As all new parents know, sleep is the most precious commodity when you have children. You rue the days you spent pre-kids with long weekends open to do anything you wanted, long evenings wasted socialising and going to gigs and eating food when you could have been enjoying the sweet sweet caress of your bed.
I look back on my early twenties absolutely baffled that I chose to sleep so little – and that my rest place of choice was a futon without even a sniff of a proper mattress. What was I thinking?!
Fast-forward (gulp) fifteen years, and having given birth to three children my sleep situation is totally different. My body resembles a precious stale pretzel, twisted in ways that don’t make sense with ligaments and muscles which feel they may crumble after one wrong turn. I couldn’t move my head to the right during one recent and memorable 48 hour period soon after my third baby was born – and all because I’d slept slightly funny on a pillow that was a bit too old and soft for my rickety head.
I say ‘slightly funny’ but absolutely nobody was laughing.
When we moved into our new house a year ago I was very newly pregnant, and with a 10 and 12-year-old in the house (i.e. knowing full well I was about to plunge myself into a period of Very Little Sleep) the first thing I did was to look at super king bed bases. My brief for our ‘family bed’ – as literally everyone has at some point got a night’s rest in it, even the dog – was that it needed to feel as sumptuous and luxurious as a hotel bed, with a firm-ish memory foam mattress, fluffy mattress topper, high-count and cosy linens, and TEMPUR™ pillows of the perfect height and consistency.
And we did it! We got ourselves a gorgeous gorgeous bed, loved by absolutely everyone in the family, particularly me.
TEMPUR™ (those of the Certified Space Technology and who produce the only pillows and mattresses to be recognised by the Space Foundation) recently released a quiz to help pin down what kind of sleeper you are, so you can work to build out your sleep style and routine to help maximise the amount of shut-eye you get. In what was a surprise to absolutely nobody I found out my sleep personality is ‘Difficult Sleeper’, meaning I find it hard to get to – and often stay – asleep.
Since baby Rafferty (who’s now four months old) was born these small snatches of sleep have become incredibly precious, and I’ve done a few things to help get as much of it as possible.
First, and not to sound incredibly Gen Z here, the vibe of the room must be right. For me this includes a few things, with the main point being a lack of clutter; all clothes are shut away in the wardrobes, there are minimal products out on the dressing table, and as much as possible is shut away in the bedside cabinets. This is no mean feat when you have as much baby crap in the bedroom as we currently do, and really takes some keeping on top of, but we work with what we’ve got.
My second vibe tip is to scent the room. I’m a huge fan of sleep sprays which I spritz on both our and the baby’s bed before we get in at night time (do check yours is suitable for infants if you’re going to do this!), and set a diffuser (ours is the Neom GOAT Wellbeing Pod) to pump out lavender-fragranced sweetness for a couple of hours while we get ready for sleep and finally drop off.
Since having Raffy I’ve also become a huge fan of the sleep sound machine. The one in our room has a nightlight (it’s Maxi-Cosi) and should really be moving out to the nursery with him when it’s time for his bigger bed, but I will be purchasing one for us, too; I now find it so hard to sleep without a soothing background of waves, a forest, or simple white noise. It’s a delight.
My last tip would be: FRESH AIR. With a baby in the room we monitor the temperature closely, and anything between 16.5-18.5 degrees celsius with the window cracked open seems to work best, in that you can be nice and warm and cosy under your hotel-grade duvet (and indeed the Lullaby Trust recommends the optimum room temperature for babies to sleep in is 16-20 degrees, so that fits). But fresh air isn’t just needed at night, you need to get out for some during the day; I sleep so much better on the days I get out of the house on a walk or gentle exercise – which wasn’t easy for quite some time post-birth (did I mention my pretzel body?).
One thing that’s become important to me in my 37-year sleep journey is to accept the sleep biology I was born with. As someone who is not a natural nighttime sleeper (if my circadian rhythm had its way I’d be sleeping from 12am to 9am), so I’ve just gotta work with what I’ve got. I hate hate hate the mornings but unfortunately, at this stage in my life, they’re kind of mandatory (hello, newborn baby and 7.30am school run). Getting up and about rather than lolling in bed for ages doom-scrolling Instagram has become important, even if that means snatching 1pm naps alongside Raffy. Maximizing relaxation, comfort, and my bedroom environment has become a non-negotiable, too.
Above all sleep is the one thing you can do for yourself to ensure optimum mental and physical health, which makes it totally unfair that small children mean we get so little of it. They say the days are long but the years are short – they should really say the days are long but the nights are short, to be honest – so I wish you all the comfiest nights sleep you can manage.
This post was written in partnership with TEMPUR™