Your Sleep Needs

exhausted mom suffering from chronic fatigueAs a parent, you probably know the feeling of sleep deprivation all too well. From the handful of research studies that looked at how a baby affects parents’ sleep, we’ve learned that on average, new moms lose almost three hours of the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep per night—that’s 20+ hours lost per week, and 44 days of sleep lost in the first year of your baby’s life! In addition, about half of new moms can only count on one to three hours of continuous, undisturbed sleep at a time. No wonder you feel tired!

Moms aren’t alone. Dads were also surveyed, and the results were shocking:

  • Thirty percent of new dads have fallen asleep at work.
  • Twenty-one percent have fallen asleep in their (parked) car.
  • Eleven percent have fallen asleep in the shower! 

What are the effects of sleep deprivation?

It’s much more than simply feeling tired. Even a small sleep deficit takes a toll on your mind and body. For the average adult, night after night of too little sleep can make it harder to:

  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Handle stress
  • Be productive
  • Fight off illness
  • Focus and remember
  • Make decisions and solve problems

For a new parent, the problems associated with lack of sleep are compounded, and some of these effects will be passed on to the child. For example, when you’re sleep deprived, you’re less able to express joy or form happy expressions on your face. You look sadder in general, because your mouth will be droopy, and your eyes may be swollen. Your voice will tend to be flat, rather than expressing any positivity. All of these things will be reflected at your child, who is learning to mimic adult emotions and reactions.

Getting more sleep

So, now what? How are you supposed to get more sleep? Some ways to work in more time for shut-eye include:

  • Sharing the nighttime schedule with your partner
  • Napping when your baby naps (but not later than 2pm, as this can interfere with nighttime sleep)
  • Help your baby learn to self-soothe at night
  • Sleep in on the weekends to catch up a bit on REM sleep
  • Turn down (or off) the baby monitor, so that you aren’t awakened by every little sound