Between the constant feedings, dirty diapers, and that growing pile of laundry that’s threatening to establish itself as your home’s overlord, you just aren’t getting enough of that sweet (oh-so-sweet) sleep you want.
By now you’re probably rolling your tired eyes and grumbling, “Tell me something I don’t know,” but hang in there, moms and dads. We've got simple strategies new parents can use to improve their sleep.
Your new baby and your sleep
First, let's take a quick look at why newborns change your sleep schedule so drastically:
- It all stems from the fact that babies have a sleep cycle that’s in overdrive. At three months, babies need a hefty 15-16 hours of sleep.
- Babies will sleep (an often sporadic) 10 hours at night and 5 hours during the day napping.
- Plus, the average newborn spends 50-80% of their sleep time in REM and takes only 50 minutes to complete a full sleep cycle. In comparison, adults spend 20% of their sleep time in REM and complete a full sleep cycle in 90 minutes. Translation: your baby’s brain races through sleep like a NASCAR driver, while yours is cruising the parking lot in first gear.
- A newborn’s speedy sleep pattern is also affected by their small tummies, which cause them to digest breast milk and formula at a rapid pace. That’s the reason they wake up every 2 or 3 hours feeling hungry.
- During the first few months when you’re keeping their schedule, you experience sleep fragmentation. These constant breaks in your sleep cycle cause you to spend less time in deep sleep and more time in light sleep. Likely coming as no surprise—this is a recipe for exhaustion.
How to maximize the sleep you’re getting
Things will eventually improve. Your baby will start sleeping through the night and the new parent anxieties that keep you up will lessen. Until that time comes, you’ll want to take some steps to ensure you maintain some semblance of rest.
Nap when the baby naps
It may sound trite, but one of the healthiest things you can do as a new parent is accept that you can’t do it all. Let your dishes and laundry pile up, and go take a nap. Even if you can’t complete a full sleep cycle, the extra rest will do good for your body and mind.
Give your bedroom a makeover
While changing your wall color and buying new bedding would be nice, this isn’t that kind of makeover. Instead, consider making some alterations to your bedroom environment, as well as possibly updating your bed.
You can make daytime naps easier by installing some blackout shades or wearing a sleep mask. We also recommend getting a white noise machine to drown out any loud or sudden sounds from the outside world.
As for the temperature, it’s better to be on the cooler end of the spectrum. Our bodies’ core temperatures drop to initiate sleep. When we’re too warm, this process is slowed or stopped altogether. Ensure that you’ll drift off faster by keeping your bedroom’s temperature between 65-70 degrees Fahrenheit.
Thinking that your old bed might not be helping your sleep situation? Consider switching out your traditional base for an adjustable one, which gives you the ability to raise the head or foot of your bed to the most comfortable position for you—and that's just the tip of the iceberg! Adjustable bases provide you with a number of benefits, like pressure-relieving massage, the prevention of loud snoring, and better lumbar support, as well as making nighttime feedings a cinch. (Psst, check out Reverie® adjustable bases if you're looking for unmatched engineering and design, and a wide range of price options.)
Go for a stroll
Try putting your baby in the stroller and heading out for a brisk walk (weather permitting, of course). Fresh air has a way of lifting spirits, and the sunlight will help regulate both you and your baby’s circadian clocks. Plus, adding movement to your day is great for your sleep and will help make you feel more alert during the day.
Be aware of your caffeine consumption
Because caffeine has a half-life of five to seven hours, it takes your body anywhere between 10-14 hours to fully be rid of it. A cup or two of coffee in the morning will likely not affect your sleep at night (and let’s be honest: sometimes it’s the only way to make it through the aforementioned sleep deprivation), but think about giving yourself a cutoff mid-afternoon.
While a good night’s sleep may seem like a distant memory, remind yourself that this won’t last forever. In the meantime, take care of yourself and rest when you can. Sleep does wonders in making you the parent, spouse, and friend you want to be.