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New Mom Can’t Sleep When Baby Sleeps: Try These 5 Tips

New Mom Can’t Sleep When Baby Sleeps: Try These 5 Tips - The Sleepy Sloth

You finally did it! Your baby is sleeping all night, just what you've been waiting for. You imagine hours of peaceful sleep. 

But here's the problem: you climb into bed, tired as can be, but you can't fall asleep even after hours. Anxiety about your baby's well-being can also disrupt sleep.

This might be postpartum insomnia. It's when new moms have trouble sleeping even though they're exhausted. While "sleep when your baby sleeps" is good advice, it's not always feasible. 

To solve this, try setting bedtimes, exercising, taking naps, and creating a cool, dark sleep environment. Sharing nighttime feedings with your partner can also help.

Stay tuned as we explore why this happens and how you (as a new mom) can finally get that good night's sleep you've yearned for days.

The Basics Of How Sleeping Cycles Work

Do you know why you sometimes wake up feeling refreshed and other times groggy? It all has to do with your sleep cycle! It is like a rollercoaster ride with different stages.

New Mom Can’t Sleep When Baby Sleeps

Here are the stages of a sleep cycle:

Dozing Off (Stage 1): This is the gentle dip at the beginning. Your body starts to relax, and you might drift in and out of sleep.

Light Sleep (Stage 2): Here, you're truly asleep, but not super deep. Your body temperature drops, and things slow down – your heart rate and breathing ease up, and your eyes stop moving. It’s kind of like reaching the bottom of the first hill on the rollercoaster.

Deep Sleep (Stage 3): Ah, the sweet spot! This is where your body recharges. Your breathing gets really slow and steady, and it's hard to wake you up. Imagine this as the upside-down loop on the rollercoaster – super deep and restorative.

These three stages (non-REM sleep) take about 90 minutes to complete. Then, you enter a different zone called REM sleep, which is where dreams happen! 

Your brain activity picks up, your eyes start darting around under your eyelids (like you're watching a movie!), and your body might even twitch a little.

The whole sleep cycle (going through all the stages and REM sleep) repeats itself throughout the night, usually 4 to 6 times. 

Usually, the first part of the night is heavy on deep sleep, which is why waking up early can leave you feeling refreshed.  

Later in the night, REM sleep becomes more prominent, which might explain why those early morning dreams feel so vivid.

Baby Sleep vs. Your Sleep: Why You Feel So Tired

Newborns are adorable and tiny sleep champions, but not in the way you might think. Their sleep cycles are way shorter than yours. 

Newborn babies spend more time in a light sleep stage called REM sleep, which makes them wake up easily. 

Thus, your little one will snooze for short bursts (think 3-4 hours max) and not really follow a set schedule. They'll basically be napping on and off around the clock.

Now, here's the kicker: you're on night duty! With those frequent wake-ups for feeding and soothing, you might be up two or three times in an eight-hour stretch.  

This broken sleep is even tougher than just getting five straight hours of uninterrupted sleep. Why? Because all those nighttime interruptions mess with your sleep cycle.  

Each time you get up and then try to fall back asleep, you have to start over again. You miss out on that deep, restorative sleep that leaves you feeling truly rested. 

The result? Pure exhaustion.

Why Moms Can’t Sleep When Baby Sleeps?

You watch your little one drift off to dreamland, a picture of pure peace. But for you, mama? Sleep feels miles away. 

Why Moms Can’t Sleep When Baby Sleeps?

Based on a Pubmed research, new parents experience considerable sleep loss each night, often enduring disruptions until their oldest child reaches 6 years of age.

Why is this? It turns out, there's a bunch of reasons why new moms struggle to catch those Zzzs, even when the baby finally does.

Here are 10 common reasons: 

Your Body's Changing: 

After giving birth, your body is busy adjusting. Special hormones that helped you grow your baby are now going down, while others that make milk are going up. 

This big switch-up can mess with your sleep cycle, making it hard to fall asleep and stay asleep all night. It might take some time, weeks or even months, for things to settle back down.

Napping Too Much: 

Naps can be a lifesaver for new moms, helping you power through the day. However, for some women, napping during the day can actually make it harder to fall asleep at night. 

Don't ditch naps entirely – they have benefits like improved memory and alertness. Just try to limit them to 30 minutes and avoid napping after 3 pm to prevent nighttime sleep disruptions.

Mama Bear Instincts:  

You're wired to protect your cub! Even when you're sleepy, your brain stays on high alert, listening for any little sound or movement from your baby.  

