How to survive on fragmented sleep

This content was created by the National Sleep Foundation

Sleep deprivation is nothing to yawn at. Not only does it leave you tired (and grumpy) the next day, but it can also impede your brain’s ability to form memories, increase your risk of depression, and even trigger overeating. But when you’re a new parent, disrupted sleep can be a fact of life. Try these 6 tips for helping both yourself and your bundle of joy to get the shuteye that you need.

  1. Share nighttime shifts. A full night of interrupted sleep may leave you in a worse mood the next day than sleeping continuously—but still not getting enough. That’s because when you’re woken up repeatedly, your body can’t get through the sleep stages to log the restorative slow-wave sleep that you need to feel refreshed in the morning. That’s why teamwork can help: Designate one parent to take the first half of the night (ideally turning in around the same time as baby), and designate the other to take the second half of the night. Turn on some white noise and get those zzz’s—at least for half of the night.
  1. Turn the monitor down. Of course, you'll want to know if your baby is crying and needs you. But responding to your baby’s nighttime needs doesn’t have to mean waking up to every single peep. Sometimes a baby’s grunts and whimpers are just sleeping noises. If you respond to every one, neither of you will get the sleep you need.
  1. Keep the lights off. Keeping the lights as low as possible during nocturnal diaper changes can help both you and baby get back to sleep with less interruption. That’s because exposure to light can trigger the brain to think it’s time to start waking up.
  1. Ban screens from the bedroom. If you have to be awake at 3:00am, it can be tempting to scan your Instagram feed while you feed the baby. Resist the urge. The light from your screen can disrupt your body’s natural circadian rhythm, making it harder to fall back to sleep once baby is back in her crib.
  1. Break out the jogging stroller. Whether you walk or jog, exercising regularly can help you make the most of the sleep that you do get. Moderate exercisers tend to fall asleep faster and get more sleep overnight than non-exercisers—even when they struggle with sleep disorders.
  2. Develop your own healthy bedtime routine. Think about this: You’d never get your baby ready for bed by having him stare at a tablet, would you? So practice what you preach. Before you hit the sack, wind down with a relaxing bath, a good book, and even a cup of warm milk.