It’s hard getting enough sleep as a new parent. All “been there done that parents” probably have at least one horror story of walking around in a sleep-fogged daze, barely aware of their surrounding, desperately in need of sleep. So how can you ensure you will get the best sleep possible, find more about this, even with an “eating-round-the-clock” newborn in the house? Read on for ten sleep-inducing tricks.
1. Relaxation techniques. The stress of being a new parent can keep you awake, even if your baby is sleeping soundly. Learn to incorporate a bedtime routine into your busy new schedule, both for your and your baby’s sake. Wind down with some quiet reading with your baby, a warm (not hot) bath, even meditation, can all help you let go of the day’s stresses and settle into a restful night’s sleep.
2. Yoga. According to the website yoga.org, yoga stimulates the central nervous system, which then increases blood flow to the sleep centers of the brain. Yoga then can help you fall asleep faster, sleep better, and actually need less sleep to get through your day – the perfect combination for busy new moms and dads. (http://yoga.org.nz/benefits/physiological_benefits/yoga_insomnia.htm).
3. Progressive muscle relaxation. This is actually a form of cognitive-behavioral therapy. Progressive muscle relaxation teaches your body how to relax before bedtime. Gradually tense, hold, then release your muscles, starting at the toes and working your way up. Breathe deeply while doing so and really feel every little movement of your muscles. I like to personalize it by imagining that I am literally breathing into my muscles, and when I exhale, I relax them, letting the air “leave” the muscles. By the time you reach your head, you should feel relaxed and ready for sleep.
4. Sunshine and exercise. It sounds simplistic, but getting exercise will help get your body going and give you more energy throughout the day, leaving you pleasantly tired at the end of the day. A good cardio or strength training routine will also help you reduce stress. Strive for 30 minutes a day, most days of the week. Adding sunshine to the equation (jogging outside on a nice summer morning, for example) helps keep your body clock in sync, especially helpful if you have a night owl baby.
5. Reduce caffeine and sugar intake. A new parent may rely on a steady diet of Red Bull or other caffeinate sugary beverage or candy bar, but that’s a mistake. The excess caffeine can remain in your body for some hours after consumption, leaving you tossing and turning rather than sleeping. Worse, if you’re breastfeeding, that caffeine can pass through your milk leaving you with a wide-awake baby as well. Limit caffeine or eliminate it altogether for better sleep.
6. Aromatherapy. Essential oils have been used for centuries for healing purposes, and they work. Use lavender, marjoram, or even rose before bed – add a few drops to sunflower oil for a massage, or put a few drops in your warm bath (see point 1). The soft scents will relax you and put you in a calmer state of mind before sleeping. For an added benefit, use the sunflower oil (with no essential oils) to give your baby a massage. Check out this video for details:
7. Acupuncture. Acupuncture works much like yoga, in that it calms the central nervous system. The acupuncturist is going to treat your entire person, rather than just the symptoms, leaving you in better health, both physically and mentally, than before. See http://www.acupunctureinsomnia.com/ for more details.
8. Chamomile tea. Chamomile has long been recognized as a sleep aid and relaxing drink. It contains high levels of tryptophan and can promote sleepiness. Drink it as a tea, or take it in capsule form. It’s generally recognized as safe across the board, although people with asthma and pregnant women should discuss the use of chamomile with their doctor first.
9. Valerian. Valerian may smell bad, but it has been shown to have a sleep-inducing effect in animal studies (studies on people are inconclusive, but most anecdotal evidence says it works). If you use any prescription medications, alcohol, or are pregnant or nursing, talk to your doctor prior to using valerian.
10. Melatonin. Melatonin is made by the body in response to tryptophan, but it is also available in supplement form. It is generally recognized as safe, but like any other supplement, should be taken with caution if you have a pre-existing health condition, are on prescription meds, or are pregnant or nursing – talk to your doctor prior to take melatonin to determine if it’s right for you.
Using one or more of these natural sleep-inducing techniques should ultimately lead to you and your baby getting a better night’s sleep. If possible, sleep share to maximize the benefits – cosleeping can be done safely under certain stringent guidelines (using a cosleeper is safest and most comfortable for most parents). If at all possible, take turns with your spouse, partner, or other helper with various tasks. Even if you are nursing, your partner can still take on certain tasks during the day or night (diaper changes or baths, for example), to take some of the burden off you. And remember, this too shall pass. Your baby will soon be a child, and then a teen, and then your sleepless nights will have a whole new cause.