Your little bundle of joy arrived and you have never been so happy — or so tired. Welcome to parenthood! As you continue to provide for your newborn, perhaps care for other children, trundle off to work on limited sleep, or take care of the endless pile of laundry, you’ll need your sleep more than ever. But how can you slip back into sleep after soothing a screaming baby, knowing that the time is running out before your little one wakes up again to start the cycle again?
Here are a few tips on how to maximize every precious minute of sleep.
It can take time to pass through the five stages of sleep, and unfortunately, what most new parents don’t have much of is time. However, breathing exercises can help calm the mind and aid in the transition between stage one, or light sleep, to deeper states of sleep. Try lying down in your preferred sleep position and bringing attention to your breath. Count one to four as you inhale, imagine that you are inflating an umbrella in your rib cage, and hold at the top for two counts. Exhale as you count one to six. A longer exhale stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, otherwise known as the “rest and digest” reflex. Continue the breathing exercise until you feel relaxed and sleepy, then move to a natural breathing pattern.
Dim the Lights
How often have you heard the advice, “sleep when the baby sleeps”? That is all well and good until the baby sleeps at 2pm on a sunny summer day and the light is glaring into your bedroom. To make the most your baby’s sporadic nap schedule, consider investing in blackout curtains. Natural light signals to the brain that you should be awake, not enjoying a short restorative nap. For nighttime sleep, light is incredibly disruptive and even small points of light can signal to the brain to wake up. If you have a baby monitor with a light in your room, consider changing the settings to turn off the light and decrease stimulation in your sleeping area.
Put Down the Technology
We’ve all been there. It’s 3am and the baby has decided to enter the slowest eater in the world competition for her night feed. You’re struggling to stay awake to care for the baby, so you turn to your bright and shining helper: your phone. You can scroll social media, post in parent forums, shop for the hundredth unexpected baby item that you need… but all of this time on your phone is shouting at your brain that you need to be awake. Screens suppress melatonin, a natural hormone in your body that is already disrupted by your newborn’s schedule. The light from the screen keeps your brain active, making it harder to transition back to sleep once your baby returns to his sweet slumber. Avoid using screens during the middle of the night, and if you need to reach for the phone, try using grey-scale or the nighttime light feature.
Upgrade Your Mattress
When preparing for your baby’s arrival, you probably spent time researching sleeping options for your little one, looking up the best organic and green crib mattress options on the market. But did you consider upgrading your own bed? A better mattress can decrease stress, improve allergies, and overall increase your quality of sleep. At a time when you are getting less sleep, every minute counts.