The CDC recommends that adults get at least 7 hours of sleep per night in order to maintain good health. With a new baby in the house, this might seem nearly impossible. However, caring for a new baby and functioning in your daily life while sleep-deprived can be dangerous, not to mention uncomfortable.
A recent study by Sleep Junkie surveyed 500 US and 500 UK parents to better understand the sleep habits of new parents. They found that 68 percent of parents were able to get 7+ hours of sleep each night prior to the birth of their baby, but only 10 percent were able to hit that number after birth. This equates to a loss of 3 hours of sleep per night. After spending hours trying to get their baby to sleep, new parents have little time to sleep themselves.
So what can parents do to cope? Below we have outlined some practical tips may help provide some relief.
1. Timing Is Everything
The timing and scheduling of your day can go a long way in helping new parents find better rest. The suggestions below will help you get the most out of your sleep time.
Relaxation routine. Having a new baby in the house can be stressful, but stress can make it even harder to sleep. Experts suggest creating a relaxation routine to help you unwind before bed. Consider reading, practicing breathing exercises, taking a warm bath or shower, or journaling.
Meals. When our bodies are working at digestion, it can be difficult for us to relax. To prevent this, avoid eating any large meals 2 to 3 hours before bed.
Exercise. The endorphins released into your body during exercise can also make it difficult for you to relax. Experts suggest exercising at least 2 hours before bed.
Sleep when your baby sleeps. If you are the parent responsible for staying home with the baby during the day, it is a good idea for you to sleep when your baby sleeps. Don’t give in to the temptation to catch up on chores or work during this time. Even if you don’t feel sleepy, just closing your eyes and relaxing can be rejuvenating.
Screen Time. Darkness causes our brains to naturally produce a hormone called melatonin. This hormone produces a drowsy, sleepy effect that allows us to sleep. Too much light from electronic screens can stop the production of this hormone. Experts suggest reducing exposure to screens from phones, computers, and televisions at least 2 hours before bed. This will help you fall asleep faster and maximize every minute of your sleep time.
2. Adjust Your Bedroom
Making sure you and your partner have a relaxing bedroom to retire to will be important during earlier parenthood. Consider making some of the following adjustments to your sleep space:
Light. In addition to reducing screen time, you may also want to use a lower watt lightbulb in your bedroom. A bulb between 45 and 50 watts will create an ambient atmosphere, while also providing adequate light for reading.
Comfortable mattress. Sleeping on an unsupportive or broken-down mattress can make it hard to find adequate sleep. It may be time to replace it with a comfortable mattress if it has any rips or holes, is sagging, or if you or your partner typically wake with neck, back, or shoulder pain.
Temperature. Because our body temperature tends to drop when we sleep, experts suggest keeping your bedroom on the cooler side, somewhere between 60 and 67 degrees.
Reduce clutter. To keep your bedroom stress-free, it is best to remove any clutter that could trigger anxiety, such as laundry, mail, work, or exercise equipment.
3. Take Turns
During the earlier stages of parenthood, couples will have to work together to divide up the responsibilities of nighttime feedings, diaper changes, and household chores. It can be frustrating if one person has to shoulder this burden. If you are the partner of a breastfeeding mom, consider having her pump breast milk during the day so you can feed the baby at night.
4.Ask For Help
At any stage of parenthood, never be afraid to ask for help. Seeking the help of professional sitters of nurses can provide a few hours respite for you and your partner. Friends and family may even offer to watch your baby or help you out with cooking and housework. Don’t feel guilty about taking them up on their offer. In most cases, they genuinely want to help.
5.Keep Your Baby Close
Allowing your baby to sleep in the same room with you can reduce separation anxiety. Experts believe babies often have trouble falling asleep due to fear that the separation is not temporary. If your baby is in the same room with you, can be easier for them to self soothe and fall back asleep quickly.
This may also help to reduce parental fears over the baby’s safety. In fact, studies have shown that bedroom sharing with your baby is associated with a lower risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Ultimately, it will be important for you and your partner to work together to find what works best for your family. Remember to be patient with yourselves and your baby, this stage will not last forever.
Meg Riley is a Certified Sleep Science Coach and a full-time writer focused on sleep health and the mattress industry. She is currently the Editor-in-Chief of Sleep Junkie. She has her undergraduate degree from Pennsylvania State University where she studied Advertising and Public Relations and wrote articles on the student experience for College Magazine. Her writing and research has been featured on Healthline, PhillyVoice, Daily Waffle, Boss Magazine, and more.
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