Importance of Managing Sleep for New Mothers

Importance of Managing Sleep for New Mothers

Are you struggling to get a good night’s sleep after having  ?. You may find yourself half-sleeping while completing chores, feeling groggy throughout the day, experiencing fatigue, or wishing you could get at least one night of uninterrupted sleep.

After all, caring for a newborn is filled with sleepless nights. One needs to always be alert and stay on top of the needs of the baby – be it regular feedings, burping, diaper changing or cuddling. This can be quite draining for the parents as most newborns don’t sleep for more than three hours at a time. For a new parent, adjusting to this interrupted sleep pattern is a big adjustment.

Yet, this fatigue and sleep deprivation is not taken seriously. Most doctors will ask questions about the baby’s sleeping and feeding habits, but the importance of sleep for the parents is often neglected. Lack of adequate sleep for new parents is often considered as a rite of passage that all parents have to go through while raising their baby.

Why sleep is important when you have a newborn

Sleep is of utmost importance for a person. It is essential to almost every process in the body, and impacts your physical and mental functioning, your ability to fight disease and develop immunity, and your metabolism and chronic disease risk. As an adult, you require 7-9 hours of sleep on average to maintain healthy functioning. However, once you become a new parent you may struggle to sleep through the night.

In fact, these struggles may start from the time of pregnancy itself. During pregnancy, the body goes through a number of changes. These changes can impact a lot of different aspects, one of them being sleep. Around 78% of birthing individuals experience sleep problems during pregnancy. These sleep problems are caused by many things, such as anxiety related to the responsibilities of having a baby and being a new parent, vivid dreams, frequent nausea and urination, fetal movement of the baby, cramping,physical discomfort, breathing and digestive problems, etc.

Once the baby is born, you are again unable to sleep well. After all, when you first have a baby, there are many new challenges that come your way. On the one hand, you may be learning how to breastfeed, swaddle and hold your baby, while on the other hand you may be trying to maintain your previous roles and responsibilities. You may also be navigating a new relationship dynamic with your partner and trying to maintain your own identity and sense of self after having a baby.

A newborn baby is fully dependent on their parents for almost all their basic needs, especially for the first year of their life. Making sure that all of these needs are met in the right way, along with taking care of all your other daily responsibilities and work requires you to be in the best frame of mind. When you are able to get enough sleep you can help your brain to strengthen the new skills that you may learn everyday while you are awake. Sleep makes it easier for your brain to take in new knowledge and information, meaning that sleep can increase your ability to solve problems and remember the things that you’ve learned.

But when you are unable to sleep properly, you may experience fatigue and may inadvertently not be able to meet the demands of being a parent. You may even compromise your child’s safety. This is because you are more prone to slips and accidents, which are the last things you want to experience while holding your baby. Lack of adequate sleep also impacts your attention span, and you might not be able to give your full attention to important tasks. Being alert is especially important when it comes to taking care of your baby as you never know when something unpredictable may happen.

If you have just had a baby, that means you are also recovering from pregnancy and delivery. The time you sleep is when your body focuses on your healing as sleep enhances muscle recovery. When you are asleep, your blood flow increases to certain areas of the body. Along with increasing blood flow, your body also releases certain hormones during sleep which are vital for tissue growth and repair, bone building and fat burning. Focusing on your sleep and staying well rested can help you to keep up with your child as they grow older.

Regular, good quality sleep also helps in maintaining your immunity which prevents you from getting sick. It has also been found that lack of sleep reduces a person’s glucose tolerance, putting them at risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Lack of sleep also increases one’s risk of developing inflammatory diseases, heart disease and strokes. Sleep deprivation can make a new parent less enthusiastic, more irritable, and lead to feelings of sadness and loneliness.

Ongoing sleep deprivation can result in some serious health effects. These long-term effects of sleep deprivation and  fatigue are associated with a wide range of damaging health consequences including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension as well as mental health issues such as anxiety and mood disorder.

Sleep deprivation can also cause mental fatigue and increase your risk for postpartum anxiety, mood disorders and other mental health issues. Good sleep is vital for your mental well being in many ways.

How to know that you are sleep deprived

There are some common signs of sleep deprivation that you may experience. If you notice these signs in yourself, it could indicate that you are sleep deprived. These signs include:

Being unable to focus well: When you aren’t able to sleep well, your cognitive function is impaired. This can make it difficult to concentrate and take in information. You may also find yourself becoming more forgetful.

Having low energy levels: When your body is unable to get the physical and mental rest it requires, it depletes your energy levels to maintain active functioning. Having restful sleep is one way to replenish your energy levels.

Having frequent mood swings: When you haven’t been sleeping well, you are less likely to be able to regulate your emotions well. You may be at higher risk of developing mental health issues such as anxiety or mood disorders.

Being irritable and upset: When you don’t get enough sleep, you become more irritable, anxious, and likely to lash out at friends, co-workers, spouses and other loved ones.

Reduced alertness: When your brain is not well rested, it does not have the resources to focus on the environment and take in new information. This can lead to reduced alertness and slowness in performing tasks.

How to improve sleep as a new parent

If you have identified these signs of sleep deprivation in yourself, try to remain calm and don’t worry. There is help available for you. Remember this is a new journey you are on, and you are still learning many things. This also includes learning how to take care of your own new needs as a parent.

There are several things you can do to improve your sleep. While maintaining a healthy diet, having a routine and following your doctor’s advice are common suggestions given to new parents, here are some more tips and suggestions to help you improve your sleep as you adapt to the role of a parent.

