Sleep Deprivation and Postpartum Depression: Proven Tips to Help
The link between sleep deprivation and postpartum depression has been proven over and over. According to the Sleep Research Society, women report “the highest levels of anxiety and depressive symptoms in early pregnancy and the lowest levels of social support.” Experiencing hormonal shifts is normal and expected after your newborn arrives but should be monitored. This blog Sleep Deprivation and Postpartum Depression: Proven Tips to Help, describes tips to increase sleep and sleep quality. These perinatal sleep tips can help keep normal post-baby mood shifts from elevating into depression.
More Than Mom: Depression Affects the Family
The link between sleep and poor mental health outcomes up to 3 months postpartum affects not only women’s mental health but the health of the family as well.
- Babies: Women with postpartum depressive symptoms were less likely to place infants in safe sleeping positions. Additionally they are less likely to bring infants in for routine health visits, and to have infants fully immunized. (Annals of Behavioral Medicine)
- Partners: Sleep problems may also contribute to the transmission of depression within a couple. “Mothers’ and fathers’ depressive symptoms were correlated with each other…” Further depression is associated with more depressive symptoms for both partners at all three assessments.
- Community: Accidents are also more likely due to drowsy driving. This is of course true for anyone sleep deprived, not just new parents.
Sleep Deprivation and Postpartum Depression: Proven Tips to Help
- Practice Good Sleep Hygiene…when you can!
Basic sleep hygiene is a great foundation for sleep for everyone. Parents of newborns may not be able to do all of these activities but try to include as many as possible into your day:
- Be consistent: This is the hardest of course but when you can, go to bed at the same time each night and get up at the same time each morning.
- Have a good set-up: our bedroom is quiet, dark, relaxing, and at a comfortable temperature.
- Remove electronic devices: Remove the temptation to watch TV, use a computer and scroll your phone. Blue light from tablets, phones and computers suppresses the production of melatonin, a natural hormone released in the evening to help you feel tired and ready for sleep.
- Keep your diet in check: Avoid large meals, caffeine, and alcohol before bedtime.
- Try to get exercise: Being physically active during the day can help you fall asleep more easily at night.
How to Switch Gears when you’re Overtired
For many of us, the feeling of being “on” as a new parent and the adrenaline that comes with it hinders our natural sleep cycles. So we can’t sleep when we’re supposed to because our bodies are trained to be on alert for baby’s needs. Here’s what you can do to facilitate sleepiness when you’re overtired:
- Meditate – Here are the basic steps of meditation:
- Find a quiet area. Sit or lie down, depending on what feels most comfortable. Lying down is preferable at bedtime.
- Close your eyes and breathe slowly. Inhale and exhale deeply. Focus on your breathing.
- If a thought pops up, let it go and refocus on your breathing.
- Meditate…with a little help!: It’s okay if it’s hard to practice the steps above. Mediation apps like Calm or Insight Timer are free or low-cost. They can help your brain switch from alert to calm.
- Try a Breathing Method like the 4:7:8 Technique. Here’s how:
- Inhale through your nose for four counts.
- Hold your breath for seven counts.
- Exhale through your mouth for eight counts.
Divide and Conquer!
This is perhaps the easiest and most effective way for both parents to get sleep!
Swap night time care duties with your partner – You can go in shifts like parent A is on from 9pm – whenever baby gets up overnight, then parent B is on from the end of that wake-up til morning. Better yet do a 3 nights on/3 nights off schedule. You may miss your partner but remember this routine it is only temporary and these restorative blocks of sleep help lower your risk of postpartum depression and keeps your immune system strong.
For nursing moms: If you’re breastfeeding during the night, simply stay in bed to nurse while your partner does all other care.
Accepting help is NORMAL! – 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 for you to get a nap. See below!
This presentation was part of the Maternal and Child Health Coalition ‘s recent mental health symposium and was written and presented by Jordan Seidel, CLC and owner of Let Mommy Sleep, Las Vegas. If you ever have questions or need overnight support, contact us here. If you’re having thoughts that scare you call or text 988, or contact the National Maternal Health Hotline at 833.9HELP4MOMS.
Have a Plan & Preps Before Baby Arrives
We’ve all heard that we should meal plan and try to outsource household tasks. And the reason we’ve all heard it because it’s really great advice! Here is a more detailed list of what can help in your first weeks and months home so you aren’t tempted to use sleep time on everyday tasks:
- Make you own frozen or ready-to-eat food favorites before baby arrives.
- Have a “go-to” list. Write down the top 5 items or tasks that need to be done consistently. Laundry, wiping down the counters, vacuuming, running to the store for food, diapers and wipes…whatever you might need. Then when a neighbor or friend asks “what can I do?” and you know there’s a million things but your brain can’t think of one, hand them the task list and empower them to do what needs to be done.
- If you have a toddler or older child, stash away a few surprises for them like their favorite treats or inexpensive toys. There will be a time when the newborn and toddler both need you at the same time, or you want to give your older child more attention than you’re able. This is when you can whip out a special new toy for the toddler to keep them busy and allow them to know you are always thinking of them too!
- If you have trusted adults close by that can help, put them on a schedule. Knowing that Grandma comes every Monday and Tuesday means you can predictably plan outings, appointments and down time.
- Have the tough conversation with your partner about who-does-what in those first months home with baby. If you’re nursing it’s important that an adult takes care of you while you take care of the baby. Some things to consider might be: do you both have family leave? Neither of you? Is there family close by who can step in periodically? How will the nights be divided up? Clear expectations of each partner at the beginning can make adjustments down the road easier.
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