A close friend of mine was recently at a moms group with her second baby. Many of the moms were first time moms and she told me of one particular mom who was asking for advice on how to get her newborn baby to sleep a little bit longer. The mom seeking advice said that she and her husband were losing it because they weren’t getting any sleep with their baby waking up every two hours to eat. My friend thought to herself “welcome to motherhood.”
This got me thinking of the many sleepless nights my wife and I spent with our son. He was on a strict schedule to eat every two hours. It would take us about an hour to finish getting enough food in him (he was very sleepy and underweight) and then I had to follow up with 20 more minutes of pumping. So by the time I got back into bed I would have about 40 minutes before having to start all over again. It was brutal.
My thoughts around this are why don’t we tell expectant parents about this sleep deprivation? We all go through it but I very rarely meet a parent who fully understood what it would be like until they were smack in the middle of it. I know firsthand that a lack of sleep can really impact your life and I don’t think that we should just accept it as a new reality!
So how much sleep do you really need? I don’t have an exact answer for you but what I can say is that a full sleep cycle takes about 90 minutes and not every sleep cycle is a full cycle. We generally complete numerous sleep cycles in a night. Of course newborns will disrupt the ideal sleep schedule but there are ways to make sure that everyone gets what they need. For example, there is evidence that a solid nap in the middle of the day can be extremely beneficial and is sometimes even better for a recharge than sleeping a full 8 or 9 hours at night.
And what are the potential results of sleep deprivation? The following is a quote from SleepHealth.org outlining some of the issues that may arise from a lack of sleep, “Some sleep research suggests that inadequate healthy sleep can lead to weight gain and is a factor in the national obesity crisis. Lack of sleep muddies clarity of thought. The sleep stage known as REM (rapid eye movement) sleep is believed to play a role in the mental processing of the experiences of the day just past and the organization of memory. With too little REM sleep, memory may suffer. If prolonged, inadequate healthy sleep may be a precursor to cardiovascular disease. And even in the short term, the sleep deficit that results from too little sleep leads inexorably to daytime drowsiness, a potential killer to anyone operating heavy machinery or driving an automobile.”
If the cute little babies can sleep peacefully like this and grow into amazing humans then their parents should sleep too!
My hope is that we will have a shift where expectant parents will know how much attention their babies will need in a 24-hour period. Then parents will also know what they, as parents, will need, and perhaps they can then setup a support network. However, many families don’t live near their relatives and they feel like they lack the “village” that others have. This is where I come in! As your postpartum doula, I will provide time for you to get some quality rest and peace of mind. Contact me now to learn more about how I can help!