While sleep may be low on your priority list after becoming a new parent, its essential for health. Check out why sleep is the key to reduce parental stress after having a baby.
A Good Night’s Sleep: How to Reduce Parental Stress in New Parents
Becoming a new parent is no easy task. It requires a lot of time, attention, and sleepless nights to care for your new bundle of joy. The truth is, taking care of yourself and managing parental stress levels is an essential part of parenthood. Keep in mind, being a parent is not a sprint, it’s a marathon so spending time on your own well-being is an essential part of being an attentive and nurturing parent (and staying sane!)
Sleep is a crucial foundation for overall health. It is the time when our brains and bodies repair and restore. Interrupted sleep is a reality of being a new parent since waking up to tend to your baby is part of the job description. Lack of sleep can lead to higher stress levels, on top of the baseline stress of being a new parent. However, it is still possible to get in extra hours of sleep when caring for a newborn.
The Impact of Not Enough Sleep
Occasional sleep deprivation is not so much an issue. It is prolonged periods of losing sleep which can negatively affect a person’s health. New parents fall into this category.
Sleep deprivation can result in a more negative mood, lower energy, issues with concentration, and poorer daily functioning altogether.
Long term lack of sleep can increase a person’s risk of several chronic diseases, including:
- Cognitive decline
- Cardiovascular disease
- Weight gain and diabetes
- Kidney Disease
Not getting enough sleep can also increase parental stress levels. The American Psychological Association conducted a survey on the impact of sleep deprivation on stress. They found that 21 percent of adults reported feeling more stressed when they did not get enough sleep. Also, for those that were already stressed, 45 percent said they felt more stressed without enough sleep.
Other consequences they found of not enough sleep included:
- Feeling sluggish or lazy (53%)
- Irritability (38%)
- Issues concentrating (29%)
- Lack of motivation (25%)
As you can see, not getting enough sleep can cause a variety of negative consequences. As you can imagine, in addition to feeling more parental stress, feeling irritable, lazy, and unmotivated can compound stressful feelings.
Research supports that Americans would be happier and healthier with an extra 60 to 90 minutes of sleep each night.
Lack of Sleep in New Parents
As a new parent, is it even possible to get enough sleep to help manage stress levels? The answer is yes, and no.
As a new parent, you can expect to wake up every few hours to feed your baby. This obviously interrupts sleep patterns. However, humans are actually supposed to wake up to external stimuli such as a crying baby.
Evolutionarily speaking, waking up during the night to care for newborns and responding to noises which could be a threat was required to stay alive and keep our offspring alive. The critical piece is being able to fall back asleep after waking and maximizing the quality of your sleep.
If you have a partner, sharing the responsibility of waking up to tend to the baby is an obvious tip for getting more shut-eye. But there are other less obvious options to help you get more and better sleep.
Tips on How to Get More Sleep as a New Parent
- Take advantage of your baby’s nap time. When your baby takes a nap, you can also take advantage of that time to get some shut-eye. The National Sleep Foundation reports that short naps of just 20-30 minutes are beneficial to mental well-being and can help with mood, alertness, and general performance. Make sure you rest in a quiet, dark room with a comfortable temperature for maximum benefit.
- Practice good sleep hygiene: To help you fall asleep faster, avoid caffeinated beverages late in the day or other stimulants. Also, avoid using cell phones, tablets, computers, or televisions as the blue light produces signals the disrupt sleeping patterns. Try to sleep in complete darkness and a cool, comfortable temperature. Even changing out your mattress and pillow for a higher quality one that fits your preference can be effective.
- Engage in mindfulness stress reduction: Studies show that mindfulness techniques such as meditation and deep breathing exercises benefit both stress levels and sleep quality. Given that sleep is likely to be interrupted as a new parent, increasing the quality of sleep is a key strategy to get the most out of the time you do have to sleep.
Most parents are familiar with feeling tired, sleep-deprived, and stressed. There is good evidence to support that not getting enough sleep increases stress levels. Although sleep will be interrupted due to the baby’s regular wakings through the night, maximizing sleep quality through mindfulness, practicing proper sleep hygiene, and taking short naps when the baby naps are strategies to improve your sleep and therefore reduce stress.
- How to tell if stress is affecting your sleep
- National Sleep Foundation: New Baby, No Sleep: Tips to Ease the Transition
- National Sleep Foundation Napping
- Rave Reviews
- The Effects of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction on Sleep Disturbance: A Systematic Review