Health

5 Ways to Get the Most Out of Naptime

5 Ways to Get the Most Out of Naptime

Once I had my second child, a boy, I learned about a miracle I had never known before. Some babies actually sleep in their cribs for hours at a time! I wish I could divulge the miraculous mom hack that produced this anomaly, but I don’t know what I did besides have a boy. Or a second child. Either way, he was just built differently, I guess. My daughter eventually caught on to this idea, but she was well into toddler years before she figured out that she could sleep regularly outside of mom’s exhausted grip. Regardless, I quickly realized that naptime meant freedom, and I wanted to make sure I got the most out of it.

So turn up your sound machines and clip the baby monitor to your yoga pants’ waistband because we are going for a ride, and it may not be what you expect. Here are 5 things you can do while baby naps from a seasoned mom, who is now officially out of the baby-napping stages.

Sleep

“Sleep when the baby sleeps!” You’ve heard it. I’ve heard it. It’s ludicrous. Of course you can’t always sleep when the baby sleeps. Babies need to clock over 15 hours of sleep a day, and you feel like that would be heaven, I’m sure, but you don’t need that much sleep, and you have some serious adulting to do. All of that being said, naps are important. So if you find yourself dozing off during imaginary tea parties, using Mr. Snuggles as a pillow, not only is that terrible tea party etiquette, it’s also a sign you need to prioritize rest.

Sleep affects your nervous system in a big way. When you are running on empty, you’re more inclined to get your feathers ruffled by minor annoyances, which usually means you’re taking out your lack of rest on your partner and possibly your older children. Even if it’s just for 30 minutes, take some time to clear the fog and find that sweet spot between being totally loopy and completely frazzled.

Something from your to-do list

Afternoon nap time is usually when I would get a text from my big sister saying, “She just went down for a nap. Do I sleep? Or do I clean the bathroom?” Now, I’m a good sister, so I would always respond by telling her to sleep. But occasionally, she would push back and moan about her dirty bathroom (or unanswered e-mails or chaotic house project). If you’ve experienced this dichotomy–being caught between exhaustion and productivity–I have a solution for you.

Take 5 minutes to list out the things that would significantly alter your level of stress if they were completed. This is not a guilt list, so don’t put down meal prepping unless accomplishing it will truly lift a load from your shoulders and leave you just a little bit euphoric in your badassery. Then choose an item from the list that can be done in less than 15 minutes.

Once you complete that item, you’ll have the motivation to check off some of the heavier items, or you’ll have the sense of accomplishment that will allow you to–you guessed it–go take a nap.

Guilty pleasure

Now I know some of you out there are asking me why I put “sleep” on this list twice. So if you saw “guilty pleasure” and interpreted it to mean “nap,” stop reading this and go to bed. For the rest of you, I’m here to tell you that sleep isn’t the only thing you should be doing while your little one snoozes. You should also be taking the time to enjoy yourself.

This is where it gets tricky, though. Reclining in a bubble bath with candles and a podcast should be a part of this, but for me, that didn’t work. Not only were baths a nighttime thing in my mind, but they also required a lot of managing if baby woke up early. So instead of going big, try aiming for something small and manageable.

Maybe you can just sit in your backyard and stare up at the clouds for a few minutes. Or maybe you want to grab yourself a bite of chocolate (or three) and settle down with your favorite book. Whatever activity brings you joy, dive on in.

Audio-inspired work

Next to sleep, this one is probably my favorite. I try my darndest to stay on top of my house throughout the day, but the reality is that chores are just simpler when baby isn’t underfoot. And chores are more fun when I have something interesting to listen to, so long as my chores don’t require mental work.

That’s why I absolutely love cleaning–a satisfying manual task–while listening to an audiobook, podcast, or reruns of television shows–fun mental task. Make this one doubly-productive by adding in 20-30 minutes of a good-for-you podcast or audiobook like a religious text or popular self-help book and then follow it up with Friends reruns.

Social media

I’m a realist, so I had to put this one on here. But I really should have called it doom scrolling. Let’s face it, phones are easy, fast, and stimulating. Of course we reach for them. But when we reach for them because our minds are exhausted, our tempers are short, and we’re overwhelmed, it’s not unlike skipping breakfast and lunch and then eating three bags of cotton candy. You’ll be left with a headache, sick to your stomach, and dehydrated.

So grab a drink of water before you go for your phone. And without opening your phone, decide how you want to spend your freedom. If you consciously decide you want to spend it on Instagram, go for it. Set a timer and scroll to your heart’s content. But you may find that consciously choosing a nap, productivity, or a guilty pleasure will leave you feeling more energized and content.

At the end of the day, baby naps are pockets of freedom that can be used to take care of ourselves in lots of ways. So find what works for you and make sure you get the most out of it! And sleep. Don’t forget to sleep.

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