Getting enough sleep, no matter our age, is incredibly important to our health. Children, especially newborn babies, need to sleep for the correct amount of time to ensure healthy growth. Newborn babies in particular need between 14 and 17 hours of sleep per day, and children between the ages of three and six need around 10 to 12 hours of sleep per day, with this number decreasing as we continue to get older.
Adults, on the other hand, need about 7 to 9 hours of sleep per day, and that includes parents. Not having the right levels of energy due to a lack of sleep can lead to lapses in judgement and memory, impacting your ability to parent correctly. We've put together a handy list to show some of the reasons why a new mum may struggle to sleep.
As just about any other parent will tell you, having a child is very rewarding but also very stressful. The huge changes you have to make to your lifestyle, as well as the realisation that you're now entirely responsible for the safety and wellbeing of another person who can't do anything for themselves for years, can be exhausting.
But this stress and exhaustion aren't likely to end up with you managing to get extra sleep. Stress is one of the biggest factors in keeping adults awake at night, whether they're a parent or not. Worrying about work, kids, money, and a myriad of other things can result in sleepless nights and extreme tiredness throughout the day.
As with stress, anxiety disorders can also be very problematic for new mothers, causing them to lose sleep with worry. When we suffer from anxiety, our brain can feel as though it's going a mile a minute, and we can find ourselves worrying about things that are far out of our control. Worrying that you may not be taking care of your child properly or that you're not fit enough to be a good mother can be debilitating, no matter how much you reason with yourself.
However, these feelings are perfectly natural, and many mothers and fathers experience these feelings of doubt and fear on a daily basis. The best thing to do is to speak to your GP if you find yourself struggling with this level of anxiety and remember that you're not alone.
Your schedule is going to be based on your newborn's schedule, whether you like it or not, and this is something that your body is going to have to get used to. Your baby will wake up during the night for feeding, and you'll end up experiencing some significantly broken sleeping patterns. Unfortunately, when your sleeping pattern becomes broken, and you find yourself waking up throughout the night as a habit, it may be more difficult to fall asleep at bedtime.
Giving Up Bad Habits
When we have children, we often make the decision to cut out certain bad habits that would otherwise have a negative impact on ourselves or our baby. Most notably, habits such as smoking and drinking alcohol become a prime focus for many new parents and cutting down on these or quitting altogether are common.
However, some people claim that they can't sleep after quitting smoking, and this is likely due to the increased stress and anxiety that you'd otherwise have kept in check when smoking. When you have an addiction like this, if you cut that addictive product out of your life, your body is going to crave it, and you're going to struggle to concentrate, rest, or focus. Speak to your doctor about these changes when possible and consider alternatives to smoking that can still give you a nicotine fix as you progress towards quitting altogether.
During and after pregnancy, your hormone levels will change at certain points in time, and these changes can impact your circadian rhythm, better known as your body clock. Mothers often experience a decrease in the hormone called progesterone, which induces sleep and a drop in the better-known melatonin hormone, which makes us feel more relaxed and tired.
When your circadian rhythm is out of balance, then you might find yourself getting tired at the wrong times of the day and tossing and turning at night when trying to drift off. This, combined with the general stress and anxiety of early parenthood, can be debilitating.
Baby's Sleep Routine Changes
As your baby develops, you may find that their own sleeping patterns change too. This, in fact, happens all the way throughout their childhood. You will experience moments of peace and quiet as they sleep through the night for the first time, and this moment can be one of sheer bliss and relief.
And after those long nights of sleep, they may begin waking up earlier, demanding attention in the early mornings. Although this is far better than having a fragmented sleep, you'll want to still try to build your sleep routine around theirs. If they've started to wake up sooner in the morning, it may be time to try to set yourself an earlier bedtime to compensate for those early starts.
New mothers may also experience a myriad of different physical changes after giving birth which can lead to them feeling uncomfortable when trying to sleep. Breast engorgement when producing milk can be one of these painful physical changes and can make lying down unpleasant, especially if you're used to sleeping on your side or your front. This may lead to you having to sleep in a position that you're not used to, making it more difficult to drift off.
Some mothers also experience night sweats due to changes in their hormones, and it is a way for your body to expel the extra water weight you may have gained during pregnancy. It's not pleasant, but it's a natural process, and there's not much stopping it. Try to keep yourself cool where possible and try to replenish those fluids, as this will also increase your risk of dehydration.