As soon as you announced your pregnancy, people probably started saying, “Start sleeping now because you won’t get any after the baby arrives.” Prolonged sleep deprivation can take a heavy toll on a couple, especially when you're navigating the world of parenthood. However, there are ways to help yourself get the rest you need despite the challenges of a newborn.
Sleep Loss is Normal But You Still Need It
You're simply going to lose a certain amount of sleep when a new baby enters your home. Her circadian rhythms have not yet regulated, which means her day-night schedule may fluctuate for several months. Not to mention the nighttime feedings, so expect some sleep loss.
Just because it's expected doesn't mean you shouldn't make sleep a priority. Sleep helps regulate your appetite and metabolism as well as control food cravings. Your efforts to lose that baby weight will be much more successful if you've got adequate sleep on your side. Sleep also keeps your immune system and energy levels up for all those diaper changes and feedings.
You also need sleep for your emotional stability. The brain's emotional processing center becomes overactive to negative thoughts and feelings when sleep deprived. At the same time, the brain’s logic center becomes quiet and doesn’t exert control over your emotions without enough rest. Basically, sleep can help you wade through the waters of postpartum emotional ups and downs.
But how do you get it?
5 Ways to Get More Sleep and Keep Your Sanity
Accept Help and Nap
If family and friends offer help, now is the time to accept it. Let them hold the baby while you get some sleep. Don't feel guilty. Someday you can do the same for someone else.
Pump so You Can Split Duties
Pump an extra bottle of breastmilk so your partner can take at least one night feeding. Taking turns and splitting duties can help you both get more consecutive hours of sleep. You may also want to consider alternating the nights that you're up with the baby. Pump a bottle or two so your partner can take a full night. The next night it can be your turn for all-night duty.
Nap When Baby Naps
This is the advice you'll hear most often and many times it's easier said than done. After all, the dishes, cleaning, and laundry are probably piling up. However, it’s advice worth taking. Do the cleaning later when your partner is home, and you can take turns holding the baby. Your baby's nap time is a great opportunity for you to catch a few extra ZZZ’s. Plus a short 15 to 30-minute nap can counteract some of the effects of sleep deprivation.
Call the Night Early
It's tempting to enjoy an hour or two of time to yourself after your baby has fallen asleep. But, your baby's first nighttime feeding comes fast. Go to bed as soon as your baby falls asleep for the evening. Over the course of the whole night, you’ll get at least seven hours of sleep, even if they’re not consecutive.
Eliminate Sleep Non-Baby Sleep Disturbances
Eliminate as many non-baby related sleep disturbances as possible. Use blackout curtains, a white noise machine, or encourage your partner to use an anti-snore mouthguard to enhance your sleep environment. The more disturbances you can prevent, the better.
New parents might have to think creatively to get the rest they need. However, this phase of life doesn't last forever. Efforts to get better sleep for all of you will help you enjoy this short but special time with your newborn.