The secret to a great night's sleep

Does ‘mummy brain’ really exist?

A survey conducted by the New York University medical centre has found many new parents can find themselves sleep deprived, shell shocked and in a 'zombie-like' state that can make it difficult to concentrate; this exhausted state has been nicknamed 'mummy brain'. 

54% of adults with new babies said that sleep deprivation makes it difficult to function according to the new 'Snooze or Lose' survey, with 84% saying it is a huge relief when your baby starts sleeping through the night.

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Image: staticflickr 

Dr Anne Mooney, who conducted the survey at New York medical centre, says that 'mummy brain' comes down to lack of sleep. "It could be lack of focus or attention, changing mood, irritability or even just the ability to find that word on the tip of your tongue. There are many different ways that sleep deprivation manifests and it takes a lot of time for new parents to catch up on the loss of sleep and get continuous sleep, not just fragmented slumber." 

New parents can find that they lose a significant amount of sleep and therefore are carrying around 'sleep debt'. Dr Mooney advises making sleep a priority by napping when the baby naps or, if possible, take a night off by enlisting a family member. "Sleep debt can be repaid it just takes dedication and time getting the sleep you need." 

This advice may seem impossible when you have a baby waking up throughout the night but Dr Alanna Levine, a professional paediatrician, has some tips to help get a baby or toddler to sleep soundly through the night.  


Newborns should sleep 9-12 hours, plus naps.

Establish a sleep routine: Make sure you have a calm, soothing place for your child to go to sleep and keep to a regular routine.

Look for your baby's sleepiness cues: When your baby starts to rub his eyes and yawn, capitalise on that opportunity, Levine said. Don't try to keep the baby up when you see those signs. 

Put your baby to bed while she is awake: This could be the hardest thing for new parents, Levine said. Rock your baby, sing to them and soothe them. "If you can get into the habit of putting your baby down awake, then when your baby wakes up in the middle of the night, he or she can get back to sleep again," Levine noted.



Toddlers should sleep 12-14 hours, plus naps.

Consistency is key: "You need to reinforce a routine " Levine said. "So if your child wakes up in the middle of the night, you can't bring your child into your bed once and not expect them to demand the same treatment every time."

Provide positive reinforcement: Even negative attention is attention, so even though you may be tempted to get up to tell your child off or try to settle them in the night, that's still giving attention, Levine said. "I'd much rather you made a sticker chart and give a reward in the morning for a full night's sleep in bed," she noted.

Do you have 'mummy brain' and are finding it hard to function with your new baby? For helpful tips from our sleep expert Dr Nerina visit her Sleep Toolkit. Or if you have a specific sleep question you would like to ask Dr Nerina, submit your question on our Ask Our Expert page for a personal response. 



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