A New Mom’s Guide to Sleep Deprivation

baltimore newborn boy sleeping holing kitty by angela singleton photography

In the world of parenthood, sleep often becomes a luxury. On average sleep deprivation with new mothers can lose around 100-110 minutes of sleep each night, while new fathers are likely to miss about 15 minutes. Looking at the first year, new mothers face a loss of over 650 hours of sleep. That’s SO MUCH lost sleep! Some new parents suffer from even more sleep loss, while others have babies who sleep long stretches, minimizing the number of times parents have to wake up each night. Of course, these stats highlight the average, which focuses on moms, but some families have dads or grandparents as the primary parent. 

Understanding Sleep Deprivation in New Moms

One study further revealed that parents, on average, are disturbed between two and three times each night during their first year with a newborn. Such constant disruptions can make a full night’s sleep feel like a distant dream. If an adult’s sleep target is between seven and nine hours, but a newborn’s disturbance occurs three times within this span, securing more than two hours of uninterrupted sleep becomes almost impossible.

You’re not alone if you’re feeling exhausted, foggy, and perhaps even slightly irritable due to a lack of sleep. As research shows and your friends and family have warned you, sleep deprivation is a common issue among new moms, and it’s important to learn what you can do to manage it.

The Impacts of Sleep Deprivation in New Moms

Sleep deprivation can affect new moms in so many ways. It can lead to mood swings, decreased concentration, weakened immunity, and possibly contribute to postpartum depression. Recognizing these symptoms and taking steps to reduce the impact of sleep deprivation on your health and wellbeing will help get through this exhausting phase of family life.

  1. Physical Impact: Sleep deprivation can cause a constant feeling of tiredness and sluggishness. It can also weaken your immune system, making you more susceptible to common illnesses like colds and flu.Lack of sleep can also affect your appetite and metabolism. 
  2. Cognitive Impact: Sleep is vital for cognitive functions such as learning, memory, and problem-solving. The sleep-deprived brain struggles with these tasks, leading to forgetfulness (“mom brain”), difficulty concentrating, and making decisions. 
  3. Emotional Impact: Sleep deprivation can also alter your mood and emotional regulation. You may experience mood swings, irritability, and a lack of motivation. It can also heighten feelings of stress and anxiety. Chronic sleep deprivation can also sometimes contribute to postpartum depression.
  4. Impact on Relationships: Sleep deprivation can strain relationships. When you’re always tired, you may struggle to communicate effectively or maintain your patience, which can lead to misunderstandings or conflicts with your partner or other family members.
  5. Impact on Quality of Life: Sleep deprivation can significantly impact your overall quality of life. The constant fatigue can make everyday activities feel overwhelming and may hinder your ability to enjoy this new phase of life with your newborn.

Tips for Managing Sleep Deprivation in New Moms

Here are some practical tips, drawn from my experience as a mom and the shared experiences of many of my clients, to help you manage sleep deprivation:

  1. Sleep when your baby sleeps: This advice is as old as time but holds true. To get more sleep, try to align your sleep schedule with your baby’s. This isn’t always possible, especially if you have another child, but try to do your best to get some extra sleep.
  2. Share nighttime duties: If possible, share nighttime feeding and diaper duties with your partner, a supportive family member or hire help. Getting a longer chunk of sleep will really help.
  3. Establish a bedtime routine: A predictable routine can help you wind down and signal to your body that it’s time for sleep. Try not to stay up late if baby is sleeping, even though it’s tempting to get some relaxation time. Sleep takes priority right now.
  4. Prioritize healthy eating: A balanced diet can boost your energy levels and help you cope with sleep deprivation. Make sure to hydrate too! See if family and friends can help with meals.
  5. Seek professional help: If sleep deprivation is leading to severe anxiety or depression, don’t hesitate to seek help from a healthcare professional. Your doctor can help figure out how to get through this exhausting time.

Giving Yourself Grace with Sleep Deprivation

Becoming a new mom is a significant change, and with it comes a whole new set of challenges, including navigating sleep deprivation. While the tips shared above can help you manage, it’s important to remember that every woman’s experience is unique.

Some days, despite your best efforts, you may find it impossible to get enough sleep. There might be nights when your little one just won’t settle, or days when napping while your baby sleeps proves unachievable. Don’t worry, this is completely normal. The early days with a newborn can be unpredictable and demanding.

During these times, it’s crucial not to be too hard on yourself. Remember, you’re doing the best you can in a situation that is new and often overwhelming. It’s okay to have off days, and it’s okay to feel exhausted. In this whirlwind phase, it’s essential to be kind to yourself. Don’t hesitate to lean on your support network – be it your partner, family, friends, or healthcare providers. 

In time, your baby will start to sleep for longer stretches, and you’ll gradually regain your sleep routine. Until then, give yourself the grace to navigate through this phase one step, and one sleep, at a time.

Navigating Sleep Deprivation While Enjoying Newborn Moments

Yes, sleep deprivation is challenging, but remember, these sleepless nights won’t last forever. While you’re adjusting to this new phase, don’t forget to savor the precious moments with your newborn. As a newborn photographer in Baltimore, MD, I understand the fleeting nature of these early days, and I love helping families capture the little moments and details. That way, when you come out of that sleepy fog, you can look back on it all! Reach out, and we can discuss your family’s portraits!

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