It's 2:30 in the morning. Your baby had a bottle, burped, and is right back in the crib. Even though you have nothing else that needs to be done, you can't go back to sleep. Whether you are a stay-at-home parent or working full-time, you know how important it is that you get sleep as well. The problem is that you are wide awake and already making a mental list of the things you can be doing while it is quiet in the house.
Your whole body benefits when you get enough sleep. Your muscles grow and repair themselves. Your brain performs better, especially in tasks that require you to retain and memorize information. Even your overall mood is positively impacted by the amount of sleep you get. While your baby is still getting up in the middle of the night to eat, your sleep will be disruptive. Luckily you will get over this period. Until then, you need to sleep at night when you can so that you can be at your best when the bulk of your duties see the light of day.
Television may be background noise for some, but if you are planning on catching up on that thirty-minute show that you recorded, you will be up for at least another 30 minutes as you go back to bed. That is one hour lost that you will feel in the morning. Your emails will be there in the morning. Your social media feeds will not be affected if you wait a few more hours to post anything. You served your purpose when your baby needed you, and now your job is done. If you have any screen time before bed, research shows that you should shut it off 30 minutes before you go to sleep so that you can go to sleep sooner.
Did you use a bottle? Rinse it out. Did anything get on the burp cloth? Put it in the hamper. You don't have to wash dishes or do laundry just because there is something there. There are not many people who wake up in the middle of the night to scrub down the kitchen or do food prep. As long as you don't have any food sitting out or messes that have to be address right away, it will be fine by the time that you get up with your baby in the morning.
Your partner or family member may see the fatigue on your face or the bags under your eyes. If they offer to take a nighttime feeding so that you can get a full-night's rest, take the offer. Even if it is only one night, you will feel more rejuvenated. Even better, your partner will be able to share in the bonding moment with your little one. If you are breastfeeding, you can express your milk and store in the refrigerator for 3-5 days. You can also plan your schedules so that your partner can take the last feeding of the evening so that you can go to bed early. Those extra, uninterrupted hours of sleep can make a difference while allowing your partner to share the one-on-one time.
Even if you tried all of the strategies above and you still can't get back to sleep, you still need to make that effort. You may not fall asleep right away, but you have a better chance if you are laying down under covers in your own bed. Resist all of the distractions that may call to you. Lay down, listen to yourself breathe, and let sleep take over. Remember the times that you were tired and just wanted to lay down? The rest helped you relax and restore your energy. You may not have fallen asleep those times, but you were more rested than if you were still washing dishes or folding laundry.
If you have to do something to put yourself to sleep, consider a decaffeinated cup of tea like chamomile. Read a book that you find boring so that it will make you tired. Count sheep or imagine yourself on an inflatable lounge chair on the water that rocks you to sleep. You will find something that works for you so that you can go to sleep and be ready for the morning.