The other morning I woke up and didn’t feel like I’d slept. This had been happening quite a bit lately, and I was turning into a grumpy, ornery, confused mama. It wasn’t so much that the baby was keeping me up, she was actually starting to sleep through the night. Her uber-early morning wake up around 4 am was the problem. I could get her back to sleep after a couple times of playing put-the-paci-back-in-the-mouth, but then I couldn’t fall asleep. The husband snores, the cats want to be fed, and I start thinking and thinking. This means I average about 4 to 5 hours of sleep a night. Not a good recipe for the perfect mommy.
Sleep deprivation is a serious problem for new moms, and it can affect your health and ability to be the great mom you want to be. I learned a couple things over the weeks that have helped me get back on track. Just because they worked for me doesn’t mean they will be lifesavers for you, but when you are sleep deprived, anything is worth a try. Sooner or later you will find what works for you, and a good night’s sleep will be achieved by all.
First off, exercise. I am not joking. Every morning I spend at least 10 minutes doing some sort of cardio exercise, many times in the enclosed comfort of my home while my daughter watches from her high chair. My eyes may be crusted shut and my hair might be sticking up all over the place, but getting regular exercise is good for you, and it gets your body moving in the morning. This helps you have a healthy heart start to the day, and will encourage your body to sleep better at night.
Secondly, have a cup of coffee or tea, whatever you like. Even if you are breastfeeding, a cup of coffee isn’t going to be problematic to your breast milk. Caffeine in small amounts won’t hurt baby, and it gives your body a lift in the morning. Keep it to one cup, though. More could lead to drinking caffeine all day, which will make getting a good night’s sleep challenging.
Third, sleep when the baby is sleeping. Seriously! That means if baby falls asleep regularly at 9 pm, then it is time to think about making bedtime 9 pm. This can be a hard one, but if you want to get 8 hours of sleep again and you know baby sleeps from 9 pm to 6 am, then you need to sleep from 9 pm to 6 am. When baby is napping, don’t be afraid to lie down and get some shuteye. Even if you lie down and close your eyes but not sleep, your body is having a chance to relax and recuperate. Take this time to go over any worries you might have or concerns you are dealing with. You will feel better after.
Fourth is to ask for HELP! This is hard for new moms, as for some reason many of us feel that we can do it all on our own. You are not a failure if you ask for some assistance. If you are feeling overwhelmed, ask for some time out by having your partner, friend, or family come and baby-sit while you get some sleep.
And fifth is to start a routine or schedule where your partner gets involved in the evening or morning baby’s sleep or wake up time. Preferably, the morning is the best time to try to set this up. Pick a morning that works for you and your partner and have them take over the morning routine. This means they are in charge of baby during wake up, changing, clothing, feeding, bathing – whatever happens – for at least 2 hours one morning a week. Close the bedroom door, pull the pillow over your head, or play some music to keep yourself relaxed and asleep.
I found the best thing that worked for me out of these 5 sleep slavers was adjusting my sleep times. I felt pretty silly getting cozy in bed at 9 pm, but if it means I am going to get some sleep, it is worth it. Some nights I stay up late until 10:30 or so, and feel like a teenager again.
Good luck and good sleep!