A tiny sniffle or a flutter can wake you up in a flash. This constant watchfulness makes it tough to get that deep sleep you really need.

Sleep Debt Blues: 

Babies don't exactly follow a sleep schedule, right? Those nighttime feedings and diaper changes can leave you feeling like you never get a full night's rest.  

This "sleep debt" makes it even harder to fall asleep when you finally get a chance. It's like being stuck in a loop of tiredness and worry.

Struggling With Mental Health: 

Sometimes, trouble sleeping can be a sign of something called postpartum depression (PPD). This is a real thing. 

It mostly happens to some moms after giving birth. It can make you feel sad, hopeless, and anxious – and sleep problems are a common symptom. 

If you're having trouble sleeping along with other changes in your mood, appetite, or energy levels, talk to your doctor. Getting help early for PPD is important.

Worry Takes Over: 

With a new little one, it's natural to worry. Is the baby breathing okay? Am I feeding them enough? 

What if they get sick? These worries can swirl around in your head at night, keeping you wide awake and stressed.

You Drank A Lot Of Coffee:

Taking care of a baby is exhausting. Some days, especially after a night of little sleep, you need coffee to help you stay awake. Coffee can be helpful in the morning. 

But it's best to avoid it before bedtime. The effects of caffeine can last up to 6 hours. So if you go to bed at 10 p.m., make sure to have your last cup of coffee before 4 p.m.

Routine Reboot:  

Taking care of a newborn can throw your whole day off track. Napping when the baby naps might seem like a good idea, but it can mess with your nighttime sleep.  

The same goes for going to bed at different times every night. Without a regular sleep routine, your body doesn't know when it's time to wind down.

Your Brain Stays Busy:

New moms often have a lot on their minds! You might be thinking about the baby's schedule, diaper changes, teething, or all the things you need to do around the house. 

This constant thinking can make it hard to shut off your brain and fall asleep. Sometimes, guilt can creep in too. 

You might feel bad for taking a moment to sleep even though you're exhausted. But remember, getting enough rest is important! 

A well-rested you is a better caregiver for your baby. So, don't feel guilty about catching some short naps– it's actually good for everyone!

Hormonal Differences: 

It's true that anyone can struggle to sleep due to worry. But new moms might have an extra hurdle in terms of sleeping.  

Studies show that women are 40% more likely to experience sleep problems in general, and hormonal changes after childbirth can make it even tougher. 

This doesn't mean dads can't experience sleep issues too, but the unique challenges new moms face can make catching those naps even harder.

Is PPD Responsible For Sleep Deprivation In New Moms?

Well, it is very much possible. Many new moms experience the "baby blues" after birth, which are temporary feelings of sadness. 

But sometimes, something more serious called postpartum depression (PPD) can happen. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that 1 in 8 new moms might have PPD. 

It can make you feel angry, worried, sad, and anxious. You might also feel guilty or doubt your ability to care for your baby.

Trouble sleeping can make both PPD and regular sleep deprivation worse. It can be tricky to tell the difference at first.  

Here's what to watch out for: 

  • Are you feeling anxious or having panic attacks? 
  • Crying a lot more than usual?  
  • Losing your appetite or not enjoying things you used to?  
  • Having big mood swings?  

If these symptoms sound familiar, talk to your doctor. Getting help early for PPD is important. 

In most cases, PPD is also interconnected with Postpartum Insomnia. 

Don’t know what Postpartum Insomnia is? Let’s discuss it in detail!

Postpartum Insomnia Explained

Postpartum insomnia is a sleep disorder that affects many new mothers after childbirth. It's characterized by difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or both.

This can leave you feeling exhausted, irritable, and unable to function at your best. Here are the symptoms to identify postpartum insomnia:

Symptoms:

  • Difficulty falling asleep at night, even when exhausted.
  • Waking up frequently during the night and having trouble falling back asleep.
  • Early morning wakefulness, feeling wide awake before the baby wakes for the day.
  • Feeling tired and sluggish throughout the day, despite getting some sleep.
  • Difficulty concentrating or feeling irritable due to lack of sleep.

Causes:

There are several reasons why new moms might experience postpartum insomnia. Here are some of the main culprits:

  • Hormonal Changes: After childbirth, hormone levels shift dramatically, affecting the sleep-wake cycle.
  • Newborn Needs: Babies have unpredictable sleep patterns, leading to fragmented sleep for moms.
  • Anxiety and Worry: Concerns about the baby's well-being can keep moms awake at night.
  • Heightened Alertness: Mothers remain hyper-aware of their baby, making it hard to achieve deep sleep.
  • Disrupted Sleep Hygiene: Changes in daily routine and inconsistent bedtime practices can disrupt sleep.
  • Postpartum Depression (PPD): Persistent sleep problems may indicate PPD. Early intervention is important if experiencing mood changes alongside sleep issues.

