By Raising Children Network
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It’s the topic every new parent talks about: sleep. How much sleep are you getting? Are you getting enough sleep? How much is your baby sleeping?
Mother kissing and cuddling her baby

did you knowQuestion mark symbol

  • Severe sleep deprivation can lead to physical weariness, hallucinations and mood swings.
  • Sleep deprivation can also cause symptoms such as hand-eye coordination problems, so it can be like being drunk.

Sleep in the early days

If you’ve never had a period of bad sleeping before, you might get a shock at just how much lack of sleep can affect your life. New parents often say they didn’t believe it would be as bad as it is.

It can take a while for babies to settle into a regular routine, and this makes getting the sleep and rest you need difficult. In the early weeks, getting any extra sleep might be an uphill battle.

How much sleep you need

In general, adults need about 7-8 hours of sleep a night to feel properly rested, although this varies from 5-10 hours, depending on the individual.

You might need more sleep if you: 

  • find it difficult to wake up in the morning, or feel drowsy all of the time
  • can’t concentrate 
  • feel moody, irritable, depressed or anxious
  • are unintentionally having micro-sleeps during the day.
Just as your baby needs sleep to stay well, you need enough sleep to get on with and enjoy parenting. Proper rest helps you do this, and makes you feel happier and calmer. Also, your baby responds to how you feel, which means your baby will feel more contented too.

Sleep tips for parents

Even though getting too little sleep is inevitable during the first few months of your baby’s life, there are some things you can do to make up for this:

  • It’s possible to ‘catch up’ on missed sleep. You can make up for missed sleep during the week by sleeping more on the weekend. Catch up on rest whenever you get a chance.
  • Even if you find it difficult to fall asleep during the day, lying down and resting can recharge your batteries.
  • It might be worth cutting out caffeine and other stimulants if you can. Although they make you feel better in the short term, in the long term they make resting and sleeping more difficult. They also affect the quality of your sleep.
  • If you can, share the work with your partner (so you both feel as rested as possible), a family member or a friend. Taking turns or shifts for night-time duties can really make a difference. This might be harder for mothers who are breastfeeding. In this case, the key is to try to rest when your baby is resting.
  • Some time out can work wonders if you’re stressed. If a friend, partner or relative can stay with your baby for a little while, taking a break might help you calm down. Even a walk around the block can dissolve some stress.
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  • Last Updated 09-02-2011
  • Last Reviewed 04-05-2006
  • National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (2003). Brain basics: Understanding sleep. Retrieved March 8, 2006, from apnea/detail sleep apnea.htm#41553238.