When there is a clear opportunity to sleep, do you take it? One more dish, one more fold, one more episode, then I’ll head to bed. But oops, now the baby is awake, so you decide to surf the net for sleep tips for new parents.
If you are one of the many mothers out there intentionally avoiding that much-needed sleep, I have some news that might make you rethink how you are going about this.
According to a survey done by Sleep Junkie, on average, in the first year, a new mom is getting around 3 hours less than the necessary 7-9+ hours of sleep required for good health. Some moms are getting even less than that for a more extended period.
Some of this can only be explained as self-sabotage, a mom simply choosing, for various reasons, not to go to sleep even when she can.
Why is it Hard for New Parents to Sleep?
It’s clear that most mothers don’t get the help they need, so most of the baby’s demands weigh on her. Many mothers still have to go grocery shopping, wash the dishes, do the laundry, and even pay the bills. Besides all of the regular duties, her exhaustion is compounded by the needs of the baby and her husband.
With all of this going on, you would think she would be more than ready to sleep whenever she can, yet she does not. Instead, that mom will push through waves of sleepiness to stay awake just a little longer. This is an enigma to everyone who is not in her shoes, but I’ll reveal to you why she does so. Here are the three main reasons:
1. Concerns over baby’s safety
Understandably, you are concerned about your baby or toddler as a new parent. When our kids were babies, we would get up regularly to check on them.
Are they breathing? Is there anything obstructing their nose or mouth? Are they awake and chewing on something they shouldn’t be?
Every possible scenario pops into your head as a new parent, but most of these are truly nothing to be concerned about. Instead, these are unnecessary fears that plague new parents. One of the new parent sleep tips below speaks directly to how to keep your worries in check.
2. Sleep disturbances
I could write a book about sleep disturbances in motherhood. If it’s not the baby, it could be older children, the phone, the neighbor, or your hubby. Just when you are sitting down to rest, something wakes you up.
Sometimes it just feels pointless to sleep at all. That jarring feeling is not fun when you are already dead tired.
It’s obvious why some moms hate going to sleep. But, especially as a new parent, you could wake up every 30 minutes to something. You might as well get something done or use the time to do something you enjoy, right?
3. Lacking time to do what you want
Although last on this list of reasons, this may very well be the main reason why moms are so tired. Even a new mom friend of mine tried to convince me she was staying awake late because she didn’t get to do anything she wanted that day.
I get it! I realized that becoming a stay-at-home mom would be spending most of my day caring for my kids. I didn’t know that meant putting my hobbies and personal endeavors on the shelf (at least temporarily). If I did anything outside of kids and household duties, it was usually when I was supposed to be resting. But it doesn’t matter if it’s folding laundry or playing League of legends, you cannot justify being sleep deprived.
The Effects of Sleep Deprivation
Sleep deprivation is when you habitually lack an adequate amount of good sleep. You will know you have sleep deprivation because of uncontrollable sleepiness, fatigue, irritability, and slow reaction times. Everyone knows that a new parent will have sleep-deprived days, but the effects of it long-term can be detrimental.
The road to sleep deprivation (the lack of sleep) can cause you to be angry, unfocused, forgetful, and overeat. The scary part is you could actually get angry at your baby, not be present in what you are doing, forget when/if you fed the baby, or over-feed your child!
As you can see, regularly avoiding sleep for any reason is a major new mom mistake. But, admittedly, there are times when moms need to stay awake a little longer for relational, mental, or emotional recharging. So how do we strike that balance?
The 7 Best Sleep Tips for New Parents
By following these seven sleep tips for new parents, you will sleep like a baby.
1. Focus on Your Family
As a new parent, you’ve just started a precise and incredible journey. You may miss your usual activities and want some downtime, but you must live these moments with your family. Don’t take on more than is absolutely necessary. Set the foundation for a healthy home by getting the sleep you need.
2. Create a Newborn Bedtime Routine
Having a newborn bedtime routine will get your baby into the right rhythm for longer sleep. In addition, this will give you and your baby the signals to calm down for sleep.
I did a routine for bedtime as well as daytime naps. This settled my children and gave some structure to the days and nights when everything seemed crazy.
Establishing a consistent routine for your baby will begin healthy habits for both you and the baby.
3. Sleep When Baby Sleeps
You knew it was coming, and the age-old advice is still expert advice. I used to hate hearing this, but now I realize that my kids aren’t toddlers and that it is better to sleep and let some of the chores go, if possible.
4. End Safety Concerns
Remember the concerns we talked about earlier? If you might think, “If I’m asleep, I won’t hear if my baby truly needs me.”, this is for you.
There is always that possibility of not hearing trouble brewing, even when you are awake. However, by babyproofing your home and adding a baby monitoring system, you can stay connected and still get a good night’s sleep.
5. Create Your Own Ritual
Some moms get into a body cycle of awakeness. Like the overtired child, your body feels like it’s in a fight-or-flight situation, making it nearly impossible to sleep for more extended periods.
This comes from the change in your regular sleep cycle that happens with a newborn. It may seem normal at this point, but it’s unhealthy.
Break this cycle by creating a routine of your own. When the baby is down for a nap or to sleep at night, go to your bed. Relax, don’t stare at your phone or anything that will stimulate you, like reading a book.
I know you might not go to sleep the first few times, but go and lie there, anyway.
6. Lower the Sweet and Salty Snacks
When you lack sleep, your body will tell you by making you want sweet and salty snacks. You may think it’s the stress (and that is part of it), but it’s your lack of energy.
Your body is geared to get energy from any source to keep everything going. However, your brain can trigger the sensation of hunger when you actually don’t need that type of fuel.
The calories will add up, and weight gain (or lack of weight loss after a baby) will create another unhealthy cycle. Prevent them both by cutting the snacks and getting some Zzzs.
7. Ask for Help
As a new parent you might be concerned about what people will think if you ask for help. You may think that they will consider that you are not a good enough parent or that something is wrong. Not at all!
There is absolutely nothing wrong with asking for help from family and friends. And you rather do it sooner than later. Don’t wait to be on the limit of complete exhaustion!
To Sum it Up: Best Sleep Tips for New Parents
By now, when do parents start sleeping again? Well, it depends. Every parent’s situation is unique. I know some parents whose babies began sleeping through the night at three weeks old, while others like mine had trouble sleeping clear through first grade.
I considered my situation as an outlier. However, this is the norm according to one study that says you can expect to return to your pre-parent level of sleep at around six years.
Don’t feel overwhelmed by the numbers. Remember that motherhood is not a race to the finish, it’s a journey to be enjoyed. Following these sleep tips will help you have more joy and patience for this journey.
It’s important that we do our best to take advantage of sleeping opportunities when we can, and that’s why your next best step would be to grab the 7 Tried and Tested Sleep-Saving Tips Guide.
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About the Author
Rose Barnett is an HR professional turned freelance content writer and blogger. When she decided to be a stay-at-home mom, she had no idea what she was doing but found her path to success. Now she shares the wisdom she learned about how to be SAHM and WAHM at momlifeorganizer.com. You can also follow her on Pinterest.