While it is important to get adequate sleep during pregnancy, there never seems to be enough time for sleep after your little one arrives. Sleep disturbances are routine for the first few months of a new parent’s life. But when a new parent has trouble falling asleep during the time that baby is sleeping or begins waking too early in the morning with an inability to sleep later, it is time to consult with a health care provider. Healthy babies need healthy moms and dads.
It is especially important for new moms with depression to keep a careful eye on their sleep behavior and to receive treatment for sleep disturbances as early as possible. Research at the U-M Sleep & Chronophysiology Laboratory has shown that depressed mothers’ sleep problems can have ill effects on the sleep patterns of their babies—and poor sleep of both the moms and babies can be a risk factor for depression as the children age. It is very important that moms and their partners plan ahead for the lack of sleep that befalls new parents. Moms should not be afraid to ask for help when they need it and to make sure they get the sleep their bodies require.
Healthy Sleep Tips for New Moms (and Dads)
- Keep your nighttime sleep schedule as regular and consistent as you can, even on the weekends.
- Take naps when the baby is napping during the day. But, avoid naps too close to bedtime.
- The most important thing is for you to get solid, unbroken sleep.
- Whenever possible, share nighttime feedings with your partner. The best way to do this is for you and your partner to pick a “shift” during the night. Keep this shift as constant as possible so that you are sleeping during the same hours each night.
- Dim the lights two hours before bed. Use just enough light to see what you are doing.
- Consider using a red light when you are feeding or attending to the baby at night. You can purchase red light bulbs from the hardware store.
- Get as much bright light (sunlight is best) during the day, especially in the morning.
- Remember, your sleep is only going to be disturbed for a period of time. You can manage daytime sleepiness and sleep loss.
A Red Light at Night
Melatonin, or the “night hormone,” helps the body prepare for sleep. Lights that are in the white and blue spectrum shut down the secretion of melatonin and actually alert the brain to respond, causing potential sleep problems. However, melatonin is not affected by lights in the red spectrum so if you need to use a light for nighttime bathroom breaks or for checking on a child or infant, choose a red light bulb. A red light, even a really bright one, is a better choice for teens who often study late into the evening or for new parents providing nighttime baby feedings. A way to remember: “red lights may stop sleep problems as well as traffic.”