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Sleep Deprivation in New Mothers: How to Find Relief

sleep deprivation in new mothers

Sleep deprivation affects thousands of new mums every year. The bad news is that it can prevent you from functioning properly in everyday life. The good news is that there are strategies you can use to get the rest you need.

Since you became a parent, how often have you felt irritated?

How often have you felt depressed? 

Have you been having trouble concentrating? 

These are all symptoms of sleep deprivation. 

But don’t worry. You’re not alone. What you’re experiencing is entirely normal and happens to millions of parents around the world.

In this post, we’ll dive deep into the causes of sleep deprivation and explore the best ways for how you can find relief.

sleep deprivation in new mothers

What is sleep deprivation?

Sleep deprivation is a condition that appears when a person gets less sleep than they need to feel awake and alert.

When a person fails to get the amount of sleep they need, they start accumulating what is called sleep debt.

Although many people suffer from lack of sleep from time to time, ongoing lack of sleep can lead to emotional difficulties, poor job performance, obesity, and excessive daytime sleepiness.

There’s evidence that suggests that sleep deprivation can have serious long-term negative consequences, including depression. 

The most common symptoms of sleep deprivation include:

  • depressed mood
  • yawning
  • fatigue
  • moodiness
  • irritability
  • difficulty concentrating
  • difficulty learning new concepts
  • forgetfulness
  • lack of motivation
  • clumsiness
  • increased appetite 
  • reduced sex drive

The correlation between new mothers and sleep deprivation

Researchers believe that sleep deprivation is highly prevalent among new mothers.  

In fact, one survey from Owlet Baby Care found that roughly 50% of all parents with children six months or younger get just one to three hours of uninterrupted sleep a night.

The findings are not shocking.

New mothers are often left with little sleep as they’re constantly nurturing the baby. As the majority of infants wake up several times during the night, mothers end up being sleep deprived. 

When a baby awakens throughout the night, the mother is there to rock them back to sleep, comfort them, and breastfeed them.

In an attempt to calm down their baby, mothers sacrifice their own sleep. 

A study published in the journal Sleep found that sleep deprivation is the worst about three months after birth, and women experience the strongest effects. 

Even after women had a second or third child, they were still relatively sleep deprived, both in terms of quantity and quality.

Both men’s and women’s sleep satisfaction and duration didn’t completely recover for up to six years after the birth of their first child. 

But the side effects of sleep deprivation are more than just a tired body. Not getting sufficient sleep can affect the way a person thinks and copes. 

Tasks that require higher cognitive functioning can become more challenging to perform. 

Mothers can find themselves wondering whether they changed the baby’s diaper or not.

In a nutshell, many daily activities can become problematic, from taking care of a crying baby to paying the bills.  

new mothers sleep-deprived

So, what can you do to deal with sleep deprivation?

Sleep deprivation can be emotionally and physically draining for new mothers. Luckily, there are some things sleep-deprived moms can do to get that good night’s sleep! 

Sleep training. 

One way of getting higher quality sleep is to teach your baby how to fall asleep on her own.

There are several methods for sleep training your baby, with the most popular being the cry-it-out technique.

The goal of the cry-it-out method is to teach your baby not to rely on you to go to sleep. She’ll learn how to fall asleep independently without the need for you to nurse her to sleep when she wakes up at night. 

It’s important to note the cry-it-out method doesn’t suggest that you should put her in her crib and leave her to cry for hours without comfort. 

Another tip is to always place her to sleep on her back until she develops proper neck control. Babies love sleeping on their stomachs but it can be unsafe until the baby learns to roll over in both directions.

It involves teaching parents to gradually eliminate parent-centered methods babies rely on to go back to sleep, such as feeding or rocking.

Catch a nap. 

When your baby is taking her nap, try to make good use of those 30 minutes by catching a nap. Instead of being super productive while your baby is sleeping, try taking a short afternoon nap. It can feel refreshing and recharge your batteries.

Try to keep the nap shorter than two or three hours so that it doesn’t interfere with your bedtime. If you don’t feel safe leaving the baby alone, ask your partner or parent to take care of her while you take your nap. 

Rotate nights. 

When one parent stays at home with the child, it’s usually the other parent who goes to work. And it’s usually the stay-at-home parent who takes care of all the middle-of-the-night feedings so that the other parent can get up in the morning. 

But doing so can lead to a serious case of sleep deprivation. To avoid this from happening, try rotating nights so that one night the mother gets up to nurture the child, and the next one it’s the father. 

That way, at least one person gets a good night’s sleep, instead of both of you getting poor-quality sleep. 

sleep deprived new mothers

Final Word

The first few months after giving birth can be challenging.

You might find yourself thinking about those days when you could close your eyes and remain horizontal for eight hours until sunrise. 

But don’t despair. Yes, the sleep disruption can be difficult and exhausting, but bear in mind it won’t last forever.

Before you know it, your baby will be all grown up and start sleeping independently without needing your help. 

Soon, you’ll start closing your eyes and remain horizontal for eight hours until sunrise. 

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