Let’s be honest, well-meaning as it might be, the old “sleep when the baby sleeps” adage is, to put it nicely, inaccurate. If you are a parent, you know that there’s no such thing as a ‘sleep pattern’ in newborns, so it’s almost impossible to predict when your baby’s next nap will be or how it’s going to last.
Studies show that the majority of parents of children under 18 months only get between five and six hours every night. A staggering 43% of parents of babies 6 months or younger only get one to three hours of uninterrupted sleep a night. No surprises there, right? The good news is that, like everything else in life, this is just a phase that will eventually pass.
But in the meantime (which can feel like an eternity), you need to use whatever tools are at your disposal to get some shut-eye.
Here are 5 science-backed sleep tips for tired moms.
In This Article
1. Know the importance of rest
Experts say that adult men and women should get between seven and nine hours of sleep every night. This is because sleep allows your mind and body to recharge, boosts your brain function, and helps stabilize your mood. Conversely, chronic sleep deprivation has been shown to:
- Worsen symptoms of postpartum depression
- Weaken your immune system
- Lower your sex drive
- Increase your risk of chronic health conditions, like diabetes and hypertension
- Trigger mood swings
- Make you more likely to have an accident while driving
- Alter your glucose metabolism
- Interfere with your body’s hunger response, leading you to make poor food choices more often
2. Create a baby-and-me bedtime routine
You’ve probably heard the advice, “create a bedtime routine” a zillion times. Here’s why: it really works. A bedtime routine doesn’t have to be overly fancy or elaborate. In fact, it can be as simple as putting on your baby’s PJs under dim light or reading a short story. The important thing is to find a relaxing activity that doesn’t work up the baby and puts him (and you) in the mood for sleep.
Of course, you might not be able to drift off the minute that your baby falls asleep. But creating a bedtime routine that’s also soothing and relaxing for you is a way to ensure that when the opportunity arises, you’ll doze off easily.
3. Watch your caffeine intake
Whatever you do, don’t fall into the temptation of substituting sleep with coffee, tea, or other products with caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant, which is a type of drug characterized by increased activity in the central nervous system and the brain.
Most people experience the effects of drinking caffeine pretty quickly: five to thirty minutes after drinking a cup of joe or an energy drink, you start feeling more alert and energized (and perhaps a little nervous and jittery, too). But caffeine actually stays in your blood much longer than that. It can take as much as 10 hours for it to fully leave your system.
The half-life of a substance is the time it takes for your body to reduce it to half of its original concentration. For example, caffeine’s half life is five hours. That means that since a regular cup of brewed coffee can have up to 100 mg of caffeine when you drink a cup at 3:00 pm, you will still have around 50 mg of caffeine in your system by 8:00 pm.
4. Avoid screens at night
If your idea of winding down for the night is crawling in bed and scrolling all your worries away, you’re not alone. Recent surveys show that as many as 9 in 10 adults go to bed looking at their phones every night.
This is an unconscious habit that many of us form because we think it’s going to help us relax and fall asleep faster. And we do it unaware of the fact that the artificial blue light that our phones emit actually suppresses the release of melatonin and tricks our brain into thinking it’s daytime.
Here’s what you can do to keep blue light from disrupting your sleep:
- Avoid watching TV in bed
- Don’t look at screens beginning two to three hours before bed
- If you have to work on your computer or use your phone at night, consider investing in blue-blocking glasses that protect
- your eyes from blue light exposure
- Dim brightness on your devices. Here’s how to do it if you have Apple devices, and here’s how to do it for Android
- Install a blue light filtering app on your phone
5. Ask for (and accept) help
Almost every new mom says that she could use some extra help after the baby is born, but many struggle to accept it when the time comes. One of the best ways to get some much needed sleep, though, is to enlist the help of your partner or support person to take on a few night shifts a week so you can rest.
Admittedly, this is easier if you are bottle-feeding. But if you are breastfeeding, you might want to consider introducing a bottle with breastmilk early so you can get more hours of uninterrupted sleep.
The bottom line
Moms and dads of small children everywhere are seriously sleep deprived. And it makes sense: taking care of a baby is a full-time job that doesn’t offer days off, sick leave, or vacations. But while this phase is temporary and you’ll soon be able to get (a little) more sleep, making sure you get adequate rest is as important for your sanity as it is for your physical well-being.
If you notice that your sleep issues are not improving as time goes by, please reach out to your healthcare provider or another licensed physician. According to BetterHelp, a mental health professional can help you go over the obstacles that are preventing you from getting a good night’s sleep.
Sometimes sleep disturbances can also be a sign of a created issue, like postpartum depression or postpartum insomnia. Your doctor might be able to recommend a treatment or refer you to a specialist that can help you get to the bottom of the problem.
Author: Marie Miguel
Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health- related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with BetterHelp.com. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.