Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Tips from a Busy Working Mama: How to Sleep & Focus Better

If you're like me with a million things on your mind, you probably find it hard to sleep or focus. Even when I'm just opening the gate to home, I might be thinking - what should we have for dinner? Does Lil Pumpkin need to pee? What's on TV tonight? Should I pack food for tomorrow's event? Don't forget to switch on the water heater etc.. yeah, well, you get the drift.

It's funny how we used to take sleep for granted before parenthood doing assignments or *cough* partying all night... a precious commodity that we squandered away. Now if any parents-to-be ask me for one tip, I'd immediately say to sleep as much while you can hahahaha.

Sleep and focus are inter-related. If we're sleep deprived, our attention level drops. If we don't pay attention, we may make mistakes and miss out on important opportunities or learning which cause us to be even more stressed and frustrated, and that may cause lack of sleep. It's really a vicious cycle :/ 

Even as I learn to delegate tasks so as to free my mind and de-stress more this year, I'm still finding ways to help me sleep and focus better. These are some things I tried and worked for me, so I thought to share here as they might work for you too.

Tips to Sleep Better:

1. Make it a priority
Sounds easy enough but when we have lots to do, sleep seems to take a backseat. Make sleep a priority and set a scheduled time to go to bed. Most people need about 6-8 hours of rest to function properly. For us, we're usually in bed by 11pm as the boy says it's very important to sleep before midnight. He read somewhere that every hour's sleep before midnight is comparable to 2 hours of sleep after midnight. How early you sleep matters as much as how much you sleep!

2. Exercise more
On days that I exercise, I tend to sleep better.. maybe because I'm tired out haha. But some research shows that regular exercise helps promote better sleep quality, fewer depressive symptoms, more vitality, and less sleepiness in the daytime. Don't exercise too near your bedtime though as it stimulates your body too much and might make it harder to fall asleep! You can check out my fitness diary here.

3. Use essential oils.
The boy bought me an aromatherapy burner and lights it up with my favourite smells e.g. lavendar {improves relaxation}, lemongrass {purifies the mind} etc. at night to help me sleep better. I'm currently also using Oleum Natura's Sleep Blend as a massage oil {great after exercises!} to calm my mind and improve my sleep cycle. It's made from almond oil, clary sage essential oil, palma rosa essential oil, lavender essential oil.. Excellent quality as you can smell the scent before even opening the bottle! I like this blend but if you want to customise, Oleum Natura also provides custom blending services for their clients as well.

4. Turn down the stimulation
Our bodies need time to shift into sleep mode. Just like how we have "wind-down" routines for the kids, form some of our own like having a warm shower, doing some light reading or not using the smartphones or computers 30 minutes before bed.

5. Switch on some white noise
Living in tropical Singapore, using air-conditioners is a must for us especially when Lil Pumpkin heats up so easily {don't know why!}. However, we switch it on to about 25ºC and use the fans as well. Fans can also help move cool air around and ease the work load of the air conditioner, while providing white noise to block out sounds that cause hindrance to our sleep e.g from the cars outside. Win-win situation :)

Tips to Focus Better:

1. Take 15 - 30 mins power naps
Sometimes after lunch, I'll take a power nap. It can help you feel more alert throughout the day and give your system a needed "boost". Try not to nap in the late afternoon though, as it could delay the time you fall asleep at night.

2. Do "5 more"
I'm not sure if you've heard of this "5 more" rule, but if you're in the middle of a task and tempted to give up.. just do FIVE MORE. Maybe write 5 more sentences, read 5 more pages, or work for 5 more minutes. Like athletes who build physical stamina by pushing past their point of exhaustion, we can build mental stamina and concentration with this exercise to stretch our attention span.

3. Write to-do lists
I've been writing down things more not only because I'm rather forgetful {oops}, but also to free my mind from being a "reminder bulletin board". When my tasks are on paper, I can visualise and prioritise better. I can also give my undivided attention to what's most important at that time.

4. Manage your distractions
This is quite an obvious one but remove distractions for you to concentrate better. If you're working on the computer, switch off notifications, and don't open your inbox. Keep your mobile on silent and declutter your spaces. Say no to more events or projects so that you're not overwhelmed and can focus on what you have a hand. When you have less, you can do more.

5. Use your senses
Use sounds, visuals, tactile sensations, tastes and even smells to help us focus better. I play soft background music as white noise when writing reports, and also use aromatherapy like I do to sleep better. Oleum Natura's Focus Blend is made from almond oil, jojoba oil, rosemary essential oil, lavender essential oil and frankincense essential oil.  I have a 30ml bottle in the office and it's pretty lasting since I use just a few drops to rub some on my wrists and temples when I work to increase my alertness. Love the invigorating smell.

What other tips do you have to sleep and focus better?

* Disclosure: Oleum Natura provided the essential oils for review. No monetary compensation was received, and all opinions are my own.



Lydia C. Lee said...

No tips - need more focus. All over the place at the moment!!

Susan said...

Good tips. I find that when I'm more rested, I'm more focused and sharper. Giving up late nights for my sanity and health :)

J Bott said...

Some great tips, I need to apply some of these to my life as sometimes I get distracted. I love essential oils to increase mental awareness! More sleep would be nice though!

Stacy said...

I sleep fine but I wake up halfway and THEN can't go back to sleep arggh.

Ai Sakura said...

Lydia: hope these tips helped you then! :P

Susan: that's true. A good night's rest is so important for us to function the rest of the day!

Eleise: Essential oils are so useful in many other areas. I'm just into exploring them too :)

Stacy: Actually it's also good to break up our sleep. Sometimea I'd get up to do work then go back to sleep too. Try reading a book!

Emily @ Have A Laugh On Me said...

I love the 5 more! I must try and do this! Also interesting to read that sleep is better before midnight, will try be asleep by 10 tonight. Great post, thanks for tips Ai x

Serenely said...

I'm the sort of person that takes a long time to fall asleep. I always lay awake for some time going through all the million things I need to get done. Then I get up and start adding the stuff to my to do list, and start to feel more awake, and then I remembered an email I have to send, and then a Facebook notification comes in and the cycle goes on! Such a big trap!

I think I need a proper wind down routine as you say. We're do good at giving the kids a wind down routine faithfully every night, we should do it for ourselves too!

Unknown said...

Some great advice, I find if my sleep hasn't been good, it is all downhill from there! I love the "5 more" rule - might put that into action this week Josefa #teamIBOT

Zanni Louise said...

Great tips. I am pretty good at focusing on things - I have to be. And I am a pretty efficient sleeper, which is lucky because at the moment I breastfeed all through the night and never have day naps. x

Masshole Mommy said...

I agree with all of the above. I workout every day and I think it definitely helps me sleep better at night.

Theresa Mahoney said...

I agree with all the tips, especially working out and power naps. I find that if I am overly tired, I can't sleep at all. Those little naps re energize me mid day, and get my mind back on track so I can fall asleep quicker at night.