You don’t necessarily have to be a parent to know that having children can seriously disrupt your sleep pattern – we’ve all heard stories from friends & family telling us how many times the little one has woken them up in the night.
However, it’s not just in the first few months that problems can persist, and some parents can even be missing out on a solid night’s kip for up to six years, according to new research.
The study, published in the journal Sleep, tracked the sleep of thousands of men and women as their family size increased, revealing that sound shuteye often actually hits its lowest point around three months after the birth of a baby, with women being the most strongly affected.
Although, according to the study, parents gradually do tend to see an improvement in their sleep as their child grows up, it seems that night-time rest is never quite the same again after starting a family.
Silentnight’s resident sleep expert, Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, has first-hand experience of being a new mother and often shares her top tips to help new mums through those first few weeks with a newborn.
Commenting on the topic, Dr Nerina said: “We place too much emphasis on the amount of time we’re supposed to sleep but it’s more important that we focus on achieving quality, deep sleep, rather than a quota of hours. As a new mum, it’s important to make the most of any free time you have restfully and to take regular naps of no more than 15 minutes, when you can, in order to re-energise.”
From using a white noise machine to power napping, Dr Nerina has revealed her top five tips for getting a good night’s rest if you’re a new mum:
1. Learn how to power nap
While it might be easier said than done to sleep when the baby sleeps, resting during the day will lessen the effects of sleep deprivation and improve the quality of your sleep at night.
It’s too easy to say ‘I’ll just get some chores done’, but before you know it, the baby is awake and needing your attention again. A power nap lasts five to 15 minutes, and you’ll approach a near-sleep state without actually falling asleep. If you are particularly exhausted, you might find it helpful to use a stopwatch or alarm clock to stop you falling into a deep sleep – however, the more you practise, the easier it will get and the more rejuvenated you will feel.
2. What to do if you wake up during the night
It’s inevitable that you will be woken, sometimes repeatedly, during the early days of your baby’s life. However, there are a few tricks that you can use to get yourself back to sleep more easily.
- Be prepared – try to have everything at hand for a quick feed or nappy change and if you have to put a light on, use a low-level bedside lamp. The less time you are exposed to light, the easier it will be for you to get back to sleep again.
- Don’t be tempted to check your phone – the blue light from screens tricks your brain into thinking it’s more awake than it is, thus making it more difficult to get back to sleep.
- Avoid checking the time too – if you do this, you are more likely to start worrying about how little sleep you might get.
3. If you can’t really get to sleep…
Use the time to relax. Abandon all attempts to sleep and allow yourself to just rest. Tell yourself ‘it doesn’t matter if I don’t sleep tonight; I’m just going to rest’ – it’s tricky but you might be surprised how quickly you get to sleep. Alternatively, get up and do something relaxing. Read a book, have a cup of camomile tea or warm milk, or even do some ironing to tire you out.
4. De-clutter your sleep environment
Try to keep your sleep environment free of clutter and baby toys and ensure the room is ventilated by having windows open or a fan on. This is a great way to keep things cool, and can also help to create a white noise effect that cuts out distracting background noises.
5. Get some exercise
One of the hardest things to do when you’re an exhausted new mother is to find time for exercise, but doing so will help you to both relieve stress and sleep more effectively. Exercise helps to reduce levels of adrenaline and other stress hormones while also boosting the production of other hormones which ‘repair’ the body, making your immune system and overall health more robust in the long-term. However, don’t be scared – exercise doesn’t necessarily have to mean going to the gym or running – a brisk, 20-minute walk can boost the production of endorphins just the same.
How are you coping with your newborn? Let us know on our social pages.