Dealing with Sleep Deprivation as a New Parent

The arrival of your newborn is joyous, but it also ushers in some monumental shifts in your pattern of living. Among the many changes is the harsh reality of sleep deprivation. As a new parent, you'll quickly discover that those blissful eight-hour stretches of uninterrupted sleep are a thing of the past. Instead, you may find yourself trying to navigate the new world of round-the-clock feeding, lots of nappy changes, and days on end where you comfort your baby through the night. Sleep deprivation effects take a toll on your physical and mental well-being. It leaves you feeling fatigued, irritable, and struggling to concentrate. It’s a tough slog, but there are strategies to help you cope during this phase. We’ve put together a number of practical tips that will make a world of difference and help you deal with and even thrive through the sleep-deprived days. 

 

Nap, Nap, Nap

When you're running on little sleep, strategic napping is a game-changer. Whenever your baby falls asleep, seize that opportunity to catch some restorative rest yourself. Even a short 20-30 minute nap can provide a much-needed energy boost and help you feel more alert and focused. If you're having trouble falling asleep quickly, try some relaxation techniques like deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, or visualisation. And don't feel guilty about napping, as it is a vital self-care practice that will help you be a more present parent.

 

Create a Sleep-Friendly Environment

Your bedroom (or any other sleep-space) should be optimised for high-quality sleep. Start by installing blackout curtains or blinds to block any sunlight or streetlights. Keep the room cool (65-67°F or 16-20°C is the ideal temperature range for sleeping). Use breathable sheets and light pyjamas. Turn off electronic devices like TVs, laptops and phones in the bedroom and use low-ambient lighting like table lamps if you need illumination. Remove any clutter that can feel chaotic or stressful. Keep your bedroom clean and solely devoted to sleep. A sleep-friendly environment will have you falling asleep more easily, and comes in very handy when you need to take a nap.

 

Divide and Conquer

Trying to tackle all the night wakings alone is unsustainable. If you have a partner, establish a schedule where you trade off nighttime duties in shifts. For example, you could be on baby duty on one night, while your takes over the next night. You should discuss how you'll handle feedings during these ‘shifts’ if you're breastfeeding  – you may need to pump to give your partner bottles. Flexibility is very important for these kind of arrangements to work.

Having designated stretches where you know you can sleep uninterrupted is invaluable. You may still be woken by crying, but at least you'll get a solid stretch of sleep.

 

Don’t Neglect Self-Care

As a new parent, it is easy to become consumed with meeting your baby's never-ending needs. But self-care is a necessity that allows you to be the best parent you can be. Create time, even if only 15-30 minutes per day, for restorative activities that allow you de-stress. A warm bath can work wonders for sore muscles and frayed nerves. If you can, fit in some gentle exercise like yoga, stretching, or walking around the neighborhood. The endorphins will boost your mood and energy levels. Listen to a relaxing playlist or podcast.

Watch for signs you need a break. These moments of respite will work wonders for your physical and mental well-being. You'll be a much better parent when your own needs are met.

 

Ask For Help

Don't try to be a martyr. Asking for help from your family and loved ones is crucial when dealing with sleep deprivation. Having an extra pair of hands, even for a few hours, can be a huge relief. Reach out to family members like parents, in-laws, siblings, aunts or uncles and see if they can come over to watch the baby while you catch up on sleep. Or ask a good friend. Having someone you trust look after your baby puts your mind at ease.

They may offer to clean, run errands, or cook meals – say yes! You may be hesitant to ask, but chances are your friends and family are eager to support you however they can. Let them. Their support will alleviate your burdens and allow you to recharge.

 

Fuel Your Body with Nutritious Food

When you're sleep-deprived, making wise food choices gives you much-needed energy boost. Eat nutrient-dense foods that provide lasting stamina like:

  • Whole grains
  • Lean proteins (poultry, fish, eggs)
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Fruits and vegetables

Stay well-hydrated by drinking lots of water. Limit your caffeine intake, especially in the latter part of the day, as it can interfere with your ability to fall (and stay) asleep when you finally get the chance. Proper nourishment gives you the fuel to power through the days when you're running low on sleep.

 

Seek Professional Assistance

Some new parents develop postpartum depression, anxiety or other mental health issues that can be worsened by extreme sleep deprivation. If you're struggling, seek professional help. Tell your doctor what's going on. There's absolutely no shame in getting the help you need to deal with sleep deprivation and its side effects.

 

 

Those first few newborn months may be some of the toughest you'll experience as a parent. Perhaps the most important piece of advice is to remind yourself that the sleep-deprived days of early parenthood won't last forever. While it lasts, don't be afraid to ask for help and to prioritise self-care. Fuel your body with nourishing meals. Communicate openly with your partner and share responsibilities to ease stress. And if you need professional support for your mental health, seek assistance without shame. By implementing these strategies and showing yourself compassion, you can deal with sleep deprivation with greater ease. With each passing day, your resilience will grow and your baby's sleep habits will gradually improve. You’ve got this!

 

 

 

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