How to Get More Restful Sleep for the Whole Family

[Getting restful sleep is so important. Find out you can get more restful sleep for yourself and your kids.]

Do you long for the days when you could get a restful night's sleep, Mama?

You might be saying, “Yes, but my baby won't sleep!”

I get it, Mama. I struggle when I am not getting restful sleep too.

Sleep is such an important part of self care for both parents and children.

But there are many things that can keep you from getting restful sleep as a mom.

  • You might have a baby that's still learning to sleep through the night
  • Sick kiddos that need extra snuggles
  • Or even your own thoughts and worries that are keeping you up at night

Today, I talk with Dr. Sarah Mitchell all about sleep and how to create healthy sleep habits for a happy baby and mama. Get ready to learn not only how to help your baby sleep, but also how you as a mom can get more restful sleep as well.

[Please Note: This post may contain affiliate links. This means that Soul Care Mom may receive a small commission if you click through and make a purchase, at no additional cost to you. Please see disclaimers for more information.]

Catherine Wilde

Hi, Beautiful Mama. Welcome to the Soul Care Mom Podcast. I'm Catherine Wilde of soulcaremom.com. I'm a mama of three amazing kids, a Soul Care Mom Coach, and a yoga and meditation teacher.

Catherine Wilde

I have helped hundreds of women, and I'm here to help you feel calm and find your unshakable confidence as a mom. Think of this as a lunch date with a girlfriend. Grab a cup of tea and get cozy. It's time to get honest and vulnerable and shift the traditional mindset around motherhood. Be sure to subscribe to be the first to know when new episodes are released. Get ready to grow and feel empowered as a mom. I'm here for you, Mama.

Let's dive in.

How to Get More Restful Sleep

Catherine Wilde

Hi Dr. Sarah! Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with me today.

Dr. Sarah Mitchell

Oh, I'm super excited to be here. I totally appreciate all of the efforts that you do to help moms. So I'm really glad to be here.

Catherine Wilde

Thank you. And I would love to start by learning a bit about your journey. Would you care to share your journey with us regarding sleep as a mom and then how you came to help moms and babies get more restful sleep?

Dr. Sarah Mitchell

Yeah, sure. So I think I'm still on my journey, quite frankly. It continues. My kids are older now, though. They're seven and nine.

Dr. Sarah Mitchell

And my background is that I'm a chiropractor by training and I have a Bachelor's in kineseology.

Dr. Sarah Mitchell

And so when it was time to become a parent, I felt really confident that I would be able to tackle this and handle this. No problem at all.

Dr. Sarah Mitchell

And so you can I'm sure imagine my shock when my birth went sideways. Let's call it. Really, really tough and taumatic and very long healing process. And then I had this little guy who just wouldn't sleep more than two hour stretches. And I felt so tired, exhausted. And I turned to my friends and my doctor and such.

Dr. Sarah Mitchell

How do you get this kid to sleep? I must be missing one little thing. I must there must be one quick tip out there.

Dr. Sarah Mitchell

And, you know, a lot of the replies that I received, kind of dismissive. Oh just enjoy your baby.

Dr. Sarah Mitchell

This too shall pass. And you can never let them cry. And I'm thinking like, oh, gosh, I don't think I can really enjoy you be that much more because I'm so tired. I'm starting to feel kind of resentful.

Dr. Sarah Mitchell

And so that kind of kicked off my journey into figuring out sleep, researching sleep and putting a plan in place to teach our little one to sleep, which is a real big mental adjustment for me because I'd come from an attachment parenting background. So it was  a big shift mentally. But it was definitely one of the best things that I ever did for our family. We all got more sleep. We were much happier and were getting more restful sleep.

Dr. Sarah Mitchell

And then my daughter came along and I was determined not to go down that seeing shaky sleep row that you've been down before. So I started teaching her sleep habits really like week two. Just no tear, simple things to help her along. And that whole experience, those two together were kind of life changing. Because they're so passionate about sleep and wanted other parents to know what was available to them, they might not know.

And so I've been teaching parents to teach their little ones to sleep now since 2013.

Dr. Sarah Mitchell

And I'm definitely found what I was meant to do. And there's definitely something a little bit Freudian in here, because I still feel like every time I'm helping a parent who's waking up at six times the night, I'm kind of helping my postpartum anxiety ridden self that stage. But I really do enjoy this. You enjoy empowering parents to feel like they're rocking, this parenting thing because it's not really even just about the sleep. It's like the first real parenting obstacle that's actually a learned behavior.

