Any new dad will tell you that there’s nothing more magical and life-altering than the arrival of your new baby. Among the major adjustments new fathers face, the most taxing is a severe alteration to their sleep schedules.
During the first 24 months of your child’s life, you will lose an average of six months of sleep. But it’s the first three to six months that will really be grueling with your newborn waking up every two to three hours demanding to be fed or have their diaper changed. Lucky for all you zombie dads, there are some easy ways for new fathers to cope with sleep deprivation.
Give Yourself More Credit
Most people assume that in a co-parenting couple, it’s the mom who loses more sleep during the earliest days of a newborn’s life. That assumption is especially understandable when you consider a woman’s role in breastfeeding and the fact that infants awaken at night every two to three hours. Alas, leave it to science to disprove our educated guess.
Studies have found that dads get less sleep than moms and experience more confirmed fatigue during the day. But before you text your wife this link announcing your plans to sleep in tomorrow, we should note that the same study showed that while new mothers received more sleep over the course of the day, that rest was disturbed more often. The takeaway is that you are both exhausted and it’s your duty as a new dad, partner, and employee to find ways to cope.
If you’re surprised to learn that you’re getting less sleep than your better half, consider this: it’s not just women who have strong neurological reactions to an infant’s cry. The sound of a baby crying (even one that’s not your own) triggers a heightened emotional response that’s almost impossible to ignore.
It Takes a Toll
Your newfound sleep deficit affects everything from your relationship to the U.S. economy. When you don’t get a good night’s sleep, you have a harder time reading emotions, making misunderstandings with your partner more frequent and harder to resolve.
And remember our mention of the economy? Researchers in 2016 found that the U.S. economy loses $411 billion a year due to insufficient sleep. When you aren’t sleeping well, you’re an unproductive employee.
You Can Make It Better
The good news? You will get through this and eventually, your baby will sleep through the night. Until that happens though, it’s important to find ways to cope. Here are some ways to improve your sleep:
1. Take turns with the baby.
Unless you’re bottle-feeding, you won’t be able to pitch in as well as you’d like when it comes to night feedings. Do your best to establish a routine that ensures you are both getting sleep. Maybe that means sending your better half to bed early while you stay up late until the first feeding or rising early to let mom snooze.
This is also a great time to start using that extra guest room if you have one. Whichever one of you is on deck can rest in the spare room to ensure your better half is getting uninterrupted sleep. You’ll soon discover what works for you both, but the important part is to communicate openly and be consistent.
2. Get a white noise machine.
Newborns make noise when they sleep, even when they’re not crying. Adding a white noise machine to your sleep routine helps ensure that you don’t awaken to every little squeak and sigh. Still sleeping with the baby in your room? You’re in luck—white noise machines benefit the quality of baby’s sleep as well.
3. Take a catnap.
A 20-minute nap can work wonders in restoring your brain functions midday, making you a more productive employee. If your office has a nap room, use it. If they don’t, consider having a conversation with your boss about dedicating some space to a little shut-eye.
4. Avoid the midday caffeine boost.
Caffeine has a half-life of five to seven hours in humans. If you have a cup of coffee after 3 p.m., your body won’t fully be rid of the caffeine until 1 a.m. or later. Foregoing that extra cup of coffee in the afternoon may feel painful in the moment, but will pay off later when you’ve fallen asleep faster. If your brain’s really struggling to let go of its afternoon reward, try filling the void with a short afternoon walk or treat yourself to a square of chocolate.
5. Put your phone down.
Your phone’s blue light messes with your melatonin production, reducing your body’s urge to fall asleep. Additionally, being on your phone means you’re more likely to be checking your email, which gets you thinking about work and worrying over tomorrow’s responsibilities. The best thing you can do is put your phone down and save it for the next morning.
Armed with a little extra knowledge, we hope that you start catching some extra sleep and reap the rewards in all aspects of your life. Keep up the good work, dads, and enjoy this special time with your little one. Before you know it, they’ll be 15 years old and sleeping until noon every weekend.