How to Maximize Your Sleep as a New MotherBy Carole Anderson Lucia
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a whopping one-third of U.S. adults get less sleep than is recommended for good health.1 And if you’re a mom, chances are you’re seriously behind on your Z’s, especially if you have a new baby in the house.
But sleep is not a mere luxury or indulgence; it’s necessary for good physical and mental health. Research shows that chronic sleep deprivation increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity, as well as other health problems.2 Furthermore, people with insomnia are more likely to suffer from depression and to have anxiety than people with regular sleep.3
But what can you do if you’re the mother of a newborn, or if you have older children who continue to wake you at night? Read on for some tried-and-true solutions.
The problem: Your newborn wakes to eat every two hours.
Why it happens: Newborns’ tummies are tiny—only about the size of an apricot at 1 week of age4—so they need to eat often, usually every two hours or so in the early days. This can add up to unbelievable sleep loss for you, especially when you factor in that it takes the average breastfed newborn at least 20 minutes to feed, perhaps a bit less if you’re bottle-feeding.
Coping tips: Aside from hiring a night nurse to handle the night-time baby duties (which won’t work if you’re breastfeeding), there are no magic bullets. However, there are a few tips that can help:
- Follow the age-old advice to nap when the baby does. Let your partner handle the housework or call on family and friends to tidy up so you can get some rest.
- Keep your baby in the same room as you. Doing so can not only help to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome5 (SIDS), but it also can mean less time padding down the hall to fetch the baby. While the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends against bed-sharing, you can put the bassinet or crib right next to your bed for easy feeding.6
- Sleep in shifts. This, again, won’t really work if you’re nursing, but if you’re bottle-feeding, you and your partner can trade off with the feeding/changing duties. Other than that, pace yourself … most babies don’t begin to start to sleep through the night until 6 months of age or older7 (although their sleep stretches do tend to get longer as their stomachs grow).
The problem: Your older child is still waking at night.
Why it happens: Whether it’s due to teething, reaching an all-too-exciting milestone such as walking (which makes many babies want to do anything other than sleep) or a dozen different reasons, some older babies awaken once or more at night.
Coping tips: Look at the number of books on sleep tips for babies and you’ll see how big of an issue this is. In the meantime, try these tips:
- Don’t jump at the first sound. Babies can be noisy sleepers, so give it a few minutes to make sure she’s actually awake before fetching her.
- Establish a soothing bedtime routine. Starting at approximately the same time each night, give your child cues that it’s time for bed: turn down the lights, use quiet voices, take a warm bath, read a book.
- Look for an underlying problem. Virtually from the time she was born, my daughter snored as loud as a semi-truck, and not just when she had a cold. She also woke, crying, several times a night, even as a toddler. My mama’s hunch told me this wasn’t right, so I asked her pediatrician about it—turns out her adenoids were inflamed and needed to be removed. Presto! Sleep problem solved.
The problem: Even though your child is sleeping through the night, you’re still sleeping poorly.
Why it happens: A dozen different scenarios might apply.
Coping tips: Practice what the experts call “sleep hygiene”8:
- Don’t eat too close to bedtime, and avoid carbonated drinks, which can trigger indigestion.9
- Watch the alcohol. Even though it can help you fall asleep faster, your sleep can be disrupted later as your body processes the alcohol.10
- Get regular exercise. Just 10 minutes of aerobic exercise can help you sleep better. Don’t do strenuous exercise too close to bedtime, though.11
- Set the right temp. Your bedroom should be cool to get the best sleep, preferably between 60° and 67° F.12
- Get the right light. Natural light is sleep-inducing; artificial light is not. Research has shown that artificial light, especially the blue light emitted from cell phone and computer screens, disrupts your body’s circadian rhythms and suppresses the production of melatonin, which helps with sleep. So, reduce or eliminate your screen time for two to three hours before bed, if possible, and try to get a healthy dose of bright outdoor light during the day. Also consider ditching your fluorescent light bulbs, as they, too, emit sleep-robbing blue light.13
- Ask your partner if you snore. Sleep apnea is a major cause of disrupted sleep; snoring is a classic sign.14
- Have your vitamin D checked. Research is increasingly showing that low levels can cause sleep problems.15
And although it may be little comfort now as you stumble through your days, bleary-eyed, know that with time, you will actually come to miss those middle-of-the-night wakeups and quiet, peaceful feedings, when it’s just you and your child, together.
If you want to join or restart back on the Jenny Craig program, you are eligible to do so once you are six weeks post-partum. If you are breastfeeding, your consultant will ensure that you are on an appropriate calorie level so that you and your baby receive the proper calories and nutrition you both need during this special time.