For many new parents, one of the frustrating things about sleep is that we’re running on so much adrenaline that we can’t sleep when we’re supposed to. And let’s be honest, “sleep when the baby sleeps” during the day might happen once in a while, but it’s a myth to parents caring for older children in addition to their newborn, parents with limited time off work, parents with twins or higher order multiples and parents babies who have unpredictable nap schedules. In other words, all of us can benefit from maximizing those stretches of sleep we can get.
Here are 4 ways to get yourself to sleep quickly and restfully:
The 4:7:8 Breathing Technique - This simple meditation popularized by Dr. Andrew Weil is a “natural tranquilizer for the nervous system” and is based in the yogic philosophy of controlled breathing. Several news stories tote that 4:7:8 can help adults fall asleep within 60 seconds. While all evidence seems to be anecdotal, we do know that conscious breathing has many health benefits. Here’s how to do 4:7:8:
- Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper front teeth, and keep it there through the entire exercise. You will be exhaling through your mouth around your tongue,
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a "whoosh” sound.
- Close your mouth and inhale through your nose to a mental count of four.
- Hold your breath for a count of seven.
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.
- Now inhale again repeating the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.
Here is the video of Dr. Weil demonstrating this technique.
Meditation Apps – Free and paid meditation Apps can allow new parents to fall into a relaxed, hypnotic state, if not fall completely asleep.
Calm is a 5 star rated free App (with some purchasing options) noted for it’s ease of use. Headspace has an associated cost of $70 but is known for it’s productive 10-minute sessions; a very useful 10 minutes for a sleep deprived parent.
Ease up on the caffeine – I know. Ridiculous suggestion, right? While we often see caffeine as vital, it’s been proven to keep us up even when we don’t want to be. Try these natural energy boosters instead:
- Increase Magnesium – Magnesium in the form of whole grains and fish is one of WebMD’s top suggestions to fight fatigue.
- Decrease Sugar – As our own head nurse Joy Becker tells EveryNurse.org, make healthier snack choices such as dried fruit or green-smoothies for a sweet and natural energy boost.
- Drink Water – To keep your energy up when you actually want to without the caffeine side effects drink lots of water. According to WebMD nutritionist Keith Ayoob, EdD, RD, “Sometimes, even slight dehydration can leave you feeling tired and lethargic.”
Divide and Conquer - Swap nights, or even 1/2 nights, caring for baby with your partner even if it means sleeping in separate bedrooms. Being "off" from 10pm - 6am a few nights per week can allow your body the deep restorative sleep it needs and also give you a mental boost knowing that there is a definite break in sight. For nursing moms who will still need to breastfeed during the night, simply stay in bed to nurse while your partner does all other care.
Also allow friends and family to provide child care relief, whether they act as a night nurse, or even if it's just for an hour or 2.
Sleep deprivation is a right of passage for brand new parents but having a plan to ease its effects can make those first months with baby easier on your health. If you feel that anxiety or depression is affecting you more than just the “baby blues,” contact Postpartum.Net for help.