You know the drill – baby wakes, you wake – but what about when they’ve dropped off again and you can’t? Cure your mumsomnia and a host of other sleep issues
Remember the days when the only things that got you out of bed were your alarm clock and the smell of bacon? That probably seems like a distant dream now – a recent survey found the average mum loses nearly 44 days-worth of sleep in the first year. Broken nights can be a shock to the system, but there are ways to maximise the amount of rest you get and become a smarter sleeper, no matter what your little cherub is up to.
1 You’re awake when your baby’s asleep
Anxiety is a big cause of tossing and turning, often because new mums feel worried about their responsibilities. ‘But the more tired you are, the more anxious you become and the worse you sleep – it’s a vicious circle,’ says Dee Booth, AKA The Sleep Fairy. ‘Pare down your to-do list to the bare essentials and use any baby-free time to unwind. Read a magazine, have a soak in the tub, take a nap – anything that clears your mind and slows your breathing.’
Take comfort in the fact that you’re resting, even if you’re not sleeping. And it might be the last thing you feel like doing, but exercise – such as a daily walk or, if you have the time, swimming– can relieve stress and regulate your body clock. ‘This means you’ll have a better quality of sleep,’ says Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, sleep and energy consultant at Capio Nightingale Hospital.
2 You stay up too late
We’ve all been there. Relishing a few hours of grown up time, but that second wave of energy you get once your baby goes to bed is down to increased adrenaline because your body is overtired. ‘To avoid this, get into good habits,’ says Nerina. ‘Eating breakfast within 30 minutes of waking, for example, helps stabilise blood-sugar levels and regulate the production of the sleep-inducing hormones serotonin and melatonin.’
It’s also wise not to eat dinner too late. ‘It’s tempting to wait until your baby is in bed, but if you can, eat around 7pm, and try to be in bed by 9pm at least a few nights a week (no matter how boring it seems),’ says Dee. And switch off your TV/laptop/iPhone an hour before you sleep – artificial light can lower levels of melatonin, according to a study in the journal Applied Ergonomics.
3 You’re waking every few hours to feed your baby
While sleepless nights are inevitable in the first year, there are ways to lessen the impact. ‘The key is to get yourself back to sleep quickly each time,’ says Nerina. ‘So, keep the lights low, and avoid looking at the time or you’ll start worrying about getting up again.’
Resting is also crucial. ‘Your baby should be having at least two long naps in the day, so use these to lie down, even if you don’t sleep,’ says Dee. Try Take A Break – a free app with guided meditations for achieving Zen in as little as seven minutes.
4 You’re wriggling, snuffling baby disturbs you
Babies can be noisy creatures – especially when they’re sleeping in your bedroom. ‘Don’t feel like you have to have the Moses basket right next to you,’ says Dee. ‘A few feet away is fine and should stop you feeling so aware of the noise, but still enable you to hear any cries.’ And Nerina suggests white noise to sooth both of you – not just your baby. ‘You can buy special machines that replicate rain falling or wind through trees, but a fan is just as good,’ she says.
Babies can be noisy creatures – especially when they’re sleeping in your bedroom
5 You wake too early
Morning light seeping into your room can make you more alert, so install a blackout blind or wear a sleep mask. If you still can’t sleep, try not to stress. ‘If you only have an hour before you need to get up, you probably wouldn’t slip back into a deep sleep anyway,’ says Nerina. ‘Instead relax and breathe deeply through your nose, then exhale through your mouth for 10. Repeat to achieve a state of deep relaxation.’ Once you take the pressure off yourself, you may find you drop off naturally.
6 A sudden sleep regression
When your baby is ill, you might get a night so bad it knocks you for six. ‘Once your baby starts to sleep through, your own body reconditions itself to need more sleep,’ says Dee. ‘So, when you have a bad night, it can feel worse than in the first few weeks. The only thing you can do is clear your diary and conserve energy during the day.’
Extreme lack of sleep can impair mental capacity to such an extent that it’s hard to function, so avoid driving. If you can get someone to babysit while you nap, then do. If not, rest as much as you can by snuggling on the sofa with your baby.
What sleep problem do you find the most hard to deal with now you're a mum? Let us know in the comments box below.