Because the drive to sleep is biological, but the way we sleep is actually a learned habit. And so it's kind of fun to kind of shift the perspective on sleep for parents. Because we think you know, sleep should be this natural, instinctual thing. It's really not. So that's that's the big secret, really, that she wants to know. That's incredible.

Catherine Wilde

I remember with our first daughter and before we had any other kids and we didn't have events and things to go to, we did our best to, like, plan everything around her sleep schedule. And we tried to do that as our family grew as well. But, you know, it becomes more difficult.  We could easily see that it benefited her so much to get that restful sleep.

But on occasion, when we would go somewhere and she'd end up missing a nap or not getting a proper nap, I remember people would say things like, oh, she missed her nap. She's going to sleep so good tonight. But I knew that wasn't how it worked for us anyway.

Healthy Sleep Habits Happy Baby

Catherine Wilde

It was usually harder to get any of our kids to sleep, much less get restful sleep when they were overtired. But it took experiencing that and to figure it out because it was definitely not intuitive to me at first. I had to come to terms with the idea that keeping our baby up longer in between naps wouldn't actually help us sleep better. So can we talk a bit more about that?

The idea that sleep isn't necessarily natural, but a learned habit?

How to Get More Restful Sleep for the Whole Family - Soul Care Mom
Dr. Sarah Mitchell

Yeah, sure. So the drive to sleep is biological. So we all have a buildup of a protein in our blood that signals our brain that it's time to sleep. And it's actually really cool. Adenosine is the protein and it's a byproduct of ATP. And ATP is what your body uses for fuel. It breaks it down for fuel. Adenosine the byproduct that builds up and signals your brain to sleep. Which is cool if you think about like newborns and how much they need to nap.

Dr. Sarah Mitchell

It's related to how much they're growing and how much fuel they're burning through to fuel their growth. Right? And as kids get older, their rate of growth decreases and the amount of naps that they needs also decreases. So that's the science kind of part or the biological drive to sleep.

Dr. Sarah Mitchell

And then when you think about it as being a learned habit, like that's kind of mind-blowing. I definitely didn't think that when I was going through it. I think we're kind of given some funny messages in society because you see all these beautiful newborn photos of these little kids sleeping through the newborn photo sessions. All these beautiful natural pictures or babies sleeping restfully. Right? That really only happens in the first couple of weeks. And after that, they wake up to the world a little bit more.

Dr. Sarah Mitchell

And then people don't realize that they actually need to decide when it's time for their little kiddos to sleep. It doesn't just always happen naturally.

Dr. Sarah Mitchell

And if you think about yourself getting restful sleep, it's a learned behavior. It's kind of I said to you tonight, OK, I'm going to take away your pillows and your blankets and you can't sleep in your favorite position tonight. You would experience discomfort as you figure out a new way to relax yourself and to sleep. And that's that's kind of what's happening with our kiddos. For those of you who have kids already, you think back like how you needed to rock them or nurse them to fall asleep.

Dr. Sarah Mitchell

That was the learned behavior. When you decided to stop all those things, that's when you were teaching a new behavior. So I much prefer the term sleep teaching rather than some training, because it really is your teaching a new behavior. And I think training sounds so cruel. And in comparison to, like our pets, you know?

Catherine Wilde

Yes, the word training has got a negative connotation to it, for sure. Thank you for sharing that. That is fascinating.

My Baby Won't Sleep

Catherine Wilde

So one of the things that I'm really grateful for, even though, like figuring out sleep with our kids was definitely challenging at times, but it invited me to be more present with them. And I started to learn to read their cues, which I didn't do perfectly. But they did each have a way to show me when they were ready to rest. Once I kind of figured that out.

But do you have any tips to help moms tune into that?

Dr. Sarah Mitchell

So I find, you know, temperaments in children is one of the things that can dictate how easy it is to get them to sleep and what not. And some kids I find, like the sleepy signs are actually really hard to read. So I like to use the clock. And we call this awake times. The time by age which your child can comfortably stay awake for before it becomes harder to get them to fall asleep and stay asleep.

Dr. Sarah Mitchell

So like, for example, a toddler, let's say a two year old. They can usually stay awake roughly six and a half hours before nap time. And then after nap, usually it's four to five hours to be back asleep.

And what happens with toddlers, it's all counterintuitive. As they get more and more tired, they actually get more wired and crazy running around the house. And that can be really hard to know if your first time parent. That that's actually an overtired sign.