 

6 Tips for New Moms To Sleep Better

Now that we have discussed the root causes of your sleep problems, let’s discuss some tips and strategies to finally get some much-needed rest.

Tips for New Moms To Sleep Better

Catch Up on Sleep, But Don't Overdo It:

Feeling sleep-deprived after your little one arrives? There's good news! Your brain can actually play catch-up on some of that missed shut-eye. 

Dr. Margaret Moline explains that when someone sleep-deprived finally gets a good night's rest, their brain prioritizes both deep sleep and REM sleep. 

You'll spend a higher proportion of your sleep in these restorative stages, catching up on what you've missed, while lighter sleep stages might be shortened.

Here's the trick: Aim for a little extra sleep on weekends, maybe 2-3 hours. This can be hugely beneficial. However, avoid turning those extra hours into a sleep marathon. 

Overdoing it on sleep can actually disrupt your sleep cycle again because you won't feel tired enough to fall asleep at your regular bedtime. So, catch up, but be smart about it!

Power Down for Power Naps

Forget about conquering your to-do list while your baby sleeps! Instead, use this precious time to recharge yourself. 

A 20-30 minute nap can do wonders for your alertness and energy. Unlike longer naps, these "power naps" won't leave you feeling groggy when you wake up.  

And guess what? Short naps aren't just for new parents – anyone can benefit from a midday energy boost!  

However, aim to finish your nap by 2 or 3 pm to avoid disrupting your nighttime sleep. If your little one isn't on a predictable nap schedule, don't hesitate to ask for help! 

Let a friend, relative, or partner take over baby duty for a while so you can grab some well-deserved shut-eye.

Team Up for Nighttime

Don't go it alone! Sharing nighttime duties with your partner is crucial for your well-being. If one parent works outside the home, it might be tempting to handle all nighttime wakings solo.  

However, this can lead to serious sleep deprivation. Consider rotating nights – one person handles all feedings and diaper changes while the other gets uninterrupted sleep. 

This way, at least one parent feels refreshed each day. For breastfeeding moms, pumping milk allows your partner to share feeding duties and give you a precious stretch of sleep. 

Remember, a well-rested team is a happy team, and your baby will benefit from having both parents feeling their best.

Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle

Feeling tired but wired? It's not just you! New parents often juggle sleep deprivation with keeping up with their little one's energy. Here's how to fuel your body for better sleep:

Eat for Energy: A balanced diet is your best friend! Start your day with a protein-rich breakfast to kickstart your metabolism and avoid sugary cereals that can lead to a crash later.

Fruits & Veggies: Fill your plate with colorful fruits, vegetables, and whole grains throughout the day. These foods provide sustained energy and essential nutrients for overall well-being.

Stay Hydrated: Feeling dehydrated can zap your energy and make you feel even more tired. Aim to drink plenty of water throughout the day.

Limit Caffeine: While that cup of coffee might seem tempting, too much caffeine can disrupt your sleep cycle and make it harder to fall asleep at night. Opt for herbal teas or water instead.

Set yourself up for better sleep:

To improve your sleep, avoid eating heavy meals before bed, skip stressful activities at night, and avoid exercising close to bedtime (though earlier in the day is good). 

Stay away from caffeine for at least six hours before sleep. Make sure your bedroom is quiet, dark, and comfortable to help you fall asleep faster. 

Use curtains to block out light, turn bright alarm clocks away from you, and consider using a white-noise machine if needed. 

Having a bedtime routine, like reading or taking a bath, can signal to your body that it's time to sleep and may help you drift off quicker.

Sleep in separate rooms:

Sometimes, even if you switch off night shifts, it's hard to get good sleep. This can be true if you wake up easily, like when your baby moves, or if you're a light sleeper.

On nights when you really need uninterrupted sleep, it might help if your partner or someone else sleeps in a different room with your baby.

If you're breastfeeding, they can still help by bringing the baby to you for feeding and then taking them back to the other room to sleep.

Wrapping Up

Getting enough sleep is super important for you as a new parent. It affects your mood, energy, and how well you can take care of your baby.

Even though feeling tired all the time can be tough, it won't last forever! If you use these tips and make rest a priority, you'll start to find a routine that works better for you.

You've got this, mama (or papa)!

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