one of my limbs always falls asleep and I need to turn around, and I like to have my space (sorry, babe!) A weighted blanket is like all of the benefits of cuddling without getting overheated and half your body going numb. 

For me, it is immediately calming. I find that it helps me fall asleep at bedtime initially more quickly, and also (probably even moreso) if I’m ever up with the kids at night, it helps me to fall back asleep very quickly. We used to have a full sized weighted blanket that my husband and I would fight over, but ever since Baloo gifted us one of their amazing King size 20lb. weighted blankets, we’ve been able to share it no problem. I thought that a weighted blanket might feel hot, but our Baloo blanket stays cool all night. 

There have been limited studies on weighted blankets, but there is definitely some science tying deep pressure therapy from a weighted blanket to lessening of anxiety and calming your body’s nervous system, both of which promote more restful sleep. I highly recommend Baloo’s cozy weighted blankets!

Low temperature

We joke that we keep our house as cold as the Arctic tundra at night (for us this is about 67-68 degrees Fahrenheit). We all wear long sleeves and pants and have adequate bedding to stay warm! But did you know that a cool temperature at night helps sleep? Melatonin and your core body temperature have relationship where melatonin helps to cool your body at night, and in turn a cool environment helps melatonin levels linger in your body as the night wears on. Although under 60 degrees is considered too cold, 67-70 degrees is the sweet spot for night sleep!

White noise

White noise has several benefits for sleep.

First of all, white noise can be a big help drown out environmental noise and keep us from being startled out of sleep by our partner snoring, car honks, the dog scratching, or whatever other little noises happen during the night.

White noise has also been shown to be overall beneficial for sleep quality. Use a white noise that stays on all night and is non-looping noise (that won’t fade in and out). True “white noise” is a steady state sound (sounds like a fan, static or a constant shhhhhhh). Even if your white noise machine offers a rainstorm or ocean sounds or something similar, that is not technically white noise and won’t offer the same benefits.

Benefits from white noise are shown to peak at 65db. Download a free decibel measuring app to make sure your volume is at the right level without being too loud!

Turn that monitor down!

As a parent, many of us have cameras in our kids’ rooms with a handheld screen on our nightstand so that we can keep an eye and respond if they have a night waking. I have this as well and probably will for years, but I highly recommend turning the monitor to its lowest volume setting, or keeping it on a medium setting and putting it across the room from you. Unless you have a history of being an incredibly heavy sleeper (which I doubt you do if you’re reading this blog post!) baby rolling around in the middle of the night or fussing for a second in their sleep is enough to startle you out of sleep. Keep it down low- if little ones are truly crying you will absolutely still hear and wake to respond!

Would you add any tips or tricks to this list?

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I’m Katelyn,
Award-winning pediatric sleep consultant, child development expert, and most importantly, wife and mom.
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