[Editor’s Note: Today’s guest post covers a topic near and dear to every mom’s heart: Dealing with postpartum sleep deprivation. Know that you’re not alone in your exhausted state of being. We’re here for you. -Jenna]
New parents often neglect their own needs. While this may seem like normal behavior from concerned parents, neglecting themselves puts their health at risk. In the long run, it can have an adverse effect on both partners but is especially taxing on a mother. It affects her ability to take proper care of her child.
Sleep deprivation is one of the most common post-birth side effects as well as one of the most damaging. While you may think it’s alright to neglect your sleep, even a small period of sleep loss can have long lasting effects.
Firstly, a good few hours of sleep are essential for your body to cope with all the stress it has been exposed to. REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep is when our brains process the days events as well as sorting through memories. If we don’t have adequate REM sleep, it can lead to memory lapses as well as making tasks that require cognitive abilities much more challenging. For a mother, with a newborn baby to take care off, this could make even the smallest of tasks like changing a diaper challenging.
More serious side effects of sleep deprivation include severe depression. Women who had already been affected by anxiety and depression are more on the radar of damage. This leads to serious problems with mothers unsure of how to handle their babies.
It is harder on the mother as she is already coping with extreme change, and her changing hormones are a major reason for her discomfort.
A mother is also often a baby’s only source of nutrition which makes her sleeping schedule a top priority. A lack of sleep can affect the quantity of milk that is being produced. There are a number of ways to find out the quantity of milk you should be producing; this should serve as a rough guide to tell you if sleep deprivation is the cause.
Studies have shown that on an average, a new mother gets at least two hours less sleep than she needs. The most shocking part? It is segmented, meaning she will not get a continuous sleep. This is because a newborn has no set circadian rhythms. They need roughly 16 hours sleep, but it usually comes in short spurts with a maximum of three to four hours at a time.
Bearing all this in mind, it’s important to ensure you get as much sleep as possible. A few tips to help you get enough sleep include.
Setting Your Priorities
During the first couple of months, it’s completely acceptable to take time off for yourself. You don’t need to feel guilty about putting your needs first. If there is work to do around the house, don’t feel the need to pitch in. It’s okay to depend on friends or family to get the work done. It’s also okay to let the laundry sit for another day if you get a chance to catch up on sleep.
One of the biggest reasons a mother struggles to get adequate sleep is she doesn’t communicate her needs to her partner and family. It’s always a good idea to work out a schedule and try and ensure one partner is resting while the other is with the baby.
Sleep When Your Baby Sleeps
While this is a cliche and doesn’t work for all moms and family circumstances, it can be truly beneficial to some. The moment your baby falls asleep is when you should be sleeping, too. Don’t be tempted to do the dishes or vacuum. See above about setting those priorities. Make sleep a priority.
Patience Is The Key
While it may seem like an eternity, you will start having a more relaxed, enjoyable experience with more sleep as your baby’s sleeping patterns develop. It will happen.
Ask For Help
You should not feel guilty or hesitant about seeking help. Whether it’s to help deal with postpartum depression, a lack of sleep, or even the daily chores, seeking help will ensure that you are never over-stretched.
There are also a number of natural remedies available. Several teas like chamomile and oils like lemongrass are known as natural sedatives. Meditation techniques are also extremely useful in ensuring you get a good nights sleep.
Recognize It May Be a Sign of a Postpartum Mood and Anxiety Disorder
While all parents experience some form of sleeplessness, prolonged insomnia despite exhaustion is one of the many symptoms of postpartum depression, anxiety, OCD, and the other postpartum mood and anxiety disorders. If you’re doing all you’re supposed to do, including asking for help, trying to get sleep when the baby sleeps, and prioritizing sleep, you may need to look at the other symptoms of postpartum depression to see if something bigger is happening.
If so, don’t worry: You can get help. Postpartum mood and anxiety disorders are temporary and treatable. You can and will sleep again; you can and will feel whole again.
As a new parent, it is easy to feel overwhelmed at the task at hand especially when you are always tired. It’s important to focus on the bigger picture. You will eventually return to days when you have a good night’s rest.
Aradhana is a writer from India. She covers topics concerning parenting, child nutrition, wellness, health and lifestyle. She has more than 250 publications from reputable sites like Huffington Post, Natural news, Elephant Journal, Lifehacker and MomJunction.com to her credit. Aradhana writes to inspire and motivate people to adopt healthy habits and live a stress-free lifestyle.