Keep your baby close to you –  As a new parent, you may have a lot of worries and anxieties around your baby. Having your baby in the same room as you, when you are sleeping or awake, can help reassure you about your baby’s well-being. During night time, this can also lead to less anxiety and better sleep.

Develop a routine – Babies may not inherently follow a set routine and do not have a sense of day or night. They develop and learn this gradually. Having a consistent bedtime routine can help your little one get into the rhythm of sleeping, meaning that they will get settled and fall asleep easier. This can then give you more time to sleep.

Practice good sleep hygiene – Sleep hygiene involves a set of practices that promotes consistent, uninterrupted nightly sleep. This can involve getting plenty of sunlight during the day, eating healthy meals, avoiding too much screen time, reducing heavy meals or beverages close to bedtime, and restricting time spent in your bed while awake. You can also try setting up a calming night time routine. It doesn’t have to be a long and elaborate routine. Even something as simple as having a warm shower, and reading one page from a book, meditating for a few minutes or journaling about your day can help you feel calmer as you get into bed.

Create a healthy sleep environment  – The place where you (and your baby) sleeps is more important than you may think. For your baby, make sure they are properly swaddled, and don’t have any toys or extra blankets around them. Having a dark and quiet room will also help to improve their sleep. For yourself, ensure that the area where you sleep is dark, quiet and cool. You can also try to remove any clutter or distractions from the room before going to bed.

Avoid caffeine – As a new mom, you may not be drinking a lot of caffeine. Even then, limiting or cutting down your caffeine intake can help you sleep better. While you may need coffee or tea to get you through the day, this can also cause anxiety and jitters during the day, and may make you restless and unable to sleep at night.

Keep work at work – If you have gone back to work post-delivery, you may have a need to prove yourself. You may also want to catch up on all the things you missed out on while you were on leave taking care of your baby. At such times, iit can be easy to overwork or try to take on more than your share of responsibilities. Even if you do not need to physically go into the office, and are working from home, there may be calls, emails, work projects and deadlines that can easily get in the way of your home life and make you experience fatigue. This takes away your opportunities of catching up on precious sleep. During the first months with a new baby, make an effort to leave work at work. Limit the amount of work-related emails, texts and phone calls keeping in mind the new responsibilities on your plate. You can even discuss the same with your supervisor or HR department to see how your workplace could try to be a part of your sleep solution. Working from home, telecommuting, staggered schedules, dedicated napping spaces, and flexible times may be a good way to prioritise your sleep.

Ask for help – Don’t hesitate in reaching out for help from your partner and loved ones. Whether it is your mom, your partner, your mother-in-law, your friends ask someone to help you with night time feeds, or taking care of the baby while you sleep. If possible, you can also get a nanny to help you care for the baby. If your baby is okay with bottle-feeding, try expressing milk so that you can delegate feeding the baby too. Babies sleep for short spurts, and allowing others to assist you with watching, feeding, or changing the baby can help you make time for sleep. Even if all you can manage is a quick afternoon nap while a friend cares for your baby, every little bit helps you catch up on lost nighttime sleep.

Spend time with your baby – Try to spend as much time as you can with your baby during the day or while your baby is awake. Spending time cuddling, having tummy time, reading or singing to your baby, or going for a walk with your baby are good ways to do this. This can also help you deal with any guilty feelings of “abandoning” your baby at other times.

Refresh yourself in other ways – As an adult you need 7-9 hours of sleep for a healthy life. While it may not be possible to get a full 7 to 9 hours of rest, there are several other ways you can rejuvenate your body and mind. This can involve engaging in an existing hobby, listening to your favourite music, reading a fun book, It could also involve meditating, doing some light exercises or getting a massage.

Take power naps – While you may not always be able to get a few hours of continuous, uninterrupted sleep, a cat nap or power nap can help you. Don’t disregard the effectiveness of a short daytime rest. Even a 20-minute nap is all it takes to experience benefits like better mood and improved alertness.

Have a positive outlook – When you have a newborn at home, there may be many stresses, fears and anxieties that can come to your mind. You may constantly be worried about whether your baby is growing and developing in the right way. You may also have anxiety about your own abilities as a parent. Thinking about such things as you lay in bed can interfere with sleep. Instead, try to integrate more positive self-talk and a positive attitude towards yourself and your baby. If this seems like a challenge, you can try talking to a therapist to help you overcome your stress and anxiety.

Keep a lookout for signs of sleep deprivation – Now that you know the signs of sleep deprivation, keep an eye on the signs you see in yourself. If you feel that this is reaching a dangerous point and is impacting your cognitive function, it may be time to seek counseling or therapy.

If you have symptoms of sleep deprivation that are not responding to changes in lifestyle and routine or other home-based interventions, don’t shy away from talking to a therapist or mental health professional. They may be able to help you with strategies and techniques to sleep better and maintain your mental well-being.

When it comes to sleep, don’t forget that making it your priority is beneficial not only for you, but also for your baby and your entire family. Being a parent may not always be an easy journey, but prioritising your sleep can make it a more interesting and less difficult one.

As a new parent, make a promise to yourself that you will try to make your journey better by focusing on your physical and mental health as well as on getting enough sleep. We at AtEase are here to help you during this new stage of your life. Should you need any assistance or support, please don’t hesitate in talking to a therapist, and reach out to us at

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