As any new parent can tell you, sleep becomes something of a luxury with a newborn in the house. Because newborn babies tend to wake up every few hours, getting a decent, uninterrupted sleep becomes extremely challenging. That’s why so many new parents find themselves struggling with the negative effects of sleep deprivation.
In this week’s article, we look at some simple approaches to helping you cope with sleep deprivation. Although poor sleep is - unfortunately - a simple fact of life for parents of newborns, these quick tips can help you function on less. Take a look.
The Effects of Sleep Deprivation
Prolonged sleep deprivation can be a considerably unpleasant experience. In both the short and long term, you might notice yourself experiencing a range of side-effects. Feelings of lethargy, an inability to think clearly, and difficulty concentrating and performing different tasks are all extremely common. Not only that, but many people experience headaches and feel ‘run-down’ as a result of poor sleep. You might notice yourself getting more stressed, irritable, depressed and emotional in general. All in all, sleep deprivation can be extremely unpleasant and difficult to manage.
One of the main problems with sleep deprivation, of course, isn’t simply the physical and mental side-effects. These side-effects can start having an impact on other facets of your life too. Many new parents find their relationship suffers as a result of sleep deprivation. You might find yourself arguing more with friends and relatives, and performing poorly at work. That’s why, it’s important to know some of the most effective ways to reduce the negative effects of sleep deprivation, as a new parent.
How to Reduce the Negative Impact of Sleep Deprivation
- Sleep When the Baby Sleeps
This advice is so familiar it’s almost like a mantra at this point, but it’s worth repeating anyway. In the beginning, you might find yourself trying to make the most of your baby’s nap time. You might start doing the laundry, cleaning up the dishes, preparing bottles and all sorts of other tasks. Keep going like this, though, and you’re going to wear yourself out
Whenever you set your little one down for a nap, get some rest too. Don’t be worried about sleeping through her crying or waking up. As a parent, you’re essentially biologically attuned to wake up at this sound. When you’re baby is a little older, and you have her in her own nursery, using a monitor beside your bed will do the trick.
- Don’t Rely on Caffeine Too Much
It’s very tempting - in the beginning - to make up for your lost sleep with plenty of coffee or tea. Although a little caffeine might help give you that boost you need - in the mornings - drinking too much can keep you from sleeping at night, or during your baby’s nap times. Not only that, but - for those of you breastfeeding - too much coffee can be detrimental to your baby’s health too.
- Accept your New Limitations
It’s important that you try and accept your new, sleep-deprived related limitations. Because you’re running on less sleep, it might be harder to perform different tasks. Don’t get stressed about the fact you can’t concentrate and perform tasks as easy as you once could. Instead, learn to take your time and slow down a little when performing tasks.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help either. If you’ve got friends or relatives offering to help out in any way whatsoever - and you trust them with the task - take the offer. You’d be surprised at how a little help can help ease some of the burden. This doesn’t just apply to having people help around the house, or with other activities. If someone offers to watch the baby for even an hour or two, while you catch a quick nap, go for it.
- Share Feeding Responsibilities
Because, in the beginning, your baby will wake up every couple of hours, it becomes very difficult to get a good night of uninterrupted sleep. For this reasons, you should try share feeding duties at night with your partner or with someone else who can help. If you’re breastfeeding, consider pumping earlier in the day and have your partner feed the baby. If you’re not breastfeeding, have your partner take over one or two of the feeds during the night, to let you get your rest.
- Light Exercise & Healthy Snacking
If you notice yourself drifting off during the day, try some simple exercise. Getting your blood flowing can help alot. If possible, stick on a little music and dance. Jog up and down the stairs a few times. Go for a brisk walk. Do a few jumping jacks. Although it might the last thing you want, this can really help fight the fatigue.
The same goes for healthy snacks. When you notice your energy flagging, it’s tempting to go straight for sweets or other junk food. More often than not, however, this is counter-productive - as you’ll find yourself crashing very quickly. Instead, go for healthy snacks that distribute energy over longer periods of time. Fresh fruit and veg, nuts, seeds - these types of food are best.
- Back at Work After Maternity Leave?
Many women find it difficult to stay productive when returning to work after maternity leave. Again, it’s important to know your limitations. Your boss and co-workers should respect that you’ve got a new baby at home, and that sleep is in short supply.
If you notice yourself drifting off during the day, take a quick break and do light exercise. If possible, open a window and get a little fresh air in the room. Or - as mentioned above - treat yourself to some healthy snacks.
Because your energy levels are going to be lower than usual, it’s a good idea to schedule more difficult tasks to the start of the day, when you have more energy. Organising your days in advance - and setting reminders for yourself - will go a long way towards helping you cope.