All of us who have had children know that those first few weeks are a time of sleeplessness for parents. Until the new baby gets settled into a routine, it's hard to experience quality stretches of deep sleep. Eventually, though, you have to start getting regular sleep again. It's harmful to your own health, and even the wellbeing of your children, if you burn the candle at both ends for too long.
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Don't fall into the trap of thinking that it's just way things are. Being a good mum doesn't mean you have to suck it up and get on with life without enough sleep. A person who's been awake for 18 hours has the mental acuity of someone with a .05 blood alcohol level. That's not good for you or your family and besides, you deserve to get a refreshing night's sleep.
Benefits of a Good Night's Sleep
Sleeping helps us recharge our brains and bodies in many ways. It's thought to strengthen the immune system, and it's a time for repairing the body and regenerating cells. The dreaming phase of sleep, called REM, is also believed to be a chance for our brains to make connections between neurons. When we dream, we're learning and filing away memories for later retrieval. Getting enough sleep can positively affect your mood and concentration and make it less likely that you'll succumb to illness.
Take Steps to Get Enough Sleep
So, what can you do to get enough sleep? Remember that any investment you make in being rested and refreshed each day will benefit not just you, but your entire family. If your newborn still isn't sleeping for several hours at night after a couple of months, you might need some help. You can find professional baby sleep consultants to help you navigate the transition to sleeping through the night. Expect to get a free consultation before you decide if this is an option that will help.
The quality of your sleep matters, too, not just the duration. You can't make up for getting less than six hours of sleep at night by taking catnaps during the day. Make sure you're sleeping on a comfortable mattress that's the right firmness for a sound sleep. Many reputable brands will give you up to three months to try out a new mattress to make sure it's the right one for you.
One of the implications of lack of sleep in the first year after childbirth is an increased incidence of postpartum depression. Since up to one in five mothers of infants experiences it, don't rule out the possibility for yourself. Sometimes, unburdening yourself to a friend or family member will make a world of difference in the way you feel. There are also free resources you can call that are specifically designed to help parents work through the anxiety of raising an infant.
Reach Out for Support
For generations, mums had an extended family to help out with the kids. Grandma might live with the family, or at least be a few doors down. More women were at home with their children, and neighbourhoods were filled with mums that could take turns giving each other a break.
Two of the biggest sleep-stealing culprits today are the tendency to raise children without extended family support and the necessity for both parents to hold down a job. Here are some suggestions that could help:
If it's in your budget, consider hiring a house cleaner one day a week. This applies to stay-at-home mums as well as career mums since both work, just at different occupations.
Don't hesitate to ask your partner, friends and family to help out if you need a break. Try going to bed early one night a week while your husband takes over with the kids.
Stress and tension can keep you awake at night, so consider setting up counselling sessions. This will give you a chance to vent about your frustrations while learning valuable ways to deal with the demands of being a parent.
Everyone Needs It
Even celebrities like Giaan Rooney have trouble getting enough rest with all the demands of being a mum. The double Olympian and mum to two children under five years old said she once felt like a failure as a mother because of sleep deprivation.
Her firstborn, Zander, continued to wake hourly, leaving both parents sleepless and stressed out. Giaan eventually consulted a baby sleep specialist for Zander and again for her second child, Lexie. She said that finding a support system also helped her to get through those early months of sleeplessness.
Whatever it takes to give yourself the sleep you require will be well worth the effort. Your needs are important, and you'll find that life looks brighter when you get enough sleep.