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  • Writer's pictureSuzanne Bergmann, LCSW

Why can’t I sleep after putting my kids to bed?

On your ride home after a long day, you may find yourself fantasizing about when you’ll finally be able to slip into bed and go to sleep. Like many people, you may feel depleted of energy in the late afternoon/early evening. Yet, after dinner, baths, making sure everyone’s teeth are brushed, reading bedtime stories and successfully tucking everyone into their beds, you may find yourself WIRED. How does that happen? Let’s break it down.

1. What you do before bedtime has a direct impact on our sleep. Activities that are either physically or mentally demanding make us feel more awake and alert. If your evening schedule wound you up physically and mentally, you may need to wind yourself back down.

2. Many parents can’t help but worry about their kids at night. Worrying or experiencing anxiety can make it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep through the night.

3. Everything you didn’t have time to think about during the day often comes to mind during the first quiet moment you have. We hear parents often say, “I don’t have a moment to think.” While you may be thinking throughout the day, our mental energy is tied up by many tasks, responsibilities, and chores. If you don’t have a moment to think, you also don’t have a moment to process our experiences. If your mind has the need to think about something that concerned you, bothered you, worried you, or is important in the future, those thoughts will find a way to pop into your consciousness- often at the most inconvenient times. If you avoided or put off something all day, it often finds you at our most vulnerable and quiet moments, often at bedtime or the middle of the night.

4. We may yearn for alone time. Many parents revel in the solitude just after their children go to sleep. It’s finally time to do what you want to do after a day full of responsibilities and focus on the needs of others. You may feel compelled to watch the TV shows your children can’t watch, look at your smartphone, catch up on news- all activities that excite the mind and body instead of calm it down. You may be motivated to resist sleep if you feel like you are missing out on something enjoyable.

Understanding what is keeping you awake can help you find a remedy to this problem. Many times, the solution includes re-evaluating your activities throughout the day and changing the order of some of your tasks while also giving yourself some mental space during the daytime. For example, you may want to schedule anything that stimulates the body and mind earlier in the day while scheduling more relaxing and calming activities just before bedtime. As parents, you may need to carve out more time for yourself earlier in the day, so you aren’t squeezing in time for worrying, thinking, planning, or enjoying your time alone when you really want to be sleeping.

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