The Best Tips for Sleep-Deprived Parents

Tara Youngblood Sep 10, 2022

Sleep deprived mom and dad

Parenting a newborn is no joke!

The tiny little secret about becoming a new parent is that “newborns and exhaustion” go together like peanut butter and jelly. Everyone knows that being the parent of a newborn, in the beginning, comes with a certain amount of sleep deprivation.

The exhaustion of poor sleep can feel indescribable for both exhausted dads and sleep-deprived moms.

What is Sleep Deprivation?

The phrase refers to obtaining less than the needed amount of sleep. When someone describes sleep deprivation, it's often based on the sleep duration, the total amount of time someone spends asleep.

It's recommended that adults need about seven to nine hours per night, and young children and teenagers need even more sleep than adults.

Sleep deprivation is a shock to the system and disrupts your body's natural circadian rhythm, often setting the stage for a cascade of anxiety and worry. I vividly remember what it felt like being up all night with a newborn, desperate for ways to get my baby on a sleep schedule and feel more well-rested myself.

It’s not just you and me who have felt this way -- since the dawn of time, new parents everywhere have craved good sleeping tips. I applaud you for looking for natural ways to sleep better -- you’re not alone in wanting to get off the sleep deprivation carousel you now find yourself on.

How to Manage Sleep Deprivation

In time, you too will be able to find a “new normal” for your sleep. Sleep deprivation with your baby won't last forever. Strive toward progress, not a magical, arbitrary 8-hour number.

35% of adults in America report sleeping less than seven hours per night on average. [1]

Because you don’t have a lot of time as a new parent, use my quick ABCs to improve your quality of life amid sleep deprivation and how to cope:

  • Aim for exercise
  • Be mindful of your health
  • Create a consistent sleep routine

Aim for Exercise

Everything can seem like a monumental task when you’re feeling like a sleep-deprived zombie. The last thing you might feel like doing is squeezing in a workout, too! But trust me, you should aim to exercise, even a little bit, every day. Self-care is not selfish.

When my kids were younger, finding “me time” felt practically non-existent. But once I managed to drag myself away for a workout, I discovered energy that lasted throughout the day.

For new moms, ensure you’ve gotten the all-clear from your doctor to exercise. You’re not competing against anyone but yourself, so start slow.

  • Put the baby in a stroller and try a 30-minute walk around the neighborhood.
  • Find a 20-minute exercise video to do at home.
  • Spending 10 minutes stretching on your yoga mat can feel amazing.

Worry less about what time of day is best to exercise and just make time -- any time -- to boost your body’s endorphins and other feel-good hormones. Make sure to listen to your body.

Read More: Can Exercise Help You Sleep?

Foods That Can Help You Sleep Better

Getting high-quality sleep can be challenging for many people. Did you know certain foods and drinks (nuts, tea, & fish) can help you sleep better?
Foods that can help sleep

Be Mindful of Your Health

You are new parents and have a baby now -- it’s more important than ever to be at the top of your health game. Just like finding time to exercise isn’t selfish, neither is choosing better-quality fuel for your body. Focus on eating a rainbow of fresh foods.

Choose Foods High in Vitamin C

  • Oranges
  • Strawberries
  • Grapefruit
  • Kiwi
  • Broccoli
  • Spinach and other leafy vegetables
  • Red and Green Bell Peppers

Eat Foods High in Tryptophan

  • Lean Turkey and Chicken
  • Eggs
  • Sunflower and Pumpkin Seeds
  • Milk
  • Oatmeal

Eating healthier and limiting alcohol will improve your immune system and improve your sleep quality, which can also help you lose weight. Unfortunately, alcohol disrupts sleep as it raises your body’s internal temperature, which leads to poorer sleep quality. This can reduce REM sleep (i.e., the best “fat-burning” sleep phase).

When the body is well-rested, it can replenish glycogen stores, reduce inflammation, boost motor skill development, and balance hormone levels naturally.

