It is no secret that new parents tend to suffer from extreme sleep loss. Nighttime feedings, diaper changes, and fussy babies make it difficult to sleep through the night. To better understand the sleep patterns of new parents, Sleep Junkie surveyed 500 US and 500 UK parents to find out just how much sleep they are losing.
They found that 68 percent of the adults in their survey reported being able to sleep 7+ hours a night prior to the birth of their baby. However, only 10 percent were able to reach this number once the baby was born. This equates to an average of 3 hours of sleep loss per night. The reason for this is not simply nighttime feedings and diaper changes. Sleep Junkie also found that parents are spending an average of 5 hours and 25 minutes a night performing activities, such as walking, driving, reading, and bathing just to help get their baby to sleep.
So what can new parents do to find better sleep? They may benefit from accepting help from family and friends who are willing to babysit. Sharing the responsibility of nighttime feedings and diaper changes can also ensure that one person is not shouldering the burden. In addition to these practical tips, we’ve outlined 5 science-backed strategies that are sure to provide relief.
1. Keep Them Close
Moving your baby’s crib or bassinette into your bedroom can help reduce separation anxiety for both you and your baby. Experts suggest that babies may have trouble falling asleep or may wake in the night due to separation anxiety. If you are close by, it can be easier to soothe them. This can also help reduce your anxiety over the safety of your baby. In fact, research also suggests that room-sharing is associated with a lower risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
However, keep in mind that adult beds and couches pose numerous risks to babies. They can become trapped between headboards, footboards, or cushions. Be sure your baby always sleeps in a crib or bassinet intended for infant sleeping.
2. Create a Schedule
Since babies don’t know the difference between night and day, their sleep patterns are typically erratic. They may sleep for 2-3 hour periods of time and at random times throughout the day. Newborns to 3 months old will need around 14 to 17 hours of sleep, while infants to 12 months old will need around 12 to 16 hours of sleep. Although it can be difficult, experts suggest that knowing your baby’s needs and creating a loose schedule for their naps can help you both sleep better.
If you are the one staying home with the baby, it is important to sleep while your baby sleeps. It can be tempting to try to catch up on housework while they sleep, but this will only lead to more exhaustion. If your partner is the one staying home with the baby, it will be important for you to help care for the baby when you are home so your partner can nap or simply relax.
Having a new baby at home can be stressful, but trying to find adequate sleep while plagued with anxiety or worry will only make sleep harder to come by. To help you de-stress before bed, experts suggest creating a relaxation routine, such as reading, practicing breathing exercises, journaling, or taking a warm bath. These practices can help you let go of stress and mentally prepare for sleep.
4. Adjust Your Sleep Space
During the first year of your baby’s life, it will be more important than ever that you have an adequate sleep space. To make your space more conducive to sleep, consider making some of the following adjustments:
- Keep the temperature in your bedroom around a cool 60 (15.5) to 67 (19.5) degrees. Our body temperature drops as we sleep, so it is best to keep it on the cooler side.
- Use black-out blinds or dark curtains to keep the space as dark as possible.
- Remove clutter that could trigger anxiety, such as work, mail, laundry, and exercise equipment.
- Be sure you are sleeping on a comfortable mattress that provides adequate support.
5. Remove Tech From The Bedroom
In addition to adjusting your sleep space, you will also want to remove electronic screens from your sleep space whenever possible. Darkness triggers the natural production of the melatonin hormone in our brains. This hormone is necessary for our bodies to relax and prepare for sleep. If we have exposure to electronic light before bed, it can be difficult for this to happen. Consider reducing your exposure to this light at least 2 hours before bed.
The sleepless nights of earlier parenthood won’t last forever. Babies 5 to 12 months can begin sleeping as many as 10 hours at a time. In the meantime, do your best to care for yourself and help your partner do the same.