Inspiration, community, and education from Birdsong.

Sleep Medicine

Picture by our friend and Birdsong logo creatress @strangerfamiliar

Picture by our friend and Birdsong logo creatress @strangerfamiliar

(And We’re Not Talking Cold & Sinus PM)

How did you dream last night? Do you feel rested today? Chances are- you don’t remember and no, you don’t. We are, as a culture, chronically tired and at the same time extremely resistant to take the space we need to unplug and go inward to replete. Exhaustion + Overstimulation = No Good For Anyone.

We have sat with new parents who are completely bleary eyed and crying about their lack of sleep, and then had to (kindly but a bit bossily!) pry the iPad, iPhone (sometimes both a work AND personal), laptop AND remote for the TV. These are intelligent people! The patterns are just so dense.

It is okay to rest. It is okay to have reached capacity. It can wait. The world can wait. You are worthy of feeling whole and nourished and that just is not possible when you haven’t had basic rest. Instead of gaslighting yourself and asking why you don’t have it ”more together”, try making a list of ways to ground into nourishing rest. Here- I’ll get you started

1) Change your bed sheets and pillow cases.

A fresh and cosy sleep environment is so key. It makes us feel cared for, loved, and presents rest as a reward for our efforts.You can even try a lavender sprig under the pillow or chamomile infused eye pillow if you’re fancy.

2) Go media free for 30 mins before bed.

Even 10 mins. It is hard to shut our brains down immediately after Game of Thrones or reading a news article. Give your brain a chance to come down. Dim the lights. Put your phone across the room. And do step 3.

Basket of herbs Erica foraged at Friend Camp with the intention of creating oils, salves and tinctures for her family.

Basket of herbs Erica foraged at Friend Camp with the intention of creating oils, salves and tinctures for her family.

3) Invest in a herbal body oil and rub your feet, your belly, your whole body with it.

This is a powerful tool on many many levels- you can work with a local herbalist (get yourself a herbalist!), make your own oils, or buy online from a trusted healer- we love Amber Magnolia Hill who sells herbal body oils for exactly this purpose. She also has an online course to deep dive into this medicine. #notanadshesjustrad

4) Get a mantra.

Something that gives you permission to rest and replete, something that rewards your efforts, something that calms your nervous system is helpful. Here are some to try “I am enough” “I deserve rest” “My work is done” “Thank you amazing body. I love you”

5) Lay down nourished.

Going to bed on an empty stomach is never a good idea- it may prevent you from falling asleep altogether, fuel nervous mental energy or it may wake you up or leave you with a hungover/depleted feeling when you rise.

Consider a bowl of oatmeal (warm and grounding) over a bowl of cereal (cold and sugar spiking) in a pinch or a hearty soup or curry instead of salad or sushi if you’re ordering take out. Give your body something to grab on to, ground into and any rest you DO get will be all the more restorative.

Illustration by Ilichna Morasky @strangerfamiliar from Ines Radjenovic’s book Man and Cosmos.

Illustration by Ilichna Morasky @strangerfamiliar from Ines Radjenovic’s book Man and Cosmos.

6) Try taking some big breaths, going into the discomfort and see if you can be with it.

Try to accept this season of life.Easier said than done bossy doula!

What is “this season of life”? That is a whole book in itself. But how it pertains here is that this is the “Going to bed with the sun” season of life. You’re a farmer now. Howdy! Seriously though- you are laboring so deeply all day and night and we need to let go of old patterns and usher in the new. This can be so hard and come with a whole host of feelings about change, identity and so on. It’s okay if you are feeling resentful of having to “sleep when the baby sleeps”- it is not easy to adapt to a whole new way of being in the world and structuring time.

If you’re struggling with this part know this: the seasons will shift again and at some point we can bring back the night owl writing sessions, late dinners with friends, the multi-hour Netflix binges. But until you have dialed in a rhythm for reliable baby/family sleep you will be best served by letting these things fall away and putting your rest as a top priority.

Ekhart Tolle says “Stress is resistance to what is”. I find this to be especially true in the adjustment of parenthood- something I have experienced personally and see with almost every family we serve. Sometimes a great release comes when we just exhale and say “I just need to go to bed”.


Photo by @kbbirthstories from Laura Interlandi’s twin Motherblessing.

Photo by @kbbirthstories from Laura Interlandi’s twin Motherblessing.

It is okay to be so depleted and so lost that all of these suggestions sound like a hammer to the head. If that is the case- call in your team!

That may be your partner who needs to step up for a few nights (baby wearing is a wonderful tool for soothing, especially for the parent or support people who are not responsible for feedings), family who can come by during the day and carve out naps or a bath for you, postpartum doulas (hey friend!), sleep coaches, body workers, food delivery… do not suffer in silence! Sleep is an essential part of the human journey and if you’re not getting any for long periods of time, EVERYONE in the scenario will suffer. You deserve to feel good. You deserve to feel balanced. You deserve to be able to enjoy your baby.

One of the tenants of our work is that we want to keep an equal focus inward to the mother/parents as we do outward to the baby. During pregnancy the health of the baby is intertwined with that of the mother and so equal attention is paid- as we cross the threshold and that baby emerges, in most western care models the birthing person is dropped like a hot potato and the focus shifts exclusively to the baby.

This is a gentle reminder that when the parents are nourished and rested (or at very least willing and able to rest) the baby is more likely to follow suit. Rather than having expectations of the baby to be a “good sleeper” (I mean- yes, also please do be a “good sleeper” baby!) we also have to turn the lens inward and create practices and an environment that facilitates sleep when possible.

Warm cosy wishes and aaaaaaallllll the zzzzzzzzzz’s!

Erica LivingstonComment