Advice for parents on coping with sleep deprivation and dealing with sleepless nights with your new baby.
Sleep deprivation can leave you disorientated, unable to concentrate, tearful and depressed. It can cause a lot of stress and is recognised to be a factor in women developing postnatal depression. Sleep deprivation is often one of the biggest shocks for new parents. This type of tiredness can make you feel like you're losing your grip and affect your ability to concentrate.
Try to remember and gain some comfort in that it isn't going to last forever. Try not to expect too much of yourself, you cannot do everything, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Get some help and take care of yourself by eating well, sleeping whenever you can, and taking some exercise, even if it is only a brisk walk with the pushchair.
Tips to help you cope with sleepless nights
- Do not try to be superwoman, you have not got anything to prove. Admit you need some help and your friends and relatives will only be too pleased to come and help, even to do the ironing!
- Do try to grab a nap when you can. Even a quick 20 minutes' rest will give you a boost. If you find it difficult to sit down and relax, try smothering your hands with hand cream as that way you will have to take a break!
- Do not skip meals. Eat regular, healthy meals. Try not to go down the sugar and caffeine route, it will not sustain you for long. Sugar rushes leave you drained of energy and this may affect your milk supply. If you are snacking try to opt for a sandwich made with wholemeal bread and a protein-based filling like chicken or egg, rather than reaching for the biscuit tin.
- Do not cut yourself off from the outside world. It may be the last thing you feel like doing, but a walk in the fresh air will really perk you up. Phone a friend or meet up with someone from your antenatal class, surviving the first few weeks of parenthood together is a real bonding experience.
- Do let your partner take over some feeds. This can be tricky if you're breastfeeding, but you can express milk and keep it in a sterile bottle in the fridge. Your partner could give the last feed of the evening, giving you the chance to have an early night. Do not forget to make some time for yourself. A bath, a face pack, plucking your eyebrows or watching your favourite TV programme will give you some time out.
- Do try to relax. Revisit any relaxation techniques you learnt in your antenatal class, 20 minutes' deep relaxation can be as refreshing as a whole night's sleep.