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Sleep: Tips to Help New Moms Avoid Sleep Deprivation

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All new mothers know how hard it can be to get a good night’s sleep after a baby is born. It is also important for new moms to get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation can affect decision-making, lead to depression, and cause problems in relationships. It can also affect a new mother’s ability to be productive at work. Fortunately, some of the most common causes of sleep deprivation among new mothers are often easy to overcome.

Jennifer Doering in a simulated research interview situation.

I recently conducted a study, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the National Institute of Nursing Research, to determine some of the most common causes of sleep deprivation among low income new moms. While lower income women are more likely to have trouble getting enough sleep, it’s a problem for most new mothers and the study’s findings may be helpful to anyone who has a newborn.

Through surveying new mothers about their sleep environments, and asking them to keep sleep diaries, I learned that the most common reason new mothers don’t sleep well is that they’re sharing a bed, either with the new baby, other children or a male partner. The other most common reasons were sleeping with the television on, drinking caffeine, and smoking.

New moms can have a lot of trouble staying asleep. The most common reason for sleep disruption is the newborn baby. Other common causes are the sounds of other people or pets in the home, sounds within the building or neighbors, the common col,; headaches, menstruation, or feeling angry or depressed.

New mothers also reported that staying up late with friends, conflicts with a partner, and the health of a family member caused them to lose sleep.

Some of these factors can’t be easily addressed, but many can. Many mothers focus only on helping their babies sleep better, sooner. This is a great strategy, but babies usually won’t sleep "through the night" until at least 2 months old and maybe not until 4 months. Until your baby starts to sleep through the night, don’t forget that there are other things you can do to help you sleep better sooner.

Tips to Help New Moms Avoid Sleep Deprivation

Here’s a list of helpful tips to help you sleep:

-Just like hand hygiene keeps you healthy, following "sleep hygiene" can also keep you healthy. To learn more about basic facts about sleep hygiene, visit: http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/sleep-topics/healthy-sleep-tips

-Limit drinks with caffeine after 2 p.m. For facts about caffeine, go to: http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/sleep-topics/caffeine-and-sleep

-Smoking can keep you from falling asleep. For help quitting smoking and preventing relapse, visit: http://tobacco-cessation.org/sf/pdfs/tech/20%29%20Quitline%20Toolkit.pdf

-Limit how much you drink in the evening if the need to urinate wakes you at night: : http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/sleep-related-problems/nocturia-and-sleep

-Foods can affect your sleep. To learn more, visit: http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/sleep-topics/food-and-sleep

-Ask your doctor for help if you often have difficulty falling asleep or returning to sleep after waking up in the night. These are symptoms of postpartum depression. To learn more about depression, go to: http://www.womenshealth.gov/mental-health/illnesses/postpartum-depression.cfm or http://postpartum.net/

-To learn more about how to help your baby sleep, visit: http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/ask-the-expert/sleep-infants-and-parents

What was the most helpful sleep advice you received with a new baby?

Jennifer Doering photo Jennifer Doering, PhD, RN is an Associate Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee College of Nursing. She received her undergraduate degree from the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis and master’s and doctorate from the University of Arizona in Tucson. Dr. Doering studies how sleep deprivation affects depression in socioeconomically disadvantaged women after childbirth. Previous research includes qualitative and quantitative studies on fatigue, sleep, and depression symptoms in this population. More recently, she constructed and tested the feasibility of a self-management intervention to promote sleep and reduce fatigue in socioeconomically disadvantaged postpartum women. In collaboration with engineering colleagues, she is building and testing a device to reduce infant death from unsafe sleep environments. She teaches research in the doctoral program. Dr. Doering’s clinical experience includes obstetrics, postpartum, gynecologic, high-risk antenatal, newborn, neonatal intensive care, emergency nursing, and new graduate nurse staff development. She is also a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Nurse Faculty Scholar, and was one of only 15 nurse educators across the country selected in 2008 to participate in the program and to receive a three-year $350,000 grant to conduct research.

Comments

3 Responses to “Sleep: Tips to Help New Moms Avoid Sleep Deprivation”

  1. Jessica says:

    Great topic, thanks for raising it Jennifer! It might be helpful to check out these tips about newborns to get more sleep for the both of you here: http://www.care.com/child-care-15-things-i-wish-id-known-about-newborns-p1017-q20675664.html

  2. [...] a new parent seeks.This is especially true for parents with babies younger than 3 months, but sleep can be difficult in older babies as well. This is because babies spend a lot more time in rapid [...]

  3. I’m passionate about helping pregnant women get pain relief and quality sleep, and postpartum sleep is equally important! I’m wondering if you have a sense of causation: what does the literature say about how much pp depression is caused by sleep deprivation, vs sleep deprivation being caused by pp depression? Can those be untangled?

    Thanks for sharing your expertise!

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