Sleeping when the baby sleeps sounds nice in theory, but often new mothers find out within the first few months that this isn’t how things will play out. Sleep with infants tends to be sporadic, and new moms subject to sleep deprivation. And it doesn’t help that we become worry-warts for the well-being of our little ones. Sleep, however, is a very serious issue we will dive into right now — you need it and we’ll tell you how to get it!
The Dangers of Sleep Deprivation
Having slept barely enough can lull us into a false sense of being capable of certain tasks, but studies show that people with less than six hours of sleep are four times more likely to find themselves in a car crash. Now picture this with your children on board. Studies have shown time and time again we feel we are capable, yet perform significantly worse with different tasks.
Depression and emotional instability are also a concern as when a mother is not well, her children can suffer too. Lack of sleep affects the mood-regulating centers of our brain, causing strong emotions and feelings like anger, anxiety, and detachment to occur. In other words, it’s easy to lose control over the way we feel and see situations. Circumstances can be challenging, but letting our minds and emotions take thoughts too far can do more harm than good.
Sleep deprivation also makes us more prone to eating unhealthy and becoming less physically active. Our inhibitions are affected, causing us to act in ways that might feel great at first but won’t do us good later on. We might find ourselves eating more junk food, moving less frequently, and gaining weight. As a result our self-esteem might take a hit, and we can feel worse about ourselves and who we are.
Of course, it’s difficult to eat well and exercise when your entire world revolves around a newborn infant. It’s also difficult to feel good and happy when a newborn arrives because our lives suddenly take a turn and now centers on the baby. We must not forget to take care of ourselves. You need you, and so too do your children.
So How Can New Moms Get More Sleep?
We’re going to keep this as simple as possible. There are five tips, and they involve two principles: avoid what doesn’t help you and do more of what does help.
1. Stay off the phone!
We are very well-connected in this world, and checking messages and browsing social media can become a full-time job if left unchecked. Sometimes the excitement and happiness of watching an innocent youtube video and playing games can also pull us in and suck out an hour or two of the day without noticing. Making it a habit to keep the phone in another room until it’s needed and keeping it away from spots where you sit can help break the habit of impulsively checking the phone.
2. Lay down whenever you can
There is always a mess to clean up. It could be doing the laundry five times a day, cleaning up all the toys, or washing dishes. Although we have to clean our home, we should take any opportunity to snooze when the time is appropriate. You should aim for either a 30-minute power nap or a 90-minute sleep. The 30-minute sessions prevent you from feeling groggy or exhausted when you wake up, whereas the 90-minute session gives you a full, rejuvenating sleep cycle. When you do lay down, remember point #1: no smartphones!
3. Take a breather before naps and sleep
Our quality of sleep plummets when we fall asleep in times of stress. Stress can disrupt our deep sleep and take us out of it even when we are exhausted and want to keep sleeping. What’s the solution? Make it a habit to practice one stress-reducing activity before sleep. Studies have shown that reading can reduce stress levels by half. Listening to music and writing in a private journal can have a similar effect.
4. Stick to a routine as well as you can
You’ve probably heard this advice time and time again. We must repeat it because of how important it can be and how easy it is to let this idea slip away. Following a routine can help provide comfort and consistency in your day-to-day life. And although it may take some time for newborns to adapt, it’s something every parent eventually has to go through if we want to keep our day together.
5. Be choosy about visiting guests
It can be exhausting dividing your energy, time, and attention to everyone. You won’t have the time and attention for entertaining, feeding, and keeping everyone happy. If a guest is not making your life easier or more comfortable, then it’s time to put your foot down. Learning to say no will protect you and your children from emotionally immature individuals.
Sleep deprivation is so severe because it ties into all aspects of our lives. When we feel terrible physically and psychologically, our children can be just as miserable.
In this mini-guide, we list out what we feel are the five most important to sleeping well and sleeping enough as moms. And as parents, we must take good care of ourselves for our children and ourselves. And that effort begins with our sleep.