Sleep Isn’t Optional Self-Care, It’s A Necessity [Especially for Moms]

Libby here! I asked at Amanda Jewson at Baby’s Best Sleep to write a piece on the importance of sleep for moms.

For me…prioritizing my needs, [particularly sleep] was the biggest step towards feeling like me again. It is the MOST BASIC and undervalued self-care practice.

Advocating for and prioritizing our sleep is what will make everything else feel not not overwhelming. SO without further adieu, the amazing Amanda…

Moms need sleep, at the bare minimum

I have a dilemma.

I can’t write this blog post. 

My girl Libby and I jumped on a call and she asked “Amanda, I’d love for you to write about self-care and sleep,” Naturally I said– “hell yes,” but now, here I am sitting at my desk for about an hour trying to think about how I want to write about self-care and sleep. Why? 

Because sleep is not self-care. Sleep is a necessity.

When motherhood induced sleep deprivation made me feel like I was dying

My Foray In Self Care

Began in my therapist’s office. 

I came to her because I was absolutely convinced that I was dying. 

Actually, dying. 

Normally people would see an actual doctor about their fear of dying and I did. But in addition to running some tests, my doctor (I just got emotional thinking about how she supported me at this time!), also recommended a great therapist. So off I went. 

What did I think I was dying of? 

Something. 

Wasn’t sure. 

I couldn’t pinpoint it but my body was displaying all sorts of subtle symptoms like weight loss, hair loss, heart palpitations, neck pain and feelings like I was suddenly going to pass out which I interpreted as…well…dying. And I was living my life every single day worrying about it. Non-stop. 

Unrelentingly.

My life was exhausting. The moment I’d wake up, I’d immediately think about how I was dying and live the rest of the day in utter horror of what that meant for me and my family. 

So like, not to be a downer but this was my reality .  Finally, one day at work after experiencing another sudden feeling that I was going to pass out in a meeting (later diagnosed as my first panic attack), I called the doctor.

I thought to myself: “if you’re dying, let’s get the show on the road and see a doctor. Or get some real help. I’m done” So I did. And there I was in the therapist’s office. 

When I told her all of my symptoms, she asked me why I think they started. I told her (honestly) that they arrived “out of the blue”.

Now, my therapist is absolutely zero bullshit. Zero  bullshit. And she simply said “that’s not true” So I dug and when we dug we uncovered the following:

  • I had a significant trauma history I hadn’t really processed before having children
  • I worked literally non-stop. I worked a full-time job and my side hustle, Baby’s Best Sleep, suddenly blew up out of nowhere and was quickly becoming a full time business. I worked all day teaching, came home and worked with clients helping them sleep until 10 PM most nights. 
  • I was a yes person–I said yes to everyone about everything. 
  • I had a 3-year-old and a 1-year-old
  • My husband travelled all over the world, all the time for work.

I was convinced my symptoms were out of nowhere. My Zero bullshit therapist challenged me to find time to actually decompress and find time for myself–aka actual self-care.

I thought I was doing that. I worked out 5 times a week! I listened to podcasts while I did chores. I did grocery shopping alone sometimes! Self-care!

“No,” she said, “none of that is self-care. You need 15 minutes a day of pure, alone, calm Amanda time”. I agreed, but it was foreign to me. It also scared the shit out of me. Time? Alone? Doing nothing? Eeek. 

For 5 weeks, I went  back to the zero bullshit therapist’s office and told her another reason why I hadn’t practised my self-care that week.

In the 5th week, she told me not to come back if I didn’t actually practice self-care or nothing would work. I was taken aback. Shit, I thought.

Actual Self-Care and the tangible Benefits

So I started. 

It started with 5 mins of meditation and reading in my bedroom. 

It started with saying no to that project someone asked me to take on when I didn’t have the capacity.

It started by taking a night in a hotel to myself after a long stretch of travel from my husband. 

