Mental Health Awareness month may be in May but the conversation shouldn’t stop once the date hits June 1. I asked my father, who is a psychiatrist, what is the one thing that you and your colleagues talk about the most regarding mental health and mothers.
He immediately answered: Sleep.
My brain quickly took a trip down memory road to when I was pregnant and I remember that some of the most common advice I would get from other moms was ‘sleep when the baby sleeps’. I then chuckled to myself because of how silly and very commonsensical that ‘advice’ felt to me at the time. Obviously, I was going to be doing a lot of sleeping because so would my child. And I wouldn’t really have much in the way of cleaning the house because-well it’s a BABY, how much mess can they make at five days old. Plus, aren’t people supposed to bring you lots of casseroles?!
The reality of sleep after baby
But then baby comes along and somehow you get swept up into the expectations and reality of your new normal. Like, who knew a five-day-old baby could go through three outfit changes by noon because they spit up, peed up and pooped on each one? And the ever nagging feeling of wanting to stay up all night and watch your baby sleep because you can’t believe you made a human and look at how cute they are and wait, are they still breathing?! Or knowing you have a new episode of The Real Housewives of Orange County coming on and your husband has taken up all the space on the DVR with recordings of Murder She Wrote?
As mothers, we expect a lot from ourselves, and so does society. We need to raise our children, keep the house straight, work (whether it’s outside the home or within), be the best partner/friend and that can take a toll on our bodies. Over time, a lack of sleep impacts our bodies in several ways, like an increased risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and obesity. But what mothers may not know is how important sleep is to our mental health and how the lack of sleep can impact depression.
As adults, we should all strive to get at least seven hours of sleep per night but with a newborn, that can prove to be difficult. Whether your child has colic or likes to eat every two hours or you just can’t fall asleep because you are worried or admiring your cute bundle of joy, sleep can be hard to come by. Being sleep-deprived not only impacts your physical health but makes it harder to show up 100% for your family. I’ve come up with a few tips that will hopefully help you sleep better!
*Disclaimer: I’m not a medical professional, just a mom who has been through baby-induced sleep deprivation myself!
Tips for getting more or better sleep:
- Be prepared! Until your little one is sleeping through the night consistently, assume that you are probably going to be woken up at least once through the night. So go to bed early. Who knows, maybe your child will sleep through the night and you will get some bonus sleep!
- Nap, Nap NAP! If your child is napping, lay down with them. Or in your bed, or snuggled on the couch with that freshly dried laundry that you are actually supposed to be folding Susan.
- Try catching up on your sleep during the weekend. Talk to your partner and ask them to get up in the morning with the child so that you can have a few extra hours of sleep. Or maybe have a relative or friend come over to allow you a couple of hours in the afternoon. Nobody wants to pay for sleep, but even a couple of hours will have you feeling refreshed and ready to take on the rest of the day.
- Create a relaxing routine before bed for yourself. We do so much for our children in terms of this, but leave nothing for ourselves and hit the pillow still very much wired. Try and dedicate 15 to 30 mins before you turn the lights out to relaxing activities like reading a book, dimming the lights, or taking a nice hot shower with soft classical or calming music in the background.
Mommas, I know, it’s the simplest, easiest and most common-sense piece of advice I can give you and yet, we struggle with it on a daily basis. Sleep impacts our lives far more than we know or care to believe and it can be a vicious cycle if we don’t recognize quickly that we just aren’t getting enough. As the fall and winter months come crashing in like a cold, wet blanket, it’s especially important to remember to take care of yourself (you created a HUMAN!) Ask for help when you need it, whether that is from your partner, family or friends. To be able to show up 100% for your family is to show up 100% for yourself.