Updated: Nov 7, 2020
I had a question come in about how I manage my sleep and my job which involves swing dancing at late-night parties. It's hard enough being a mom but what do we do when our job or passion involves staying up late? I will be honest, I struggle a lot with establishing the good sleep habits I know I should. That being said, I have done quite a lot of research on this topic so let me share with you what I know and what has worked well for me as a mom of two boys.
First, let's talk about the general topic of sleep.
You Need It.
That being said, most people don't have efficient sleep. If you know you need to sacrifice hours of sleep, think about maximizing the sleep you DO get. Wellness Mama has several great articles on improving sleep for a mama like this one.
A friend of mine told me once she utilizes sleep cycles which are usually around 1.5-hour increments. Mine is slightly longer. I have definitely used this successfully in the past, especially in those times I was out late working a job and had to catch an early flight. It's tempting to want to get as much sleep as possible in those moments but working with your cycles will be more optimal (meaning a 1.5-hour chunk of time might be more optimal than 2 hours).
Light therapy is another thing you can try. When we are out late at night, we are exposed to harsh lights that trick our bodies into thinking it's daytime. You can counteract this and support your circadian rhythm by wearing blue light blocking glasses. And they are so popular now, you can find cute options.
On a daily basis the two biggest influences I have found in maximizing my sleep are:
Go to bed before 1030pm. 10 pm would be optimal. Before or after that and I wake up sleepy (even if I get more hours). This might be tough for some which lead me to the next suggestion.
Magnesium Glycinate. Most people are deficient in Magnesium. I tried the more common Citrate (Like the popular Natural Calm product) for a while to no effect. Once my naturopath turned me on to Magnesium Glycinate, it was a game-changer. If you have physical anxiousness or insomnia, this is worth a try. I often need this when I need to wind down fast for bed. It's also great to counteract any alcohol you might have consumed on your night out.
Your Toxic Bucket.
Holistic health professionals often talk about one's body like a bucket. The bucket can be filled with a certain amount of toxins and still function. "Toxins" (things that can cause inflammation) can include stress and the things you eat, etc. Now if that bucket were to overflow, we start to see problems like fatigue, allergies, anxiety, etc. I like to think of the body as a bathtub because drainage is just as important. Your body detoxes while it sleeps so if you are not sleeping, you are not efficiently detoxing.
So that being said, if you are determined to pursue your late nights (dancing), think about how you can balance the healthy and not so healthy. You can do this by reducing inflammation in all aspects of your life. What you eat and put on your body should be organic. Rid your home of harsh chemicals. Meditate or practice other methods to tame harmful stress. Try cutting out that morning coffee or nightly glass of wine.
And what about your detox protocols? If you are sacrificing some sleep, drinking water is your best chance at detoxing. Different people say different things but if you are breastfeeding and not sleeping enough, aim to drink almost a gallon (if the water is filtered but still with its good minerals). You may not ever make it that far but it's good to aim high! You can also try saunas, dry brushing, and supplements to support you even more.
The Big Sacrifice.
I'm just gonna be frank and say the part no mama wants to hear: I don't go out that much anymore. Now, my husband and I (we are dance partners) were still traveling to teach quite a bit with our first so we partied a lot with him. I know it's possible. But for me, it became stressful and not worth it. On the occasion I DO go out, my husband not only needs to agree to watch the kids at night but also let me sleep in or take a nap the next day. I can't go out late and then get up at 6 am with the kids. This can be tricky if your husband has a job in the morning. In this situation, my next step would be to budget in a babysitter to come the following mornings I go out to help me get that extra rest. Can't afford it? I see no shame in giving your older kid an iPad to get an extra hour of sleep here or there.
If you are going out late because of your passion take some time and think, as specific as you can, about what your goal is and why you are going out late. When I had a local dance studio (that was also my home), I got the opportunity to have people come to me to dance. It was great because I could just go to my room and sleep while people still partied. It also eliminated the drive time. In other words, I set up my life to accommodate my job. Maybe there are ways to satisfy your passion or socialization needs without the late nights.
If late nights are your job and after trying all the suggestions above, you are still struggling, please respect your body's limits. It's just not sustainable to severely sacrifice sleep. I know it can sound scary at the thought of quitting a job or making a major life change but the ramifications of hardcore sleep deprivation are not worth it.
I would love to know what you mammas do for work or fun that keep you out late and how you manage it all!