The secret to a great night's sleep

Who's losing the most sleep: mum or baby?

The birth of a child is a joyous event, but for parents there are some side effects of having a new baby - including heavy eyes and dazed expressions!

You might want to spend every minute tending to your baby's needs, but parents have needs too. If these are ignored, you might find yourself in 'sleep debt'. This is a build up of lost sleep that can lead to health problems.

Many new parents are shocked by the exhaustion they feel from looking after a baby. Newborns require constant attention and regular feeds, meaning that parents can lose out on hours of crucial sleep during the night. 

The National Sleep Foundation recommends adults should be getting around seven to nine hours of sleep per night. However, on average parents lose two hours of sleep each night until their baby is five months old. This amounts to 350 hours of sleep lost per year!

We've experienced the fatigue, short temper and lack of focus from a poor night's sleep. But extreme sleep deprivation can ultimately lead to you feeling down and weakens your immunity.

Sleep loss can ease when your little one starts sleeping through the night - for a child this means getting a full six to eight hours. But this can come sooner for some parents than others. So for now, we're giving you some tops on how to reduce your sleep debt. 

How to get more rest

Take a nap - napping has many benefits. It can help you stay alert during the day after loosing sleep at night. Our energy levels naturally dip around 3pm and our resident sleep expert Dr Nerina says that we should power nap for around 10-20 minutes. 

Avoid stimulants - try to avoid caffeine, alcohol and nicotine. Nicotine and caffeine are stimulants. You may think that alcohol helps you to fall asleep but it actually increases wakefulness during the night. Dr Nerina says: "If you are having problems sleeping or are waking up feeling tired no matter how much sleep you get, minimise caffeine and increase your fluid intake by drinking more water, herbal teas and dilute fruit juices. Remember, alcohol can also impair deep sleep quality so you are likely to wake u[ feeling tired and fuzzy-headed f you have overindulged the night before."

Get more sleep in early - if you haven't yet given birth, try to get as much sleep now as possible. Getting extra sleep in advance could mean that the sleep deprivation wont feel as overwhelming once the baby arrives. 

Sleep when your baby sleeps - it's all too tempting to get straight to that pile of washing once your baby has finally dropped off. Instead, make sure you get a lie down in a calm and relaxed environment. It;s not aways a good thing to try and force your baby into a sleeping pattern, this naturally develops in time. But of course this means that parents can lose out on sleep at night time, so it might be best to catch some shut eye whenever you can during the day.

Don't look at the clock - Dr Nerina says: "try to avoid looking at your clock and registering the time. If you do this, you are more likely to start worrying about how little sleep you will get if you don't fall asleep again. This then reduces your chances of getting back to sleep even further!". Instead, she suggests lying on your back and breathing deeply, trying to consciously relax each part of your body from your head back to your toes. 


For more of Dr Nerina's sleep advice visit the sleep toolkit here. Don't forget to join the conversation on our Facebook and Twitter pages using the hashtag #MySleepSecret

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