New parents are bound to face sleep deprivation with a new baby (or a fussy toddler for that matter), so tips for dealing with sleepless nights are a must for surviving the first years.
Sleep is important to your overall mental state. Long-term sleep deprivation as a parent can cause memory issues, increase weight gain, put you at risk for high blood pressure and diabetes and impact your mood. While sleep deprivation is difficult to avoid once you become a parent - if only babies could understand! - there are ways for coping with sleepless nights to ensure you’re staying as healthy as you can.
Tips to Deal with Sleep Deprivation as a Parent
1. Sleep When the Baby Sleeps - This is a sleep deprivation tip you’ve surely heard before from every family member with kids. No matter how long your to-do list is, use their naptime as your own and adapt to a schedule of sleeping when they sleep. It’s your best chance at combating sleep deprivation as a new parent.
2. Go for Walks Early in the Day - When you’re sleep deprived and following an erratic sleep schedule, you may need to find alternative ways to reset your circadian rhythm (more commonly known as your “internal clock”). Going for walks in the morning when the sun is up can help reset your circadian rhythm and help your baby develop a traditional sleep-wake cycle too.
3. Take Turns Feeding - As a new parenting team, you and your partner will have to find a system that works for you both. If only one of you works outside the home, it’s easy to assume that the at-home parent should take care of middle-of-the-night feedings, even at the expense of their own sleep schedule. To best deal with sleepless nights, consider pumping breast milk during the day and rotating the schedule so that both parents participate in middle-of-the-night feedings, balancing the burden so one parent is not regularly deprived of sleep.
4. Sleep Training - Although very controversial, some parents have success with sleep training. There are multiple sleep training methods to consider, so it doesn’t always have to mean letting them “cry it out.” Generally, sleep training is only recommended when your baby is over four months old.
Dealing with sleepless nights may be part of the job description, but sleep deprivation as a parent is exhausting. As much as you want to be productive while your baby sleeps or let your partner sleep through the night while you care for your baby, remember to take of yourself too! Long-term sleep deprivation can have consequences to your health, so do whatever you can to ensure you get enough sleep in between caring for your family.
5. Turn Off the TV - Parents are people too! Once you put the kids to bed at night, you and your partner can finally enjoy some “you” time and catch up on your favorite shows, but it’s best to resist the urge to stay up and catch up. Instead, turn off the TV and just go to bed to catch up on the sleep you’ve missed.
6. Don’t Respond to Every Noise - Babies - particularly newborns - are active sleepers and may make little noises in their sleep or wake up for just moments at a time. Resist the urge to check on them every time you hear a noise and wait to see if it’s a real cry before attending to them.
7. Ask for Help - Don’t ever be ashamed to ask for help! Many people around you understand the demands of parenthood. If needed, ask a parent, partner or friend to attend to your kids so you can take a nap anytime during the day. Even a 30-minute nap can make a huge difference for you, and surely your support system want to spend time with your kiddos too.
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