Why Parents Should Reframe “Me Time”

Kids in bed? Here’s how to enjoy a relaxing evening without sacrificing your own sleep.

This content was created by the National Sleep Foundation

For many parents, days are a blur of making meals and managing messes, negotiating nap times and bedtimes, and often working outside of the home, too. So it isn’t surprising that when the house finally falls silent of little footsteps for the night, parents are more than ready for some adult relaxation time.

The problem is that “me time” can translate into habits that keep you up too late or negatively impact sleep once you do turn out the lights. That can quickly lead to next-day fatigue: hardly what any overworked parent needs. Furthermore, just as irregular or late bedtimes can lead to behavior problems in children, for parents it can turn into irritability, high stress levels, and less patience to deal with children’s daily antics. Instead of a nightcap and a TV binge, consider these three evening rituals that allow you to get the relaxation you want—without sacrificing the sleep you need.

You want… a glass of wine. Nothing says “ahhh” like sinking into the couch with a glass of red after a long day. Unfortunately, as relaxed as you may feel after a little wine, alcohol can actually impede your body’s sleep cycles, making you wake up more frequently during the night.

Try instead… a cup of chamomile tea. Luckily, you don’t need alcohol to relax. Herbal, caffeine-free teas, such as chamomile, have a soothing effect that may help you unwind—and stay that way.

You want… the latest TV thriller. Sure, you’re a grown-up, and you can watch TV if you want to. But streaming services make it all-too-easy to stay glued to the tube, especially when you’re watching a high-suspense show. Add in the way the light from the screen impacts your body’s sleep rhythms, and you could find yourself tossing and turning long after the mystery is solved.

Try instead… a podcast and a bath. A better escape: Climb into a stress-relieving bath (bubbles optional) and hook yourself up with an entertaining podcast for stories without the screen.

You want… to catch up on social media. It can be hard to break that Facebook habit. After all, how else would you keep up with your friends’ vacation photos, the latest cat memes, and all those articles you haven’t had time to read all day? The problem is, it can also be a black hole that sucks you in for hours—way past your bedtime. And be honest: If you didn’t see the cat memes, would you really miss them?

Try instead… calling a friend to chat. Instead of spending your evening scanning the lives of hundreds of acquaintances, connect—really connect—with just one person you care about. Skip the Facebook app, and use your phone to call. You can talk about what’s going on in your life, and go to sleep without being riled up by random inflammatory post.