New Parents and Lack of Sleep

Even though the birth of a child can be a happy event, many parents are surprised by how tired and worn out they feel during those first weeks and months.

Newborns need your nonstop focus. They need to eat every hour or two and have their diapers changed very often.

As a new parent, you may want to spend every minute you have taking care of your baby. But don't forget that you have needs too, most of all when it comes to sleep.

Building up a "sleep debt"

  • Most adults need seven to nine hours of sleep every night
  • When you sleep only a few hours a night more than one night in a row, you build up a sleep debt
  • If your sleep debt keeps up, your health can suffer

Napping helps

  • Napping is a great way to cut down your sleep debt
  • It also helps you fall asleep more quickly and sleep more soundly
  • When you're sleep deprived, the longer the nap, the better
  • Even 20 minutes can be very helpful for many people

More restful tips

  • Don't try to catch up on chores while the baby is sleeping
  • Turn off your phone and lie down in a quiet, darkened room
  • Ask your partner, a family member or a friend to watch the baby while you nap
  • Resist the urge to peek at the clock
    • Focusing on how much time you have left to sleep or how many times you woke up the night before can lead to trouble sleeping
  • Avoid coffee, colas and any drinks with caffeine in them
  • Avoid smoking (the nicotine in cigarettes keeps you up)
  • While alcohol may help you fall asleep, it leads to waking up during the night
  • Don't work out within three hours of bedtime
  • Nursing women can learn to feed their baby while lying down on their side
  • If you use formula, have bottles of room-temperature water and powdered formula next to your baby's crib or at your bedside
  • Working parents might think about quick naps during lunch
  • Limit the number of visitors you have during those first few weeks
  • Try sleeping in shifts
  • If you have a partner, ask that person to take over some of the nighttime feedings
  • If you have the money, hire a weekly housecleaning service for a month or two

Scary results of lack of sleep

  • Hitting, shaking and treating babies badly may be more likely when parents don't get the sleep they need
  • 1,500 people die every year in car crashes caused by tired drivers
  • Lack of sleep can make depression after childbirth worse

What if I can't fall asleep?

  • Tired parents who are unable to fall asleep may have insomnia
  • Try visualizing a relaxing picture, such as sitting on a secluded beach while listening to crashing ocean waves
  • If you don't fall asleep within 15 to 20 minutes, get out of bed, go to a different room and do something soothing
  • Go back to bed when you feel sleepy

Life will be a bit chaotic for the first few months. But new parenthood is not the time to try to live up to the unrealistic ideal of being the "perfect parent." Letting go of out-of-reach ideals and asking for help can let new parents relax, rest and focus on those precious early moments with their baby.

[references] Copyright © 2010 LimeHealth

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