Only 2% of moms
said they felt well-rested when they returned to work after maternity leave.
— WORKING MOTHER SLEEP SURVEY 2017
Andrea ultrasensitive to nighttime noises years later. Anything would rouse her—the furnace clicking on, her cat jumping on the bed, birds chirping.
The solution: Dartmouth-Hitchcock Hospital’s “Live Well” program. Andrea kept a log for two weeks, writing down when she dozed and awoke. After reviewing the log, an employer-provided sleep coach suggested changes: going to bed at 10 p.m., not 9; avoiding looking at clocks when she woke up; and getting out of bed when she couldn’t sleep. Also, no coffee after 1 p.m.
The result: “I lost the anxiety I had when I wasn’t sleeping, and began accepting the ebb and flow of good nights and not-so-great nights,” she says. She usually sleeps well now—and has become less grouchy at work and at home. On the nights she wakes up, she heads to the family room. “It’s hard, but when I do it, I get back to sleep more quickly.”
Her advice: “I even tell my sisters to stop watching the clock. The minute you do, you set off a stream of thoughts that makes it hard to sleep: ‘Look at the time, I have to get up in two hours, how am I going to get through the day?’” she says. She turns the alarm clock away from her at bedtime; if she goes to the bathroom or another room, she doesn’t peek at clocks along the way.
The expert’s take: You’ll need to retrain your body to associate your bed with sleep instead of anxiety. So yes, stash that clock and go to another room if you toss and turn for more than 20 minutes—the average amount of time it takes to drift off, says Dr. Consens. Read with the light on behind you until you’re sleepy. Don’t watch TV or look at your phone; the direct light keeps you awake.