Dr. Sarah Mitchell

So I really like the awake times to help guide you and then the signs as your secondary measure to know like, oh, well, she did have that extra big nap today and we can let her start a little bit longer because her time has elapsed that she doesn't really seem very tired. Or gosh, that nap today was extra short because, you know, we were in the car and she pooped herself awake. So let's shave fifteen minutes off that awake time for today to help her recoup some of that lost time.

Catherine Wilde

That makes sense. Yeah. And that's easier to start with awake time because you can look at the clock and just know to aim for.

Dr. Sarah Mitchell

Yeah.

Dr. Sarah Mitchell

And as a mom to give you more predictability to your day, especially when you're in those younger months, you have so many naps.

Here's where you can get the chart to help you gauge awake times for your child.

Dr. Sarah Mitchell

And people that have young children, for example, a nine month old can really only comfortably stay awake for about three hours.

But one place a lot of people get kind of steered off track is bedtime. They read a lot of stuff online that says your child should be sleeping seven to seven. But quite frankly, a 12 hour overnight schedule for any kiddo less than a year and half. It's really hard. Eleven hours is much more common. Twelve hours is really hard to get.

The Secret to Restful Sleep at Bedtime

Dr. Sarah Mitchell

But bedtimes that are based on like when dad gets home are often too late for kids. Most kids wake up somewhere between 6am and 6:30 am based on their circadian rhythm sun.

And most of them up to school age years, need about eleven hours of sleep. That puts your bedtime somewhere between like 7-7:30pm. And so staying awake too long before bed. One of the risks is that you actually have more night waking. You also have like 5 am wake ups.

All humans wake the night. (types of sleep) But we're really tired or overtired we're so upset that we're awake or want more help. So we call for our mom or dad more easily than we were more well rested.


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Catherine Wilde

Let's pause for a moment, Mama. Are you ready to bring more calm into your days so you can enjoy motherhood and start being the mom you've always dreamed of being? Then this simple self care course can help you. This simple seven day course will help you bring more moments of self care to your days so you can start feeling calm and happy as a mom. In this mini course, you will receive a beautiful printable journal as well as seven short and sweet guided meditations.

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Why Women Need To Sleep More

Catherine Wilde

Sleep is so important for babies and children, but it's also really important for moms and not only getting enough sleep but getting like really good quality sleep, restful sleep, right? So do you have any tips to help moms get more restful sleep?

Dr. Sarah Mitchell

I sure do. So, I mean, I think it's undeniable that sleep is important for our mental health.

Dr. Sarah Mitchell

I've definitely had those bad nights. And I've noticed how tired I feel and how irritable I am. And how my anxiety may seem worse.

Dr. Sarah Mitchell

There are studies that show the lack of sleep is correlated with higher risk of postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety. And I'm actually participating in a research study right now at San Jose State University that's looking at maternal anxiety pre and post sleep teaching. So does teaching your baby to seek help with your anxiety? So it'll be interesting to see what the research shows.

Dr. Sarah Mitchell

We have our hypothesis that, yes, it will help because you'll be more well rested, which will help with your anxiety.

Dr. Sarah Mitchell

But, you know, it's kind of cool too. When you really dive down to it. The things that can help moms have more restful sleep are not that different from some of the things that can help our kiddos have restful sleep. So one thing that can really help is having a regular schedule.

Restful Sleep for Mom

Dr. Sarah Mitchell

If you go to bed every night around 9:30pm your body, gets used to knowing that's when it happens, you will fall asleep more quickly. The same thing that if you wake up around the same time of day every day and it just helps your circadian and your homeostatic systems regulate with ease so they can be more efficient.

Dr. Sarah Mitchell

So a regular sleep schedule can really help.

Dr. Sarah Mitchell

The second thing is you want to make your bedroom like a sanctuary. You want to look forward to spending time in there and you really want it to be your nest. And so I encourage parents to spend some money on themselves to buy really lovely, comfortable linens and duvets.

Things that are natural fiber, 100% cotton because they're more breathable. When you get into synthetics, they intend to trap heat and make you sweat. But choose something that you really like, that you look forward to climbing into bed too, can make a difference in helping you get a restful night's sleep.

Dr. Sarah Mitchell

And on that same note, with environment. You want your room to be dark and cool. There's definitely studies that show that that can help with your sleep, how long it takes you to fall asleep in your sleep quality overnight.

Dr. Sarah Mitchell

 On that note, moving into quality. So especially as I get older, I have really noticed that red wine can really impede my sleep. And the National Sleep Foundation, suggests to try avoiding food in general two to three hours before you sleep.

