Before your new baby was born, you've probably already heard that your sleep will be affected. A study determined that new parents get an average of just four hours and 44 minutes per night throughout the first year of their baby’s life.
This equates to 59% less than the recommended nightly average of 8 hours. This sleep is disturbed by a combination of things, with the main reasons being that your baby has woken up in the middle of the night and needs tending to.
Being sleep deprived is not only dangerous for you but also people around you. So what can you do about it? Well, we’ve outlined many ways for you to maximise your sleep leaving you with more energy for your day ahead.
1. Go To Bed Earlier
As a new mum it can be tempting to take advantage of your spare time once your baby has gone to sleep at night, but if you want more sleep you need to go to bed earlier.
We know that you want to do a range of different chores from cooking to cleaning, but you need to go to sleep even if it’s earlier than your usual time because before you know it they’ll be awake again.
One benefit of following your baby’s night sleeping schedule is that you’ll be better equipped to deal with them waking up frequently because you’ll be better rested. So, if you are feeling sleep deprived then give this a go and see if it makes a difference to your overall energy levels.
2. Don't Rely On Caffeine
Coffee is often the choice for most new parents to help them stay alert and awake throughout the day.
However, you can’t continually force your body to stay awake with coffee because eventually, you’ll begin to build up a tolerance which means you need larger and larger amounts to give you the same effect.
Also, sugary snacks and foods will have an instant positive impact on your energy levels, but they’ll just as fast make you crash.
Aim to stick to healthier foods such as fruits and vegetables because you’ll find that it’ll be easier for you to fall asleep.
We know because of the limited free time you have that’s it’s easier to make unhealthy food choices just for convenience, but you can just as easily grab a healthy snack such as a smoothie or yoghurt that will keep you fuelled.
The amount of money that you’ll also save by avoiding these caffeinated drinks will also be very noticeable.
3. Don't Be Afraid To Ask For Help
One thing you shouldn’t feel ashamed of doing is asking for help if you need it. If you need some errands or tasks completing then ask for help whether this be your partner, family member or a friend. This way they can help you with the chores while you catch up on your sleep.
You may even enlist the help of your baby’s new older siblings who can babysit while you get some sleep. If you try to do this by yourself, then you may end up overworking yourself which can make things even worse.
You’ll probably find that the people you ask for help were keen to help all along, but were waiting for you to ask.
4. Split Night Time Care
Another way to gain more sleep is by splitting the night time feeds with your partner.
This means that for instance if your baby goes to bed at 8 pm, then the mother would go to bed at the same time and your partner then handles any bottle feeds until 2 am. Then from 2 am until the morning, the mother will then take care of any feedings.
It ensures that both parents will get at least 4-5 hours of uninterrupted sleep per night.
Even if you breastfeed, this can still be done, and all you need to do is pump milk before you go to bed and then store it for use throughout the night. Additionally, you can also use formula milk that can be quickly made when your baby wakes.
5. Sleep In Separate Rooms
If you don’t want to split the night time feeds between you and your partner then it’s recommended that you sleep in separate rooms and take a night each. This means that you won’t be disturbed when either of you wakes up in the night.
It means that you get a full undisturbed night of sleep leaving you feeling refreshed and energised in the morning. It’s not just about the number of hours rest you get each night, but also the quality and number of uninterrupted sleep hours.
It may be hard to think about not sleeping in the same bed as your partner, but it doesn’t need to be every night, and it’s only a short term measure while your baby is still very young.
6. Go Outdoors
Going outside exposes you to natural daylight and fresh air which not only increases alertness but generally increases your overall wellbeing.
This also helps to regulate your internal clock which can also make you feel more awake even if you’re feeling tired. Fresh air and daylight also regulates the release of melatonin which helps us fall asleep.
If you take your baby with you, this is even better because it will help your baby to sleep better at night. This has been confirmed through a study at Liverpool John Moores University that concluded that babies sleep better at night are exposed to twice as much light between 12pm-4pm compared to poor sleepers.
Going outdoors doesn’t mean it has to be strenuous exercise, but could mean a gentle stroll around the local park.
7. Introduce a Routine
We all know that babies function best when they have a solid structure and routine and setting up consistent habits will help your baby to function more effectively and efficiently making it easier for both you and your baby.
To start you need to set a consistent pre-nap routine, with this routine including settling them down, making the room sleep-friendly, placing them in their cot and using a familiar blanket each time. This routine can be extended out to include a bath or reading them a story or even a feeding
By following the same steps each night, this gives the baby the same cues that they can recognise as being a sign that it’s ready to sleep. This means that they will fall to sleep quickly so you can then get your rest.
Getting your children into a routine isn’t just limited to when they’re a young baby, but you should aim to have methods and structures in place for at least the first few years of their lives.
8. Sleep When Your Baby Sleeps In The Day
You need to start to utilise day time naps if you aren’t’ already. Naps can be just as powerful as drinking coffee and are a good way of catching up on lost sleep, while only needing to be 20 minutes long.
You should restrict them to no longer than 30 minutes; otherwise, you fall into a deeper sleep which can make it hard to wake up without feeling groggy.
Initially, it can be hard to start taking naps in the middle of the day even if you feel tired, so you may need to do certain things to help you relax and fall to sleep. This can be a range of things such as taking a warm bath or listening to some relaxing music.
Napping throughout the day will also reduce the amount of sleep you need at night, which makes it easier to wake up for your baby’s feeds in the middle of the night.
9. Sleep Environment
By now you would have accepted that you’ll have to get up in the middle of the night to tend to your baby. You need to make sure that your sleep environment is comfortable enough for you to fall back to sleep quickly because you know that you only have another 1-2 hours before they will wake up again.
Creating a strong sleep environment can be simple things such as making sure you have a comfortable mattress and sheets; the room is blacked out, and you may even benefit from white noise to help you fall to sleep.
10. Don't Rush When They Wake
Your baby can develop a bad sleeping habit if every time they cry throughout the night you rush to them. Often, babies will wake themselves up in the middle of the night but then fall back to sleep again by themselves in a short period.
Give them a little bit of time to see if they can resettle themselves without interrupting their process. This will also help in the future when they begin to sleep more independently.
One thing you need to recognise is that this period of sleep deprivation is only temporary and it will go away in just a few months.
At times, it’s easy to forget that it’s short-term which is good news. But by using the correct routines, you can make it easier to cope with to maximise the amount of sleep that you’re getting while taking any sleep opportunities that you get throughout the day.