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31Oct 13

Coping with sleep deprivation as a new parent

As a first-time parent, your life has changed significantly. You are now charged with the care of a precious little infant who, among other things, doesn’t yet have a sleep schedule in sync with yours.

Sleep deprivation as a new parent can be tough – it’s fairly common to average only four consecutive hours of sleep a night. But this can have a knock-on effect on your performance and ability to focus during the day. It’s important that first-time parents know the best ways to cope with this inevitable lack of sleep.

Coping with sleep deprivation as a new parent

Coping with sleep deprivation as a new parent

If baby sleeps, you sleep

A good rule that new parents should follow is: if your baby is sleeping, you should be sleeping. If you take advantage of the time that your infant is asleep, you will find that you get more hours of sleep overall. They may not be consecutive hours, but every little bit helps.

Some parents have trouble soothing themselves back to sleep after checking on their baby. Try drinking some warm milk or decaffeinated tea, or try dotting your pillow with some lavender, chamomile, or any other relaxing essential oil. Try to put your mind at rest by practising deep, rhythmic breathing or light stretching.

If you are really having trouble clearing your mind, try taking a hot bath and listening to some relaxing instrumental music. Avoid eating anything too stodgy and checking your phone if possible. The less stimulation you have the better.

Finally, make sure that you and your partner take turns waking up and tending to the baby. By sharing the responsibility, you both get some rest whilst preventing any feelings of resentment from taking root.

Dealing with sleep deprivation

There is a possibility that your body is tricking you into thinking you have had enough sleep, so keep an eye out for some of the telltale signs of sleep deprivation. Feeling grumpy, disorientated, emotional, and stressed, experiencing problems communicating and concentrating, and suffering from an irregular appetite are all signs that you are not getting enough sleep.

But many new parents are all too aware of their lack of sleep and need a way to cope. If you are finding it hard to get out of bed in the morning, put on some upbeat music and take a shower. Try using a brightly scented body wash, and after the shower try rubbing moisturising cream on your body to really get your blood circulating.

If you feel groggy during the day, coffee or tea in moderation can help you wake up. But be careful of overindulging in caffeine if you are breastfeeding – a small amount of the caffeine that you ingest is transferred to breast milk. Caffeine-free alternatives to help you stay awake include ice-cold beverages, mint-flavoured chewing gum and sour-flavoured sweets.

Sleep deprivation can shorten anyone’s fuse, so try to remember to be patient with the people around you. Don’t be ashamed to explain the situation to them – people are more understanding than you might think.

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