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New parent sleep deprivation: How to get better sleep

You might expect that when you become parents sleep will become a thing of the past. Between night feeds, wind and general new parent anxieties, it can be difficult to settle properly, even when you do get the opportunity to sink into bed at the end of a long day. We know it’s not easy, every baby is different, but we have pulled together some tips to help you get more sleep, or failing that at least get better sleep when you do get the opportunity to catch 40 winks.

Get more sleep

Getting more sleep? Easier said than done, right? But don’t give up hope, there are things you can try to help beat new parent sleep deprivation and sleep for longer.

Help yourself fall asleep quickly

You probably know this in your heart of hearts, but make sure you stay away from screens when you’re about to head for bed. The blue light emitted by tablets and phones can trick your brain into thinking it’s daytime meaning it won’t release the ‘sleepy’ hormones you need to nod off. It may be particularly tempting to reach for your phone during a long night feed to check Facebook or seek solace with your postnatal WhatsApp group, but don’t be tempted. It will almost certainly affect how quickly you are able to go back to sleep when you’re done. Instead try relaxation exercises while you feed, or listen to a podcast or audio book through headphones. If you can’t resist reading choose a paperback or non-backlit kindle and swap out your bedside lightbulb for a dimmable, warm, non-blue / green one.

Support each other – work in shifts

If your partner doesn’t have to be up early for work, and depending on how you’ve chosen to feed your baby, why not try sharing the night shifts? Make sure you wear ear plugs when it’s not your turn and sleep on the opposite side of the bed to where the baby or monitor is positioned. As long as you are both considerate and try to avoid unnecessary movement (a quality mattress can help with this) you should find you are able to sleep for longer chunks of time.

Avoid known stimulants

It’s a well-documented fact that drinking too much caffeine will keep you awake at night. Don’t worry, we’re not going to suggest that, as a new parent, you should ditch the coffee altogether, but perhaps consider cutting down after mid-afternoon and switching to a decaff versions. Likewise, try to cut down on sugar-loaded snacks and drinks, and spicy or heavy meals in the hours before bed. You’ll definitely find you begin to drop off faster.

Get better sleep

Sometimes, especially when you have a newborn, it’s not about getting more sleep, but more about maximising the sleep you do get. So, how can you improve the quality of your sleep, or get better sleep?

Avoid alcohol

The advice to avoid alcohol is fairly commonplace for people looking to get more sleep, but did you know that it’s not because it’ll stop you falling asleep in the first place, but because it will stop you falling into the deep, quality stage 4 sleep that is so vital for your brain function and cell repair? If you’re breastfeeding this one may not be an issue anyway, but it’s food for thought for partners. After all, it’s not only mums that suffer from new parent sleep deprivation.

Find Ways to Manage Anxieties

Becoming a new parent for the first time can be an anxious time. If you find yourself lying awake worrying about anything then you need some strategies to help quieten your mind. Try deep breathing exercises or yoga techniques, or even keep a notepad and pen handy to write down anything that is circling around your brain. Do not, under any circumstances start Googling in the middle of the night.

And remember, if you believe you have genuine concerns about your new baby or your own postpartum health, your health visitor or GP are there to help.

How to make baby sleep better

Of course, one way to enable yourself to get more sleep is to learn how to make baby sleep better – after all, the more sleep little one gets, the more opportunity there is for parents sleeping too.

Here are just a few ways to help baby get more sleep:
  • Choose the correct bedding for baby. As a newborn, most babies love to be swaddled (wrapped tightly in a baby blanket as it helps them feel safe and secure and stops them flailing their arms around and waking themselves up. But as they get slightly older this is no longer appropriate. As your baby starts to move around a baby sleeping bag works brilliantly to stop baby losing their covers and waking up cold.
  • Set up a soothing night time routine. Even from a very young age your baby’s brain is programmed to feel soothed and calmed by familiarity and routine. A warm bath, milk, cuddles and a story can all signal sleepy time to a little one.
  • Keep lighting dim and voices hushed at bedtime to avoid over-stimulation.
  • Be sure to wind baby properly after a night feed. Trying to settle with an uncomfortable belly will result in disturbed sleep.
  • Try wool baby bedding - Did you know that scientific research has shown that babies sleeping in wool wake fewer times, gain weight faster, cry less, and are even noticeably less cranky during the day? Surely that’s worth a try!
For more ideas about how to make baby sleep better and overcome new parent sleep deprivation visit our Baby Sleep Advice hub.

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