A Sleep Consultant’s Top 5 Tips to Reduce “Momxiety” and Improve Sleep
Momxiety. I’m sure if you looked it up in the dictionary, you’d find a picture of a “mombie” flanked by text reading, “The feeling that comes over moms when their desire to fulfill the needs of their family doesn’t match how they feel about the way they’re executing it.” It’s difficult, it doesn’t feel good, and it definitely doesn’t help you sleep any better.
What’s a mombie to do?
As a mother of two who’s been through the ups and downs of sleep issues and found ways to manage the “momxiety” through my work as an Adult Sleep Consultant and Functional Diagnostic Nutritionist, I have some tried-and-true tips to share with you to help you get back to sleep and start feeling like Supermom again.
1. Have a Resting and Relaxing Bedtime Routine
Bedtime routines aren’t just for kids! Humans are creatures of habit, and we thrive off of predictability and routine, too. When our bodies know what to expect, we are better able to adjust quickly into the next step of what’s to come — in this case: sleep.
I can’t stress this enough: your bedtime routine does not have to be long! I know how hard it can be to find time for yourself when you’re already preoccupied with meeting the needs of your family. So try starting with a short routine. Try for at least 15 minutes if you can.
A simple 15-minute bedtime routine can look like this:
10:30 PM - turn on a diffuser with lavender, chamomile, or vetiver essential oils to promote relaxation and dim the lights; light a candle or use a flameless candle to cue melatonin
10:35 PM - stretch 5 minutes beside the bed
10:40 PM - read, meditate or engage in deep breathing until sleepy
10:45 PM - jump into bed and lights out
The point of the routine is to transition your body and mind from the final moments of the day into sleep land. This way, you’re not using the time when you should be sleeping to try to unwind.
2. Take a Warm Bath or Shower to Lower Your Body Temperature
Fun fact: for the body to start producing melatonin to fall and stay asleep, our core body temperature has to lower by 2º F.
It’s pre-programmed into our DNA for this to happen, as it remains from the prehistoric days when our ancestors slept outside at night. The sun would set, the earth would cool, and our ancestors would be cued that it was time for rest. Then, as the sun rose, the ambient temperature would rise again, cueing the body that it was time to wake and stimulate the production of cortisol.
This phenomenon still happens, except now we sleep indoors, and we don’t use the sun and its heat as the only way to cue us when it’s time to wake up and go to sleep. That said, our body is still triggered by environmental cues to know when it’s time for rest and wakefulness. Temperature is one of those environmental cues.
By incorporating a warm bath or shower into your bedtime routine, you assist your body with the cool-down process and aid in the production of melatonin. When your body is immersed in the warm water, it heats up. Then, when you get out of the water, blood rushes to the surface of your skin, away from your core and effectively reducing your core body temperature.
Bonus: add Epsom salts to your bath to soak in magnesium which will calm your body and mind.
3. Limit Your Blue Light Exposure
The sun is the strongest natural stimulator of cortisol for the body. Its blue and green daytime light waves send a signal to our brain through neuron data receptors in our eyes, telling us, “Hey! It’s daytime! Time to be up and at ’em!”
This worked really well as an alert cue back in the day when we weren’t surrounded by artificial light. Now, however, our world is filled with screens and LEDs and other bright lights that emit those same blue and green light waves at all hours of the day and night, alerting us with the same message, “Hey! It’s still daytime! Time to be up and at ’em!”
This becomes a real problem at night when our bodies should be winding down and depleting itself of cortisol. Instead, we’ve decided to watch Trolls with our kid to help keep them occupied before bed, knowing full well that we’re going to change it to Bravo the minute they go to bed (if they go to bed). What we’ve just done is send a huge data influx of 2+ hours of blue and green light waves into our system, and now our cortisol has skyrocketed. We’re going to be up for a loooooong time…
Help yourself remedy this by addressing it in a couple of directions:
First, make a rule for yourself that you’ll turn off your screens and dim the lights at least 1 hour before you plan on going to bed. (Mom Tip: make this rule for your kids, too, to help them sleep — but turn those screens off and dim those lights even earlier — 1.5-2 hours before their bedtime!)
