Helpful Sleep Tips
Whatever is coming between you and blissful unconsciousness, there are ways to reach your sleep quota:
- Make up for lost sleep. Over a short period of sleep deprivation, it's possible to compensate for some of what you've missed. When a person who's long been bereft of sleep finally gets some shut-eye, the brain will make up both deep and REM sleep, says Moline. You'll spend more time proportionately in deep and REM sleep than normal, at the expense of the lightest stages. Sleeping a bit more on the weekends -- say, two or three hours -- can be beneficial. But don't let a little extra dozing turn into a sleep binge. Overdosing on sleep can start a whole new cycle of deprivation, because then you won't be tired at bedtime.
- Catch a nap. New moms shouldn't try to be more productive during baby's nap time. A 20- to 30-minute nap will refresh you without causing sleep inertia, that groggy, out-of-it feeling when you wake up. Most people, not just new moms, could benefit from a short afternoon nap. But don't sleep any later than 2 or 3 p.m. That may interfere with your bedtime. If your baby isn't on a regular nap schedule, take advantage of offers of help from friends and relatives. Let your mother hold and entertain the baby while you crash for a while.
- Trade off middle-of-the-night feedings. When one half of the new-parent team works outside the home, it's tempting for the at-home half (typically the mother) to do all the feedings so the "working" one can get up in the morning. But taking on round-the-clock feedings can lead to serious sleep deprivation. It may make sense to rotate nights, so one person does all the feedings while the other sleeps. That way, at least one person gets a good night's sleep, instead of both of you getting fragmented sleep. Nursing mothers might consider pumping milk so Dad can take care of at least one nighttime feeding.
- Turn down the monitor. Newborns are active sleepers. If your baby is groaning or whimpering in the night, that doesn't mean you need to leap out of bed. Teach your baby to sleep through the night. By 6 months, most babies are capable of sleeping seven to eight hours at a stretch. To encourage your baby to fall back to sleep on her own in the middle of the night (instead of crying for you), put her to bed while she's still awake. Weaning her from whatever strategies you've been using to soothe her to sleep (nursing or rocking, for instance) will teach her not to rely on these when she wakes up.