By Allyson Hoffman
Updated March 17, 2021
Being the parent of a newborn is an exciting time of your life. But it’s also an exhausting one. Many parents struggle to get a good night’s sleep with a new baby in the home. For example, one study found that new mothers lose, on average, around an hour of sleep (1) each night for the first three months after giving birth.
There are many reasons why new parents are so tired. Sleep becomes more consistent as a child gets older, but most infants don’t sleep though the night (2). While babies need 14 to 17 hours of sleep (3) in a 24-hour period, that sleep is not consecutive. This means that parents are awakened (4) by the baby’s cries in the middle of the night. Parents may even wake up in an anticipation of the cry or have difficulty falling back to sleep after soothing their child. Getting sleep may also be more challenging because of the added stress and new challenges that come with caring for a baby.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to get as much sleep as possible while navigating the demands of parenthood.
Sleep When Your Baby Sleeps
Experts recommend that adults get seven to nine hours of sleep each night, though that is trickier for new parents. It may be tempting to do laundry or clean up the kitchen while the baby is napping. However, taking every opportunity to sleep while your baby sleeps can help to compensate for sleep loss you experience caring for a baby at night.
Split Duties with Your Partner
In order for you and your partner to get more sleep, you could look at dividing duties such as nighttime feedings, chores, and childcare. If one person is able to sleep while the other is taking care of a task, both parents may end up getting more sleep overall. If one parent is breastfeeding during the night, they could consider pumping in the evening and storing breastmilk in the fridge so that both parents are able feed the child at night. You can even divide the night so that your partner takes the first feeding and you take the second, or vice versa.
You might also reach out to family and friends for assistance. When you have visitors who can care for your child, it can create an opportunity to catch up on sleep.
Create a Relaxing Sleep Environment
An ideal sleep environment is dark, relatively cool, and quiet (5). Curtains can eliminate excess light. A noise machine or fan may help mask unwanted noises. Before bedtime, avoid screens that emit blue light such as TVs, phones, and computers. Blue light can disrupt your sleep-wake cycle and make sleeping more difficult (6). Additionally, a good mattress can help you get the sleep you need.
A short nap of 10 to 20 minutes has been shown to reduce sleepiness (7) and improve functioning. When we fall asleep, we begin to cycle through a series of sleep stages. A short nap allows your body to enter stage 1 and stage 2 sleep (8). During these stages of lighter sleep, your body relaxes, but you can still wake up relatively easily. Too long of a nap can mean you enter stage 3 sleep, which is harder to wake up from (9) and may leave you feeling drowsy for a period of time after getting up.
As a new parent, some amount of sleep deprivation is inevitable. However, doing your best to prioritize your sleep may help you lessen the impact of sleep loss as much as possible. As your baby gets older, they will begin to sleep longer, and you will too.
- https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30649536/ Accessed on March 15, 2021.
- https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30420470/ Accessed on March 15, 2021.
- https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29073412/ Accessed on March 15, 2021.
- https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15068660/ Accessed on March 15, 2021.
- https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000853.htm Accessed on March 15, 2021.
- https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26900325/ Accessed on March 15, 2021.
- https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9694306/ Accessed on March 15, 2021.
- https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16124661/ Accessed on March 15, 2021.
- https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/patient-caregiver-education/understanding-sleep Accessed on March 15, 2021.
- https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25668196/ Accessed on March 15, 2021.
- https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20421251/ Accessed on March 15, 2021.