Postnatal Sleep Deprivation

Struggling to sleep after having your baby?

Sleep…. We all knew it would be allusive once we had a child but that doesn’t make it any easier. When you are meant to have 7 to 9 hours a day sleep, but on average lose 2 hours of sleep a day once bub arrives. And this is broken sleep not continuous REM sleep. The body requires this much sleep as during this time the body repairs and recovers both physically and mentally.

When suffering from ongoing sleep deprivation the body is affected in a large variety of ways, this includes an increased likelihood of postnatal depression, irritability, and trouble coping with stress. It can cause issues with body repairing itself, delays in responsiveness, trouble with balance, and can cause weight gain and hunger due to increase hormones. This can also cause cognitive impairment, issues with memory, difficulty concentrating and even hallucinations. Finally, if you are breast feeding, it can affect the quality of milk production.

As we all know new-borns require a lot of sleep, up to 16 hours, but this is broken due to feeding every 2 to 5 hours. Eventually these progress to less sleep but also less feeds. But often you finally find a routine and then they go through a regression, needing more feeds and wake up more frequently. Quentin has finally made it to 1 feed overnight, but with him learning to crawl he ends up bumping his head in his sleep and getting in awkward positions, resulting in him waking himself up.  

So how do you try and overcome the lacking sleep.

  • Well I’m sure you have all heard it before

“Sleep when baby sleeps.”

  • Make sleep a priority, the vacuuming can wait. You need to take care of yourself, you cannot look after someone else if you don’t look after yourself.
  • Talk to your partner and family, ask them to help with jobs that are worrying you or look after bub while you get some rest. Encourage your support person to take bub for a feed which is easy if bottle fed but look into expressing if breast feeding.
  • Ensure that visitors are limited, only come for short periods, call before arriving to ensure it’s a good time and help or bring food. A lot of visitors can be extremely tiring and need to be courteous that you are tired.
  • Create a routine as much as you can for yourself and bub. This helps teach the bub to expect bedtime and helps bub unwind, this enables better sleep. They like routine, they fine it calming to know what to expect.
  • Ensure you look after yourself in the way of eating a healthy diet, drink plenty of water and exercise. A healthy body has better sleep.

Remember that babies aren’t always easy and can be hard to settle. I will be talking about babies sleep later this week. This can be hard and ever changing, keep trying different techniques and seek help if the issues don’t resolve.

Finally never be afraid to ask for help. There can be serious consequences if the body isn’t rested. You need to rely on your team and ensure they understand what is needed from them. If you don’t have a team or can’t rely on them, discuss support with your midwife or GP.

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