Dr. Sarah Mitchell

And that's because when you sleep, most of your systems start to slow down your respiration, your digestion, your heart rate, but your immune system actually kicks up. Which is another reason sleep is so important. It helps to fight off foreign invaders.

Dr. Sarah Mitchell

But food before bed including alcohol, caffeine, food in general, your digestive system is trying to slow down. And then you're putting food into it, which can often lead to just trouble digesting or just your body trying to stay awake, the systems of fighting each other. Right? Like I'm supposed to be slowing down, but, oh, here comes all this food. I'm not really sure what to do here.

Dr. Sarah Mitchell

And then alcohol, red wine in particular, has histamine in it. The thing with histamine is it's associated with the vigilance and wakefulness cycles.

Dr. Sarah Mitchell

So red wine tends to wreak havoc on your sleep cycles. In the last part of the night, I definitely notice that I wake up more frequently and I don't feel like I got restful sleep.

Dr. Sarah Mitchell

Similar is caffeine. So caffeine actually blocks that buildup of adenosine that we were talking about earlier. That drive to sleep. And people's metabolisms are different. So we don't know exactly how long caffeine can stay in your system. But it's can be somewhere between six to eight hours. So if I have a coffee at two o'clock, I might have trouble on sleep at that time because I've got a blocked sleep pressure happening.

So food, caffeine, alcohol, those things can all interrupt the quality of your nighttime sleep.

I mean, that doesn't even include the factors of kids. Who's in your bed? Who's calling for you in the night? Those things can have an impact.

Dr. Sarah Mitchell

But basically having a regular schedule, creating a nest that you really enjoy, being in your bedroom. And then avoiding alcohol two to three hours before are three simple things you can start to do right now. Focus on the quality of your sleep.

Catherine Wilde

Those are great. So one other thing that I've heard of using blue blocking glasses or avoiding screens a little bit before bed because of the blue light. What are your thoughts on that?

Dr. Sarah Mitchell

Yeah, absolutely, there's definitely research that shows that they can stimulate part of your brain. So it is wise. I even think TV shows before bed can just kind of wind you up depending on the type of show.

Dr. Sarah Mitchell

And so I love fiction, good old fashioned books, probably not a Kindle. An actual book can really help take your mind somewhere else. And a lot of the reason people struggle with sleep latency, like the onset of sleep, how long it takes is fall asleep is their ability to shut off their mind.

Dr. Sarah Mitchell

So that's when all those other important practices, meditation, really help with your sleep as well. And fiction is just one way of being in your sleep space and taking your mind somewhere else.

Dr. Sarah Mitchell

I also like listening to different apps like the calm app. Or even just listening to stories on YouTube can help take your brain away from those things that are stressing you essentially.

Sleep and Self Care

Catherine Wilde

Those are great.

So, sleep is such an important way to take care of yourself and practice self care. And I'd love to know just personally, like, what are some other ways that you like to practice self care?

Dr. Sarah Mitchell

Oh, gosh, exercising. Oh, my gosh. So, when my kids were little and we were struggling with fatigue. I remember a parent coach saying to me, you really should get up before the kids and get things ready.

And I remember thinking, I just can't. I'm just so tired. In hindsight, I actually had an undiagnosed autoimmune disease that was happening. So if it's a public service announcement, if you feel like, gosh, I just can't catch up. This doesn't seem normal. Definitley go talk to your primary care physician. A lot of women, it thrust into thyroid issues postpartum. And that's that's my story as well.

So for me, now that my kids are older, I'm actually finally able to get up before them and getting up at six o'clock.

I do listen to affirmations in the morning. I have a cup of tea. I move very slowly.

Dr. Sarah Mitchell

Then I might go exercise, even if that's a 15 minute walk. Set your standards really low if you're just starting out. I think when I was younger, I used to be really intense. And I'd be like, if I'm not exercising for forty five minutes, high intensity, it's just not worth going out for. And I definitely show myself much more compassion and grace since then.

Dr. Sarah Mitchell

And I can see the benefits of just looking at what especially being outside in nature in the morning also can really help your circadian rhythm establish and can help you sleep at night.

Dr. Sarah Mitchell

Exercise is one of the best things to help increase your sleep drive later in the day. I'm sure many of you I'm sure you'd notice that right? The days that you exercise the policy more quickly and say it's better.

Yeah, that's where I'm kind of at with self care in my routine.

So it's funny to think about your sleep routine, but my sleep routine too actually involves making sure that the kitchen is clean so that I can start the day with a fresh kitchen and getting all my to do list for the next day written down so that I don't have any unkept anxieties when I do put my head on the pillow at night.

