Expert tips on how moms can sleep better

Published May 8, 2022, 1:43 AM

by Jane Kingsu-Cheng

And put the kids to sleep, too!

Moms are the most sleep-deprived, and they just can’t help it! With so many to-do list going through their heads, in between or even while doing their chores or errands, or even while they’re in bed trying to go to sleep, it really is hard to get a good night’s sleep—and an uninterrupted one at that.

The team behind German mattress Emma confirms that sleep indeed plays a crucial role in letting us live a better and fruitful life, be it physically, emotionally, or professionally. They added that sleep deprivation can also affect one’s mood and wellbeing. And we all know how important it is for a mom to stay happy, right?

So how do we set the mood and the path to a happy mom life? In an exclusive interview with Emma’s very own head of sleep research and neurobiologist Dr. Verena Senn for some insights and how to have healthy sleeping habits, not just for moms, but for the whole family.

Manila Bulletin Lifestyle (MBL): Can you share three to five tips on how moms can have better sleeping habits? 
Senn: I am hesitant to give smart tips on sleep habits here. If the baby does not sleep at night, what should the parents do? Babies do need to entrain to the day and night cycle when they get born. The days are completely driven by their need to eat and sleep. Only slowly they will start having longer sleep periods targeted to the night. As a mom and neuroscientist my advice would be:
1. Keep calm. Things will eventually become better.
2. Try to sleep when your baby sleeps. Do not care too much on cleaning the house or anything.
3. Ask for help. Maybe a friend or grandparents can help to look after the baby while you can take a nap.
4. Enjoy this time as much as possible. In the retrospective, it is very short

MBL: Moms with newborn babies get to sleep the least. Do you have any tips on how they can get better sleep? 
Senn: My first advice is to try to sleep when your baby sleeps. If it is during the day , don’t be perfectionist. Rather, relax while your baby sleeps instead of thinking of the next to do’s. That’s what your body needs right now.
Don’t stress yourself during this time. You are okay and your baby is okay. It is important to accept that your sleep will not be the same for some time, but this totally fine and your body can deal with it. If you still feel sad or stressed, it is a good option to ask your family and friends for help. These time slots you can really use for yourself, relax, and sleep. 

MBL: What should one do when they have trouble sleeping?
Senn: If you have trouble sleeping, do not try to compensate by spending more and more hours in bed as this is counterproductive. If you cannot sleep, get up and do something else until you feel tired. You cannot force yourself to sleep. Listening to an audiobook, reading, knitting, or looking at your baby might help, but avoid watching TV, gaming, or reading on your mobile device, this might have the opposite effect.
In general, try to keep constant schedules as much as your baby allows it. For instance, you could start settling your baby for sleep always around 9:00 p.m. and start integrating this sleep schedule for yourself as well. You might wake up early, but this is fine. Embrace the hours of sleep you had.
If you feel your sleep debt is severely impacting your day and your ability to cope with stress, seek help from your doctor or midwife.

MBL: What are the top five reasons why we have a hard time sleeping and how do we correct this?  
Senn: My top five reasons we have a hard time sleeping are:
1. Stress and mind. Don’t stress yourself during this time and accept the situation, also your new sleep schedule. It’s okay and your body can deal with the sleep debt.
2. Irregular bed times. Try setting up regular schedules.
3. Seeing the wrong light at the wrong time points.
4. Alcohol. Even though it feels that alcohol can help us fall asleep by relaxing us, it actually compromises sleep quality a lot. Especially the second half of the night is affected, where we wake up more often and struggle to go back to sleep.
5. Too much sitting and not enough movement. Get up and move. If you don’t have time or energy for sports, just take a long walk with the stroller (that will also expose you to a great amount of daylight, see also number three).

MBL: Babies, children in general, are so hard to put to sleep. Any tips on how to put them to sleep faster?
Senn: A bedtime routine could help. For instance, always playing the same song while making the baby ready for the night, dimming the lights already while preparing your baby for bed or reading a night time story.
Furthermore, a clear separation between day and night might help your baby to adapt to it—quietness and darkness during the night and daylight and a certain level of sound during the day. The clearer the separation is, the easier it is for your baby.
Be lenient with you and your child. Babies and mothers are different. When things do not go the same like your friends’, it does not mean you do something wrong. The more relaxed and confident you are, the more and better you can deal with difficulties.

MBL: What are your thoughts on co-sleeping?
Senn: In Germany, co-sleeping is actually quite common as well. Co-sleeping can mean both, sharing the bedroom, but also the habit of sharing the parents’ bed with the newborn.
I recommend co-sleeping, but only co-sleeping meaning sharing the bedroom—sharing the bed with the newborn can be very dangerous and should be avoided. Statistics show that sleeping on a different surface in the parents’ room is safer than either bed-sharing or having a newborn sleep in a separate room.
As sleep scientists, we really feel the urge to spread awareness concerning this kind of behavior which may look unoffensive but can result in regrettable events such as SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). For this reason, we advise you to have a crib near your bed with the right surface for your baby.
The reason is that toddlers sleeping on a too-soft surface have been linked to higher chances of suffocation. Indeed, the statistics reveal that babies who slept on a soft surface had a five-fold increased risk of sudden death.

MBL: Do you have tips on how to prepare children to sleep on their own? 
Sleeping on their own is a next big step for your kid, therefore I suggest to first of all, make his/her space a safe space—making it cozy and familiar. Here it is important that your kid always sleeps in his / her same space without changing locations many times.
Also, don’t let your kid cry. They should know that somebody will come and help them in the case they feel not well. Babies are helpless and dependent on their parents. Thirdly, a routine without exceptions is critical. Lastly, a baby phone with tones to calm down might support usch as the parent’s voice or other calming tones such as heartbeat or white noises.

MBL: How do we take out the mess made by babies and children from the bed and pillows? 
Senn: I don’t have a specific recommendation here – cleaning it in the same way as other similar materials, thus using the washing machine. On the other side, there are bedsheets where pee cannot go through. These bedsheets can be used for a certain time, but usually these sheets do not feel comfortable and warm, which is why I would recommend to use normal bedding and cleaning it in the washing machine.