10 Practical Tips For Sleep-Deprived New Parents
Let’s face it, sleep deprivation is no fun and coping with a lack of sleep can affect all areas of your life, from your job, to your relationship, to your social life. This can all be amplified even further when you are a new parent and have a baby who needs your attention all the time. However, there are a few natural, simple ways to ensure you get a better night’s sleep with lasting results. Here are 10 of them:
1. Avoid using your computer and phone before bed
Did you know that your computer and phone emit strong waves of blue light? This can can actually suppress your body’s natural production of melatonin because of its short wavelengths.
Melatonin is a natural hormone found in our bodies that is produced by the pineal gland (a small gland in the brain) and helps control your sleep/wake cycles. Basically, when you are asleep, your brain is producing lots of melatonin. Normally, melatonin levels begin to rise in the mid- to late evening, remain high for most of the night, and then drop in the early morning hours. However, this can be thrown off if you are waking up constantly for your baby or have to continually stay up really late.
If you have to work late one night, or absolutely need to use your computer, I highly recommend installing f.lux on your computer (added bonus—it’s free). This simple program makes the color of your computer’s display adapt to the time of day: warm at night and like sunlight during the day. Basically, it makes your computer screen look like the room you’re in, all the time. It only takes five minutes to install too!
To learn more about helpful sleep tips for your body’s natural circadian rhythms, check out this article.
2. Install red light bulbs in your room
Ever wonder why most alarm clocks are red? Well, that’s because the color red stimulates melatonin production in your brain, is softer on the eyes and is better for sleeping compared to other colors.
If you are having a lot of trouble falling asleep because your body clock is all thrown off from being with the baby at all hours of the day, why not buy some red light bulbs for your bedside light? This is a very cheap and easy solution. All you have to do is read a book by red lamplight for 30 minutes before going to bed, and you will be out like a light in no time. The effectiveness of this shocked me!
If you are interested in learning more about melatonin, you may be interested in this article.
3. Consume foods high in melatonin
If your sleep schedule is all screwed up and despite being super tired you cannot fall asleep, why not try consuming foods high in melatonin?
Here are a few suggestions:
- Tart (sour) cherry juice concentrate is extremely high in melatonin: 17,535ng*/100g
- Tart (sour) cherries: 1,350ng/100g
- Walnuts: 270ng/100g
- Ginger root: 142.30ng/100g
*ng = nanograms
Of all of these suggestions, I highly recommend ginger, as it is not high in sugar (great before bed) and is somewhat calming. One great way to consume more ginger without making a mess in the kitchen (new parents don’t need anything more to clean!) is with a calming, gentle tea.
4. Power nap
Naps are very effective and greatly underestimated. If you are sleep deprived, a nap may be just what you need. The crazy thing is that research shows “short naps” can be highly effective (an added bonus for new parents).
So how long of a “short nap” do you need to feel better? This depends on what you are looking for. For example, if you need instant energy, a really short, 10-minute nap can do the trick. This is because you will only be going through the lighter stages of sleep, therefore you will not feel groggy when you wake up. In fact, according to the US Department of Veteran Affairs, a nap as short as 8.4 minutes can increase cognitive function and alertness.
If you are looking to achieve more “focus” after a nap, then get 20 minutes’ sleep. According to the Human Technology Research Institute, a 20-minute nap helped test subjects feel more engrossed in what they were doing after.
Did you ever think a short “power nap” could improve your memory? It can. To achieve this, try taking a 45-minute nap. Why 45 minutes? This is because if you sleep for 45 minutes, you will enter the first stage of deep sleep—called REM sleep (rapid eye movement sleep)—and in this stage of sleep you can actually improve memory tasks up to 20%. An added bonus is you will feel much calmer and less stressed out after. However, you will need 15 minutes or so to shake off the grogginess.
5. Try yoga inversions
The best thing you can do when coping with sleep loss is to get your legs up above your head. Nope, it does not have to be a headstand or handstand—it actually works better if it’s not, in fact. Inverting has many benefits for our minds and bodies. For starters, it improves our circulation, supports the back, and calms our nervous system.
Also, as a new parent your mind will probably be cluttered with mental chatter; inversions will help clear your mind. Try this: Pile two pillows or place a bolster next to a wall right before bedtime. Practice the traditional “legs up the wall pose” for five to ten minutes. For an added benefit, try covering your eyes with a towel or eye pillow.
In terms of breathing, it’s best to take long, slow breaths and use only the sound of it to drown out any thoughts. When you are done, keep your mind quiet (avoid using the computer or other electronics and interacting with others), then crawl straight to bed for a sound sleep.
6. Say, “No,” to added responsibility
As a new parent, I am sure everyone wants to come over and see your baby, or maybe you want to go on a field trip with your oldest child. This won’t benefit you or your family because you will just be overwhelmed and tired. The last thing you need is to get sick, so keep things simple!
7. Sleep when the baby sleeps
It may not be a bad idea to go to sleep when the baby sleeps, even if you just take a 20-minute nap. You will always have a million things to do, so don’t use that as an excuse. You have now learned from point 4 that as little as 15 minutes’ sleep can help shake off the tiredness.
8. Take turns at night
It’s important to work as a team when you are new parents. As much as a new mom needs to breastfeed the baby all the time, the daddy needs bonding time too. Why not work out a schedule in which every second night the father has to wake up with the baby? You can prepare bottles in advance for when the baby needs feeding.
9. Power snacking
Sometimes after being up on-and-off during the night, you can feel kinda gross in the morning. To avoid this, many people have found power snacking really helpful. After all, once you’re up, it can be hard to fall back to sleep! Why not try for some yogurt, herbal tea (chamomile is very relaxing) or peanut butter with crackers?
10. Detox your diet
You may be wondering why detoxing is on this list. Yes, detoxing may seem like a monstrous task when you are sleep deprived, but eliminating certain foods from your diet can go a lot way towards getting the proper shut-eye your body needs. Foods that spike your blood sugar levels (i.e. cookies, chips, candy) may seem like the perfect fix when you’re tired, but they will make you “crash and burn” later. It’s best to avoid caffeine, alcohol, and foods high in sugar such as refined carbohydrates, candy, and cookies.
If this is too much for you, why not take a small step in the right direction and get a yummy detox herbal tea. Most of them are 100% natural and contain organic, healthy ingredients.
What helps you sleep or prevents you from getting a good night’s rest? Feel free to leave a comment below and let us know.
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