Dr. Sarah Mitchell

Making lists and then getting up in advance, having that tea, having those positive affirmations in the morning. And some days that exercise can help as well.

Dr. Sarah Mitchell

So those are my self care right now.

Catherine Wilde

I love those. Ours are very similar. I totally agree that writing down things that are on your mind that you need to do kind of lets you put them down. You know, it keeps them from bouncing around in your head.

Dr. Sarah Mitchell

So true.

How to Get More Restful Sleep for the Whole Family - Soul Care Mom Podcast - Episode 19- Youtube
Catherine Wilde

You love that. So if you could go back in time with two when you first became a mom, what advice would you give yourself? What did you learn that you'd want to share with her?

Dr. Sarah Mitchell

Yeah, that how you think you're going to parent and who your children and the being might not be what you thought it was going to be. And that's OK.

Dr. Sarah Mitchell

You might have to pivot and that's OK. And that parenthood is like one of the most humbling experiences. And everything's happening to you for a reason. I really do believe that.

Dr. Sarah Mitchell

I think I was stuck on, like, trying to be perfect. I was brought up to be very capable and kind of type A. And when you come into motherhood, you have this thing that you really just can't control. This little person, you really can't control them. All we can do is control how we respond to those things and working on that.

And I would also ask for help a lot more. I kind of think is like my journey as having two stages.

Because I became a mom to my son in Canada. And then when he was three and a half and my daughter was one and a half, we moved to the United States and I couldn't work.

So I became a stay at home mom with them. And it was really, really hard to stay. Being a stay at home mom is a skill. It's a whole bunch of skill sets.

And working out of the home also is really, really challenging. They're just different in different ways and both challenging with different challenges.

But one of the things I would have done later on is we didn't have any family here. We barely knew anyone. I wish I had hired someone to give me a few hours a week from the kids to go grocery shopping even by myself. That's one thing I would do.

Catherine Wilde

Oh, yes. To all of those. Oh, thank you so much for sharing all of that.

Catherine Wilde

Is there anything else you'd like to share?

Dr. Sarah Mitchell

I just would like anybody struggling with their kiddos sleep to know that help is accessible. And we often think that we shouldn't have to pay for parenting advice.

Dr. Sarah Mitchell

And just remember that it's not really that instinctual and it's OK to ask for help. And then if you're struggling with your own sleep, one of the most important things you can do is start thinking about it in a different way and prioritizing.

Because I think especially for moms, it's easy for us to put ourselves last, especially sleep. It seems like a luxury, but I want you to reframe that in that it's a priority.

There's that old saying,  fill up your bucket, you can pour over to the other ones and sleep one of those.

Catherine Wilde

Yes. I am not the best about taking naps. And I remember one of the pieces of advice I was given was when the baby sleeps, you sleep.

What are your thoughts on that? And naps in general.

Dr. Sarah Mitchell

Oh, absolutely. Oh, I love naps. I could nap pretty much anywhere. Anytime. Absolutely I am.

And the one thing I've found really helpful at night is you can. You finally get to sit on the couch and then you watch Netflix and maybe you just end up scrolling at times. And now I catch myself and I'm like, how is this adding value to my life right now? Or if it's like a mundane TV show and can I walk away?

And wouldn't it be better if I could spend that time sleeping rather than channel surfing? That would be more productive.

Catherine Wilde

Right. Oh, this was lovely.

Can you let us know where we can find you and your work online?

Dr. Sarah Mitchell

Yeah, I'm at helpingbabiessleep.com.

Catherine Wilde

Perfect.

Thanks so much for sharing your story and your wisdom and all of your insights today.

Dr. Sarah Mitchell

It was such a pleasure. I hope that somebody out there took something that made a difference in their lives today.

Catherine Wilde

Thank you, Dr. Sarah.

Dr. Sarah Mitchell

Thanks for having me.

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Catherine Wilde

Thanks for joining me, Mama. I'm over here giving you a big virtual hug. I love spending this time with you. You are amazing for showing up and carving out this space to nourish your soul. If you are loving the Soul Care Mom podcast, be sure to subscribe and leave our review.

And if you're ready to start your mornings feeling calm and energized, get the Kickstart Your Calm Morning Guide. A self care ritual for moms as a free gift, when you join the Soul Care Mom Community. Head over to soulcaremom.com/kickstart and enter your email address to get your free gift and start feeling like a calm mom today!

 Sending me so much love, Mama!

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