As we experience multiple feedings at night, unexpected 3:00 a.m. diaper changes, and periods of fussiness in the early morning hours, we can turn into glassy-eyed, running-on-fumes parents. ‘Sleep deprivation and new parents’ is a major topic that challenges the majority of us during our baby’s infancy.
Healthline Media, Inc.
According to Healthline Media, Inc., a health information service provider headquartered in San Francisco, California, those first three months with a newborn can be really tough.
Researchers tracking the sleep of thousands of men and women as their family size increased have found that sleep hits an all-time low about three months after birth.
While having children is a major source of joy for most parents, it is possible that increased demands and responsibilities associated with the role as a parent lead to shorter sleep and decreased sleep quality even up to six years after birth of the first child.
Studies have also shown that even four to six years after childbirth, mothers lost an average of one hour of sleep nightly compared to what they got prior to pregnancy, while men lost about 15 minutes of sleep per night.
Women’s sleep duration and quality were far more affected than men, due to whether or not they breastfed their child. And sleep was more affected among first-time parents than among parents with more than one child.
You’re Not Alone On This Sleepless Journey
On the lighter side, let’s see what some parents say about their most embarrassing sleep-deprived moments in the first year of parenthood. These might make you feel better, and may even make you 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 fries into my glass instead of my ketchup.”
“I fell asleep in the middle of an important phone call with no recollection of what I had said.”
Another Sleepless Night?
Entirely too many new parents get way too little sleep.
A recent survey from Owlet Baby Care found that new parents are more sleep deprived than they originally thought. Their survey provided some interesting results:
- Only five percent of parents with children aged newborns to six months actually sleep a full eight hours at night.
- Nearly half of all parents, 43 percent, with children six months or younger get just one to three hours of uninterrupted sleep at night on a regular basis.
- 17 percent said they get poor sleep every single night while raising newborn children.
- Moms get less sleep than their male partners do, with 32 percent saying their partners never get out of bed at night to check on the baby. Seven percent of men say the same about their female partners.
- 40 percent of the parents said they can never sleep during the daytime when their baby sleeps.
- Around 30 percent of new dads have fallen asleep at work.
- 21 percent of parents have fallen asleep in parked cars.
- 12 percent have fallen asleep at the kitchen table.
- 11 percent have drifted off in the shower.
I’m sure you would agree, these results are not healthy or safe.
Fragmented sleep can also be just as unhealthy as no sleep at all, so even if parents are managing to sleep for a respectable number of interrupted hours, they’re still not getting enough rest, or sleep.
To help you assess your sleep needs, take a look at my article, “How Much Sleep Do We Need?”.
Physical Symptoms of Sleep Deprivation
Our bodies can react to the lack of sleep in many not so visible ways, and can affect us in the following ways:
Blood pressure. For example, people who report chronically sleeping too little, tend to have higher blood pressure.
Weight gain. Sleep deprivation can also affect the body’s hunger responses and our food impulse control, so we make poor food choices more often. Our bodies may crave more nutrient-dense foods, so we’ll reach for options with higher fat and sugar content. As a result, we have a slower metabolism and weight gain, as well as fluctuations in our blood sugar levels.
Research suggests a shorter sleep duration may be a predictor of weight gain in both adults and children. Each 1 hour reduction in sleep time per day is associated with an increase of 0.35 kilograms (0.7716 pound) in body weight.
Diabetes, heart attack and stroke. These physical changes in our bodies due to lack of sleep can also result in an increased risk for heart attack, and stroke.
Other physical symptoms:
- Other physiological symptoms can include blurred vision, dizziness, or eye twitches.
- We’re also more likely to catch a cold when we’re sleep deprived, because our immune systems are compromised.
- A 2011 study published in the medical journal, Behavioral Sleep Medicine, found that a shortage of sleep can lead to what some call the “zombie effect”, which is an impaired ability to demonstrate joy in our facial expressions.
- A similar study published in this journal in 2013, found that sleep deprivation can make us appear sadder or more sullen. We may also have swollen, or reddened eyes, hanging eyelids, darker under-eye circles, pale skin, more eye wrinkles and droopy corners of the mouth.
- Lastly, we don’t need a scientific study to tell us that our intimate relationship with our partner suffers as a side effect of sleep deprivation. Many new parents feel they have to choose between a few extra minutes of rest as opposed to devoting attention to their neglected physical relationship with their partner.
Mental Alertness And Sleep Deprivation
Getting too little sleep on a regular basis, less than seven or eight hours per night over a one-month duration, is associated with a decline in mental sharpness.
Even a single night’s poor sleep can cause impairments, including declines in reasoning and problem solving, and a decline in our verbal abilities, such as understanding someone’s conversation, or a decline in our reading comprehension.
