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Minds at Rest

Three women explain their sleep troubles – from a wakeful baby and hormonal changes to simply having too much on their mind – and share the tricks they used to get over them

“As a mother you spend most of your time being a caregiver, but you have to remember self-care, too”


My son didn’t sleep through the night until he was over two and a half years old. We never really got to the bottom of why he woke so often. It may be that he was just hungry – I remember him once waking up in the middle of the night and asking for a cheese sandwich – or it might have been genetic; my niece was exactly the same.

I realise now that something I got wrong to start with was that, when the baby woke, I’d think, ‘What can I do to wake myself up?’ Often I’d look at my phone or watch awful TV documentaries that I wasn’t interested in to keep me awake while I fed him. But that would overstimulate my brain, so I’d really struggle to get back to sleep once he’d gone back to bed again.

One thing that really helped me through that period of sleep deprivation was an email that my friend forwarded to me, about company CEOs who get very little sleep through choice and are still successful, which gave me quite a bit of perspective about the situation. I realised I can do my job on less sleep than I’m used to, and I’m in good company here. I think that sometimes the thought is worse than the reality.

Eventually, I learned to wake up in a sort of zombie-like state. I could get up, safely feed my baby and pop to the loo, then go straight back to sleep again and, in the morning, I’d hardly remember doing it. If that didn’t work, I used the 4-7-8 breathing technique, where you breathe in for four counts, hold for seven, and breathe out for eight. I still use this now, and it works pretty much every time for me. I’m a terrible one for overthinking things in the middle of the night, so it’s my failsafe technique for centering my mind and allowing me to drift back off.

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Psychologies November 2016 - Sleep Easy