A poll by the National Sleep Foundation found that 76 percent of parents have frequent sleep problems. If you have an infant, this is old news.
Advice often given is “sleep when the baby sleeps.” Though sound, it isn’t always realistic for everyone to sleep every time the baby does.
There is no magical formula for getting enough sleep, however, there are some things you can do to increase the amount of rest you get.
Even if you can’t sleep, lie down
If you can’t fall asleep, try not to stress over it. Diana Lynn Barnes, president of Postpartum Health International, says “just laying down for a half hour can be very restorative. Get off your feet, relax on the couch, and stay off the phone.”
Say no to extra responsibility
When you have a newborn at home you need to take all the time you can to rest, it is best not to take on any extra responsibilities. You may feel guilty about spending less time with your older child(ren) and want to volunteer to chaperone a school trip, however, now is not the time for that. After you and your baby are on a routine and sleeping for more than a few hours at a time, you can start adding in extra activities again.
Let chores wait
We are going to say it too, sleep when your baby sleeps. Susan Zafarlotfi, PhD, clinical director of the Institute for Sleep and Wake Disorders at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey says, ”If your baby takes a nap, put everything aside and take a nap too.” Margaret Park, MD, an assistant sleep specialist at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago agrees saying, “It is very tempting to try and do chores, wash dishes, do laundry and clean floors when your baby is asleep. But accept that your house is dirty and messy and go to sleep because once baby is up, you have to be up too.” This is not the time to make phone calls or catch up on your favorite shows that you have been recording.
Take advantage of help from a trusted friend or family member. “Many people are resistant, but whether it is a family member, friend, or babysitter, accept help, so you can get a few hours of sleep,” says Park. Too often people think of sleep as a luxury, when, in reality, it is a much-needed medical requirement. “When you do get to nap, avoid television, radio, and looking at your clock so you don’t focus on how much time you have left,” she says. Keep in mind that a cool, dark environment is optimal for quality rest.
Get help with nighttime feedings
A great way to get a solid stretch of sleep is to have your partner or visitor work the night shift for you. Breastfeeding moms may not want to give up the extra bonding time, but sleep deprivation can be dangerous for both of you. If you are extremely exhausted, you may want to consider introducing a bottle of breast milk in the evenings so that you can be relieved and get some much needed Zzz’s.
Find activities that make you sleepy
Even after a draining day of caring for a new baby, some moms may have trouble falling asleep. It can be tempting to unwind in front of a computer or TV, however, that is counterproductive. The light that comes from computers, televisions, phones, and other electronic devices are stimulating and can keep you awake. Find another activity that helps you fall asleep. Some people find that listening to talk radio helps, others may read a book or magazine. Find something that helps induce sleep for you.
Women may feel obligated to entertain, prepare food, and keep people happy, when they visit a new baby. There are helpful visitors (friends and family who cook dinner and change diapers), and irritating visitors (people who just want to gossip). Visitors who put high demands on you or expect the same level of effort and hospitality that you had before you became pregnant will only deplete your energy. So, put a limit on the amount of time you allow for visitors. And remember, if you have a visitor that wants to help, whether it be with chores or a diaper change, accept it!
Don’t depend on caffeine
A cup of coffee first thing in the morning can give you the nudge you need to be alert, but overdoing it can mask your need for sleep. Too much caffeine or caffeine late in the day may prevent you from falling asleep when you lie down for the night. Additionally, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)recommends that nursing mothers limit their caffeine consumption to one cup a day.
Remember that this doesn’t last forever
One day – maybe tomorrow, your infant will sleep through the night. And then, so will you. According to the AAP, healthy babies usually settle into a routine in which they sleep for longer stretches at night (five or more hours) by two to three months of age. You should keep in mind, however, that some babies sleep through the night earlier than others. If your baby is crying all night, there may be a medical reason -like acid reflux or gas- and you should talk to your pediatrician.
Don’t ignore the postpartum blues
It’s a vicious cycle, sleep loss can lead to mood changes, and mood changes can lead to sleep loss. If you are experiencing symptoms postpartum depression talk to your doctor to address them.
Rule out underlying sleep problems
See a professional if short naps and rest aren’t reviving you at least a little, as there may be an underlying sleep disorder that can be treated. Sleep disorders – like sleep apnea– are common among people who gain weight, and may develop due to the weight gain of pregnancy. A sleep study, in which you are monitored while asleep, can identify your problem. Schedule a consultation with the Valley Sleep Center today.
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