By: Jamie Webber
I’m a mom to a 14-month old boy and I AM SO TIRED. And it’s not because of him. He sleeps 12 hours per night now. But me? I’m lucky if I get 6.
I blame it on the thousands of thoughts that run through my head as soon as I hit the pillow: What will he eat for lunch tomorrow? Will our babysitter be late again making me late for work… again! Will I wake up with enough time to work out before he does? Ugh, how is it midnight already?!
Apparently, I’m not alone. New data from Sleep Junkie reveals that before kids, 68 percent of the people surveyed were getting the recommended 7+ hours of sleep. Once they had kids? Only 10 percent were getting the recommended Zzz’s. Um, who is this 10 percent and how can I be more like them?
For the first time, Sleep Junkie conducted a survey of parents of children under 18 months old. They asked questions to find out what the first year of parenthood is really like.
The survey found that the majority of new parents are getting between 5 and 6 hours of sleep each night. Sadly, no surprises there.
On average, each new parent loses a staggering 109 minutes of sleep every night for the first year after having a baby. So, if you have two parents in the household, that’s 218 minutes a night! It’s basically like being in college again.
And just like those college all-nighters you pulled in the library, or, ahem, at the bar, not getting enough sleep can have a major effect on your physical and mental health. It can make you delirious, but instead of sleeping through your morning classes, you have a newborn that needs care and attention, and that can be really hard.
Sleep experts Hayley Bolton and Renee Learner from Forty Winks Sleep Consultancy note: “As a first-time parent, it is important to remember everything is a phase, good and bad, but it will eventually pass.”
And until it passes, which can feel like an eternity, Bolton and Learner’s tips can help set you up for more restful nights down the line:
- Put your baby down to sleep when they’re drowsy but still awake.
- Make nighttime calm by keeping the room dark, talking quietly, and avoiding eye contact as little as possible when it’s time to go to sleep.
According to the Sleep Junkie survey, parents are spending just 5 percent of their day on self-care. So, where is all their time going during the day?
New parents are spending nearly 5 hours a day doing the following tasks — all efforts just to try and get that sweet baby to sleep:
- 41 minutes driving around trying to get their baby to sleep — equivalent to driving 20 miles every day!
- 1 hour 21 minutes walking baby
- 1 hour 46 minutes feeding baby
- 34 minutes reading to baby
And let’s not forget about bathing and burping your newborn. No wonder you’re begging for more time in the day.
Sleep experts Bolton and Learner are huge fans of establishing a bedtime routine early on to help you (oh, and the baby) get some much needed rest. They suggest a bedtime routine that’s relaxing and predictable with the same things happening every night at about the same time.
The routine might include:
- bath or body wash
- putting on nightclothes
- lullaby under dim lighting
Remember, don’t include things in the bedtime routine that you’re not happy to repeat every night!
Moral of the story is, you’re not alone. Some of the surveyed parents shared their most embarrassing sleep-deprived things they did in the first year of parenthood. These might make you feel better, or at least have a laugh:
- “I brushed my teeth with diaper rash cream that was beside the toothpaste.”
- “I poured a bottle of milk onto the floor completely missing the sink.”
- “I dipped my fry into my glass instead of my sauce.”
- “I fell asleep in the middle of an important phone call with no recollection of what I had said.”
It goes without saying, but Meg Riley, editor at Sleep Junkie will say it anyway: “Try and sleep when your baby sleeps – although they may wake frequently in the night, newborn babies cram in lots of sleep during the day so you should aim to sleep when they do.”
And one more tip I’d like to add has something to do with mind over matter. The more energy you spend thinking about how little sleep you got, the worse it is. Take a deep breath, drink some water (and coffee), and power through your day. Fresh air can also do wonders for sleepless nights.
If that sounds impossible, which for some it is, do your best to get support where you can, when you can. Again, this is just a phase, and it too, shall pass.