Second, get yourself a pair of blue-blocking glasses — but not just any blue-blocking glasses. You want a pair that block out at least 95% of blue and green light. I recommend these cuties by Stockholm Squared (I use them myself!) (PS: You can use the code KELLY25 to save 25% off your order.)
Not only will you be able to wear these before bed to help block out any pesky blue and green light, but you can also wear them in the middle of the night when your kid wakes up calling for you. In doing so, you’ll help prevent your body from producing extra cortisol while assisting your kiddo during that 3:00 AM night waking.
(PS: having trouble with kiddo’s night wakings? Sign up for my free night waking guide here→)
4. Breathe In… 2… 3… 4… Breathe Out… 2… 3… 4…
Believe it or not, just doing some deep breathing will help calm you down when the “momxiety” starts to creep in. If you’ve ever had to sneak away to the bathroom to get a moment’s peace, you may want to do some deep breathing while you’re there. The research doesn’t lie: deep breathing can reduce cortisol levels in women by 50%.
Belly breathing internally massages the solar plexus and the vagus nerve, the communication pathway between our gut and brain. There’s a reason we have sayings like, “I have a gut feeling…”, “I have butterflies in my stomach…”, etc. Our gut is called our “second brain” for how in tune it is with our stress, sleep, hormones, and mood. (Take a look at my blog post on Gut Dysbiosis to learn how gut imbalances affect sleep here→)
So the next time you find yourself in a stressful situation or emotions are running high (like when you won’t let your toddler wear their bike helmet to bed and now they’re having a tantrum), take some deep breaths. Teach your kiddo how to do some deep breathing, too, and you can do it together. The calm will come. Breathe.
5. Don’t Just Lie There
Nothing is worse than lying awake in bed, trying to sleep, stressing about not being able to sleep, and then thinking about how bad the next day is going to be because you aren’t sleeping, so then you don’t sleep.
When that happens, the best thing you can do is don’t just lie there.
Get out of your bed. Go to a dimly lit, screen-free area of your home and do a very boring or mundane activity until you find yourself getting tired again. Read an instruction manual. Organize papers. Rake a zen garden.
When I went through this myself during my own bout of insomnia (before I found a sleep coach), I would organize the boxes in our playroom. It was just mundane enough that I didn’t get carried away with the task, and it gave me something to do so that I wasn’t focused on not being able to sleep. Then, when I found myself getting tired again, I went back to my bed.
This tip is particularly important because you don’t want to start associating your bed with not sleeping. Instead, you want to get out of your bed, get tired again, and then get back in your bed when you’re sleepy. That way, your bed is always associated with sleep — not stress and anxiety.
Lastly: Trust Your Gut. Literally.
If you’ve tried all five tips above and still experiencing sleep issues, there may be an underlying issue causing your disrupted sleep. Hidden stressors such as gut health issues, hormonal imbalances, or something else could be at play, and that’s when functional lab testing can come in handy.
Speak with your physician or a functional medicine doctor about the possibility of running a panel of lab tests to help identify what else is going on beneath the surface.
You can also talk to me — I’m a Functional Diagnostic Nutritionist, and I run a series of lab tests in my adult sleep coaching program to identify what hidden stressors may be causing your sleep disturbances. Lab testing saved my sleep (and my sanity), and I know firsthand how impactful it can be for improving wellbeing.
Sleep is more than just recharging your batteries. It maintains and improves your health, boosts your mood, and helps you be a better parent — because no one can function optimally when they’re depleted. If you’re sleep-deprived and stressed, try these tips and see if you discover a change. If you don’t, know that there is help. Don’t be afraid to ask for it. Even Supermoms need a little hand sometimes.
Kelly Murray is a Certified Adult Sleep Coach, Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner, and Award-Winning Pediatric Sleep Consultant. She is the founder and owner of Kelly Murray Sleep Consulting, based in Chicago and offering individualized sleep solutions worldwide for individuals of all ages - 0 to 100!
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Note: Guest blog posts are shared for informational and educational purposes and may not reflect the official policy or position of SlumberPod (parent company, Dovetail Essentials, LLC), our employees and/or contractors.