In addition to additional trauma processing therapy, self-care blossomed into an actual life-changing, truly transformational experience. My hair stopped falling out, I don’t feel dread anymore, and I’m a balanced person.  I am here to tell you that self-care is a real thing and you need to practice it. But not the way Dove body wash tells you to.

[If you are looking for ways to incorporate self-care WITHOUT the price tag society makes you feel needs to be attached, check out these tips for low-budget self-care.]

Sleep Is Not Self-Care

I created Baby’s Best Sleep because I watched good friends lose themselves in sleeplessness. I watched them self-flagellate over not being the perfect ‘natural/attachment parent (WTF is that anyway?). I saw the dull eyes. I heard the tears on the phone. And I said Eff this–We can do better. 

My own journey into self-care wasn’t about sleep but for so many of you, sleep needs to be your stepping stone on your journey into prioritizing, loving and caring for yourself. I would liken sleep, not to self-care, but rather as the elixir you need to feel restored enough to practice it.

Sleep is akin to water. To food. To shelter.

Sleep is not self-care.

Sleep is a biological function that we all require so our bodies work. We don’t suddenly shed this need the moment we birth a child. Sleep is a necessity. And society and judgemental IG accounts need to stop telling parents differently. Sure your child’s sleep patterns may be normal, but our living arrangements are in silos–away from support and families–and nothing about that is normal. You are being asked to endure a superhuman experience and if you’re struggling with it  there’s nothing wrong with you.

So what’s the connection between sleep and self-care?

You can’t function at base levels without sleep.

In addition to sleep being  a necessity of life, you require good sleep in order to organize your thoughts and emotions and to practice actual self-care. When I was in my shit I can tell you I wasn’t my best parent. I was short with my kids, I cried a lot and my kids mimicked my behaviour.  This is often what my clients tell me too. 

In the last 10 years, however, self-care has been repackaged and commodified by spa weekends, expensive trips, fancy gadgets or products because “you deserve it, babe”. This annoys me. It makes self-care feel unattainable, expensive and out of  reach for many who need it. Self-care should be:

  • Free
  • Restorative
  • Something meaningful to you
  • And that’s it. 

Let me tell you what actual self-care may look like:

  • Saying no to plans

  • Declining when your kid’s daycare asks you to volunteer

  • Asking your partner for a sleep-in

  • Getting a pre-made meal at the grocery store instead of making it

  • 15 mins alone time in your bedroom

  • Putting on a sneaky podcast while your child watches 25th Cocomelon episode

  • Extra screen time for the kids on days you just can’t deal

  • Unfollowing that person on IG that makes you feel like shit

 

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by The Honest Mom (Libby) (@diaryofanhonestmom)

final thoughts on self-care & the basic necessity for sleep

In order for your body to function properly at its base levels–you need to treat it right.

That includes good food, hydration and plenty of sleep–those are necessities.

Once you’ve got that down, adding in layers of self-care will reduce your stress levels, make you a more present and delightful parent, and at the very least, get you out of 2-3 bake sales.

Self-care saved my life. But sleep is not self-care. Sleep is a necessity.

Let’s do both. 

Amanda is the mother of two young girls, a Canadian certified sleep consultant, trained educator and current BSW candidate.
 
In 2017 Amanda founded Baby’s Best Sleep has since then helped countless parents create healthy sleep habits for themselves and their children.
Amanda is an all-around sleep expert and uses a research-based approach to developing custom-tailored programs for her clients.  
 
Amanda is also the creator and host of “The Slumber Party Podcast” A funny and informative look at common baby and child sleep issues!

Find Amanda on: Baby’s Best Sleep Instagram

And don’t forget to join my Honest Mom’s Insider Circle where you’ll get all my latest updates, special offers and promotions and exclusive content only for subscribers. 

- Libby

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Libby
Libby
I’m Libby, a relatable mom of 2 but also a recovering perfectionist, anti-mom shamer, mental health advocate and generational cycle breaker! I don’t take myself seriously and want you to know that you are a good mom.

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