Ask any new mum want they want and the answer will be, all I want is a good night’s sleep!
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As much as you love your new bundle of joy, sleep feels like a distant memory and nobody can prepare you for the sheer exhaustion that comes from not sleeping enough. Fragmented sleep for weeks, if not months, following the birth of a baby can leave new mums feeling bad tempered, tearful, forgetful and depressed.
But for the small amount of sleep new mums get, what can be done to ensure that this sleep is of a really good quality?
Our advice is to follow the three R’s: Regular hours Routine Restful environment.
Routines that are associated with sleep, signal to the brain that it’s time to wind down – think a warm bath, having a milky drink, reading a book or listening to soothing music.
Try to keep regular hours too. Going to bed and getting up at roughly the same time, all the time, will programme your body to sleep better.
Make sure your sleeping environment is restful. Your bedroom should be kept for rest and sleep and it should be neither too hot, nor too cold; and as quiet and dark as possible. It may be worth considering investing in dimmer light to avoid bright light waking you up. Also avoid checking your mobile phone – the blue light emitted from these devices can, unconsciously, play havoc with the body’s circadian rhythms. Make sure your bed is comfortable. It’s difficult to get deep, restful, sleep on one that’s too soft, too hard, too small or, too old.
If you struggle to get back off to sleep in the middle of the night, practise some deep breathing techniques or, if your mind is buzzing with things to do, write them down.
Enlist help, where possible, with night time feedings. A solid stretch of sleep (four hours) can work wonders.
Throughout this phrase, try to remember it won’t last forever. Make sure you get some ‘me time’ and wind down properly before bed. Take a warm foamy bath, read a book or listen to some soothing music.
Strategies or tactics that new mums can use when they are sleep deprived to stay awake and alert through the day
Sleep when the baby sleeps: Everyone says it but try where possible to do it. A 20 minute power nap can give you as much energy as two cups of strong coffee, but the effects are longer lasting. Twenty minutes is sufficient to turn off the nervous system and recharge the whole body.
Step outside: Get some fresh air by going for a brisk walk with the pram. It will make you more alert and is a good distraction.
Listen to music: Perk yourself up by listening to music. Music triggers emotional responses in humans, helping us engage many parts of the brain.
Exposure to bright light: Preferably, natural daylight. Your body's internal clock (its circadian rhythms) is regulated by your exposure to sunlight. This means you can trick your body into believing it should be awake even when it feels tired.
Cool down: Keep slightly cool. Try splashing your face or running your wrists under cold water. Remove layers of clothing so you don’t feel warm and toasty.
Food faux pas: Avoid high carb or sugary foods that give you that mid morning/afternoon crash and try not to eat so you’re full. Excess eating leaves you sleepy. Ditch the chocolate and crisps and keep healthy, easy-to-eat snacks around such as nuts, fresh fruit or raw vegetables.
Stay hydrated: Being dehydrated can make you feel sleepy and dizzy so keep a cold bottle of water to drink close by.