Get better REM sleep

Create a Consistent Sleep Schedule

Creating a disciplined sleep routine will pay off in future years. Once your baby starts sleeping through the night, next, you’ll be asking how much sleep do older children need. By establishing consistency from the beginning, you’re instilling good “sleep hygiene” for the whole family.

What you’re aiming for now, mom and dad, is sleep quality instead of sleep quantity.

Recently published in the journal Scientific Reports, it highlights that adults not only need to be getting enough quality sleep every night, but adults also need to maintain a consistent sleep routine. [2]

How Do You Know If You’re Sleep Deprived?

It's been shown that diminishing your rest quality can contribute to symptoms of sleep deprivation. Listed below are a few signs that you may be sleep-deprived.

  • Have difficulting focussing
  • Feel tired, fatigued during the day, and irritable
  • Difficulty getting out of bed
  • Feel drowsy throughout the day
  • Experienced mood changes include feeling anxious, stressed, paranoid, or depressed

Read More: Sleep-Deprived Moms; How to Get Better Sleep

Evening Routine That Will Boost Your Sleep Quality

Are you looking for ways to boost the quality of your sleep with a newborn? The below tips will help you.

Embrace the Joy of Missing Out

The opposite of FOMO (fear of missing out), a lot of parents develop a taste for JOMO or the joy of missing out when they realize that accepting a late-night dinner invitation isn’t worth the inevitable exhaustion the next day.

Honoring your circadian rhythm, which helps to regulate your body’s temperature, heart rate, hormone production, organ function, and sleep cycle, will convince you that sticking to a “boring” routine surprisingly feels great!

Dim the Lights.

After you swaddle your baby and turn off the lights in the nursery, try to do the same in your bedroom. At the end of the day, your brain craves cooler, darker temperatures to sleep.

Although we no longer sleep outdoors, our bodies still expect the sun to go down and the environment to cool.

Whether from your phone or TV -- either can alter your body’s sleep signals, so put those phones away and turn off that late-night T.V. binge. Learn more on how blue light affects sleep.

Slow Your Racing Mind

Now that you’ve prepped your bedroom for a good night’s sleep, take some time to slow your racing mind. Start by focusing on your breathing. If you need help, download soothing sounds or try yoga Nidra (there are some great free samples online).

Our Yoga Nidra expert Talei Allen recommends first becoming aware of sound, then noticing that there are different layers of sound. Talei has taught that smooth, slow abdominal breathing signals the nervous system to relax and return to a rhythm of healing, clarity, and freedom.

Performing Yoga Nidra

Yoga Nidra for Sleep

Want to learn more, read Yoga Nidra for Beginners. Give Yoga Nidra a try with one of the meditations below.

Sleep Cooler

If you sleep hot or sleep next to a hot human furnace, you know that even with the tips above, your sleep quality can suffer. The key to unlocking the deepest sleep lies in temperature regulation.

Our cooling mattress pads -- Cube, OOLER®, or chiliBLANKET -- drop your temperature for more restful sleep and slowly warm you up at the appropriate point in the early morning.

Sleep Deprivation: Better Sleep Ahead

Maybe you’ve heard the cliche “the days are long but the years are short” and thought “Nope, nothing about parenting a baby feels short or easy.” Take my word for it, one day you’ll look back and in the blink of an eye, your baby will be a soundly sleeping toddler.

As a new parent, you may not always get the necessary hours of sleep. But using the tips above, you will certainly boost your sleep quality.

Sleep deprivation and newborns, the struggle is real! I like to say that a well-rested parent is a happier parent.

Citations

[1] National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Division of Population Health. (2017, May 2). CDC - Data and Statistics - Sleep and Sleep Disorders. View Resource

[2] Lunsford-Avery, J.R., Engelhard, M.M., Navar, A.M. et al. Validation of the Sleep Regularity Index in Older Adults and Associations with Cardiometabolic Risk. Sci Rep 8, 14158 (2018). View Study

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