Basic problem solving and daily tasks that would be straightforward on a full night’s sleep can seem insurmountable when we’re exhausted.
Sleep is also necessary to prepare the brain for learning. When the brain is deprived of sleep, it is difficult to concentrate and form new memories.
Refer to my article, “Heal While You Sleep – Adults,” to understand how vital adequate sleep is to our natural healing process, and how adequate sleep balances out our energy, our intellectual functions, our alertness and our moods.
Psychological And Emotional Health
In addition to physical and mental alertness, sleep deprivation can have major consequences on our psychological and emotional health resulting in:
Bad mood. A bad mood can occur with even one night of too little sleep, but for those who experience consistent sleep deprivation, this issue compounds over time.
Depression, anxiety and paranoia. It is also known that there is a relationship between chronic lack of sleep and the development of diagnosable depression, anxiety and paranoia. In fact, sleep-deprived individuals score higher on clinical scales that measure these areas.
Irritability and frustration. A parent’s emotional regulation and ability to cope is impaired when sleep is scarce, which means tired moms and dads are more likely to be irritable and easily frustrated. This is not a good combination when young kids are involved.
In addition, we may have:
- Increased feelings of worthlessness, inadequacy
- Increased feelings of powerlessness, failure, low self-esteem
- Poor job performance or conflicts with coworkers
- Reduced tendency to think positively
- Intolerance and less empathy toward others
Not Enough Time In The Day
According to the Sleep Junkie, an organization who surveys and publishes up-to-date sleep health information, who conducted a survey of parents of children under 18 months old, found parents are spending just five percent of their day on self-care. So, where is all their time going during the day?
Interestingly enough, Sleep Junkie reports that new parents are spending nearly five hours a day doing the following tasks, all in an effort to try to get their babies 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 their baby
- 1 hour 46 minutes feeding their baby
- 34 minutes reading to their baby
And let’s not forget about bathing and burping our newborns. No wonder we’re begging for more time in the day.
To help us learn how to recognize when our babies are getting tired before they become overly tired, please read my article, “How To Help My Baby To Sleep – Six Scientifically-Based Strategies.” This article also has great tips on how to train our babies to sleep.
So What Can We Do?
Many parents have convinced themselves that their bodies and their ability to function is because they’ve adjusted to the scarcity of sleep. But actually, parents are just getting used to feeling fatigued and underestimate the effects of how they feel and the effects of how they perform.
The best thing we can do for ourselves is to add up our hours of daily sleep, and take the next steps to learn how to get more sleep while still caring for our babies.
I’ve written a thorough review, “Baby Sleep Techniques Review,” evaluating the resource I recommend for new parents and parents of new babies. It’s an eBook called, Baby Sleep Miracle, and can be purchased as an immediate-downloadable eBook available on ClickBank, the trusted leading retailer of digital information products.
The author, Mary-Ann Schuler, is a clinical psychologist as well as a mother of two, and has more than 20 years’ experience in child psychology. These are great teachings regarding parents with babies from one month old up to five years old.
Take a sneak peek at the chapters below. Notice chapter one is The Dangers of Sleep Deprivation, which is dedicated to parents.
Chapter 1: The Dangers of Sleep Deprivation
Chapter 2: Understanding Sleep
Chapter 3: General Sleep Rules for Newborns and Infants
Chapter 4: Good Sleep at Every Age
To go directly to the resource to purchase it, go here.
Customer comments. Take a look at a couple of the happy Baby Sleep Miracle customer comments below:
Other “Must Reads”
Here are more of my articles that are relevant in helping new parents with sleep concerns:
- To understand our baby’s sleep patterns: “How Do Babies Sleep? 5 Fascinating Facts To Know”.
- To relieve anxiety: “Sleep And Coronavirus Anxiety – How To Increase Our Quality Of Sleep”
As we’ve seen in this article, we’re not alone in this challenging venture. However, knowing that the importance in getting more sleep is critical to our health and well-being, we can also understand how important our results are contributing to our babies’ health and well-being as well.
My greatest hope is that we believe we are great and loving moms and dads who are learning and transitioning while our babies are transitioning. We’re on the right path of a loving commitment of getting better quality of sleep ourselves during our babies’ development.
What I learned writing this post: I enjoyed researching this article because it helped me realize how critical it is in making sleep a priority, especially during the time of our baby’s infancy when we’re feeling most sleep deprived. Our improved quality of sleep, and thus, our improved physical, mental and emotional health will in turn benefit our little ones.
Please share a sleep tip in the comment area below, that will help other moms and dads also adapt to their new loving-bundle of responsibility. Feel free to leave a question as well. Thank you for visiting, and please come back to learn more from my informative sleep articles.
Best wishes for a ‘Happy Deep Sleep’ for you and your baby.