What sleep deprivation really means for new moms.

When you have a newborn, you’re often awake around the clock, snoozing in short bursts when your baby does, and waking up for feedings, changings and check-ins throughout the night. We’re often told that it’s inevitable — but it’s also really, really bad for us. So what’s a new mom to do? Making sleep a priority with a new baby is easier said than done. Here are some tips to make it happen, plus some information on why it’s so, so important.

What is sleep deprivation?

Historically, sleep deprivation has been used as a cruel interrogation technique because of how it can wear the body down. Sleep deprivation, which over time builds up to the broader sleep deficiency—occurs when we are not getting enough sleep, when we’re sleeping at irregular times that don’t align with our body’s natural, internal clock, or when the sleep we’re getting isn’t deep enough, including multiple rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and non-REM sleep. So while you may get some rest as a new mom, it’s often not enough, at the wrong times, and totally fragmented. This means you’re missing out on sleep from a quantity and quality perspective. No wonder you feel less than refreshed.

Why is sleep so important?

Without enough sleep, your body does not function properly. Believe it or not, under moderate sleep deprivation, your cognitive and motor performance can be equivalent to that of a person who’s under the influence of alcohol. Lack of sleep also weakens your immune system, making you more susceptible to getting sick and making it harder to recover when you do catch a virus. Research has linked sleep loss with anxiety, depression and a greater inability to regulate emotions. And because it affects your hormone levels, it can heighten your appetite for high-calorie foods. Long term, sleep deprivation can even increase your risk for obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Yes, newborns are supposed to sleep between 14 and 17 hours a day. But when they’re first born, babies often have their days and nights mixed up, and those precious sleep hours are broken up into much shorter bursts. Meanwhile, the ideal amount of sleep for an adult is an uninterrupted seven to nine hours each night—a pure fantasy when your baby is crying and ready for another feeding every two hours.

How can I get more sleep?

While we’re big on balance, and we know a long, hot shower a Bachelor catch-up session can be great for your mental health, don’t pass up a good opportunity to squeeze in some shut-eye. Remember that sleep affects everything: your health, your mood, your ability to function in everyday life. Your house may not be clean, you may be ordering a lot of takeout, you might not get out of pajamas some days. And that’s okay. Resist that pressure to do it all: newborn time is survival mode and it won’t last forever. Take your friends and family up on their offers to help, especially if they can free you up for some real quality naptime, and if you don’t have a big support network nearby, outsource what you can, whether that’s a meal service, cleaning crew or nanny. Your physical and mental health are worth the expense.

 

Sleep is so important (and so elusive!) for new moms, but taking care of yourself is essential to taking care of your baby. If your little one’s sleep habits are still pushing you to the brink, many moms swear by sleep training services, and at Ashland Health we have a certified sleep training expert who can get a restless baby sleeping through the night in less than a week. Contact us today to learn more about how sleep training can help you and your baby!