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In a survey done by Sleep Junkie, nearly 70 percent of the respondents were getting their recommended 7+ hours of sleep per night just prior to becoming parents. Fast forward to these same people having a baby — and only 10 percent of them were hitting that number of hours. In the first year of parenting, the majority of moms and dads were falling short of sleep by approximately three hours every night. And it’s not just parents of newborns who lose sleep. Everything from kids getting sick to dealing with teenage rebellion can mean sleepless nights for worried moms and dads.
Unavoidably, being a parent entails some sleepless nights. But is losing sleep really one of the sacrifices that parents have to make constantly?
Parenting is challenging enough as it is, and being sleep-deprived can only make it more difficult. To be happy and healthy, kids need happy and healthy parents. With that in mind, here is our guide to healthy sleep.
Try to Sleep when the Baby Sleeps
This is a piece of advice new parents will often hear. We are repeating it, fully aware that having a baby messes up your routine. Most new parents use their baby’s naptime to complete the chores they didn’t have the chance to get to. However, knowing that newborns take frequent naps and sleep a total of 16 to 18 hours a day, it’s possible to use one or two naps of your own during the day just to get your energy boost.
A short nap in the afternoon can lift your mood, ease stress, and make you more alert. For adults, it is recommended to keep the naps up to 30 minutes long. If you nap longer than that, you can wake up feeling even more tired, and getting back to your daily routine can be a challenge.
Keep Your Baby Close
Waking up to a crying baby in the middle of the night is one of the most difficult things to adapt to, especially because it’s very difficult to fall back asleep after you’ve gotten up and gone to the nursery room. The fragmented sleep experience will be much easier if you keep your baby close.
While some experienced parents and even experts advise co-sleeping, the American Academy of Pediatrics is not a fan of this practice, and we’ll stick to their guidelines. The organization advises against co-sleeping because of the danger of potentially suffocating the newborn. Instead, you can keep the crib near your bed.
Help Your Kids Develop Healthy Sleeping Habits
It’s difficult to admit, but when you have kids, you can’t have everything under control. Some things depend on them too. That’s why it is important to help them develop healthy sleeping habits starting at three months of age. Putting the baby down for the night when they appear drowsy instead of rocking them to sleep in your arms before bedtime can, long-term, be a better choice. This way, babies will learn how to self-soothe and fall asleep on their own.
With toddlers and older kids, you can establish a bedtime routine that will help them fall asleep independently and sleep uninterruptedly. This can include a bedtime story, a bath, or any ritual that soothes them and helps them settle down.
Create a Sleep-inducing Environment for Yourself
Your bedroom setting has a big impact on the duration and quality of your sleep, regardless of your baby’s sleep cycle. Experts claim that people sleep better when their bedroom is optimized for comfort, darkness, noise levels, and temperature. The most important element in the bedroom is a quality bed that provides good support, allows the air to flow through it, and keeps your spine aligned.
Another thing that will make your room a better environment for sleeping is adequate temperature. We experience a drop in body temperature when we sleep. This drop actually happens during the initial stage of the sleep cycle and it is, among other things, what makes us sleepy. The ideal bedroom temperature is 65 degrees Fahrenheit, but depending on your preference, it can range between 60 and 71,6 degrees.
Try to make your bedroom as quiet as possible. If you live in a loud neighborhood, you can block the outside noises with extra insulation. If that is not possible, you can consider using a white noise machine to help you sleep peacefully every night.
Finally, minimize your exposure to artificial light during the night by blocking all light sources such as street and car lights. Last but not least, make sure to keep the digital distractions, such as smartphones and TV, away from your bedroom.
Stick to a Healthy Diet
A healthy diet is imperative for new parents, and quality sleep is one of its key benefits. There is no clear consensus about what we should eat for better sleep, but experts agree on what should be avoided. The first thing is caffeine, which keeps you awake and makes it more difficult for you to fall asleep. Other foods and beverages that should be avoided close to bedtime are alcohol, spicy foods, high-fat meals, and high-protein meals.
Some foods and drinks that help improve sleep include almonds, turkey, chamomile tea, kiwi, fatty fish, walnuts, and white rice.
Consider Sleep-Promoting Products
Some products can help new parents get some sleep. Of course, we’re talking about the ones that are verified and safe for use. You can try melatonin, a hormone that encourages restful sleep without making you feel groggy the following morning. You don’t need a prescription for it, but it would be best to consult your doctor first.
If the problem in your bedroom is light you can’t avoid, use a sleep mask. This is another way to push your body into producing melatonin. Also, products with lavender, such as baths and soaps, can help you relax at bedtime and drift off more easily. You can even find lavender pillow sprays to help you drift into sleep. It’s not a coincidence we’re insisting on lavender, knowing that a 2015 study reported better sleep quality in postpartum mothers after inhaling this fragrance before bed.
Go Easy on Yourself and Ask for Help
Parents often push themselves too hard, especially first-time mothers. They feel like they need to be perfect at everything, and all that with a smile on their face because motherhood is happiness. If this is the case with you, cut yourself some slack. Instead of doing the dishes, take an afternoon nap. If you have guests, they will understand.
Share the nighttime baby duties with your partner so that both of you can get rest. You can share diaper changes, feeding, and putting to sleep, even if you are breastfeeding. Breastfeeding mothers can pump breast milk so their spouses can feed the little one during the night. Also, ask for help from family and friends with anything you might need. Some might be willing to help during the night when you are overwhelmed.
Parents always prioritize their children over everything else. However, the consequences of sleep deprivation affect not only the parents but also their children. Kids will experience it through your mood changes, loss of alertness, and, if the sleep deprivation continues, health problems. Hopefully, this guide will help you get enough rest and be the best parents you can be.