I bet people used to tell you all the time “sleep now while you can, you won’t sleep at all when the baby comes!” As well intentioned as those people may have been, it’s not particularly useful advice. First of all, it’s hard to sleep when pregnant, especially at the end! Second of all, sadly sleep doesn’t work like that - you can’t build up reserves. But they do get one thing right, sleeping with a newborn is many things, easy isn’t one of them.
As a new mom, proper sleep is one of those illusive things that is hard to get but harder to live without! Living on little sleep can make us sad, moody, irritable and frustrated. The less sleep we get, the higher chance of postpartum mood disorder. As a sleep consultant, I often focus on tips for helping your baby sleep better, but sometimes parents need tips to sleep better too!
Here are a few tips to make sure that Mom and Dad are getting better and more restorative sleep when they get the chance…even if it is for a short time!
1. Just as we encourage babies to be on a sleep schedule, the same is true for adults. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day even on the weekends. Being consistent will reinforce your circadian clock and sleep-wake cycles and help you sleep better.
2. Try not to consume nicotine, alcohol or caffeine at least 3 hours prior to going to bed. Instead, replace it with a warm chamomile tea or other caffeine free warm beverage…warm milk can often help. Although you do want to limit your liquid intake to prevent frequent overnight trips to the bathroom!
3. Create a bedtime routine for yourself and be consistent. Be sure that it is a soothing routine like taking a warm bath or shower, reading a book, or listening to relaxing music.
4. Sleep hygiene is very important. Conditioning your brain to understand that the bed is for sleeping is a great way to learn to fall asleep quicker and easier. Limit stimulating activities such as watching TV, playing on a smartphone or ipad, and even eating in bed as it can confuse the mind as to what we are supposed to do when we hit the pillow, making it harder for us to sleep.
5. Create a great sleep atmosphere:
6. Include physical activity in your daily routine, specifically outside. This is healthy both physically and mentally and will not only help you sleep deeper, but also reduce postpartum mood disorders. This is also a great for your baby. However, be sure not exercise approximately 2 hours before bedtime as you may then be too energized to sleep.
7. Keep a notepad and pen by your bedside table. If you wake in the middle of the night thinking of things you have to remember to do the next morning, you can write them down and forget it. This is also great for tracking your baby’s feeds so you don’t have to try and remember them the next day.
8. If you have gone to bed and feel like you cannot fall asleep yet, get up and do something. Then come back 20 minutes later and try and again! Sometimes, although you feel tired, your body may just not be ready to fall asleep yet.
9. Turn off all phones and even put a sign on your door so that any visitors will not ring your doorbell and wake you up once you do fall asleep.
10. You may want to enlist some help from a night doula or night nanny. This will help limit the disruptions overnight so that mommy can still feed her baby but the night doula or nanny will then be able to settle baby down in another room while mommy goes back to sleep. Or you can choose to pump and allow your helper or dad to offer the milk overnight so you can get a bit more rest.
These are tips that both new moms and dads can use to help get better sleep once your new baby comes. Funny enough, many of them I would suggest for your baby too!