Tips to Minimise Sleep Deprivation Dangers for Parents of Newborns & Infants

Exhilaration, Excitement and ecstasy—these are a few adjectives that can be used to describe the emotion of welcoming a new tiny member into a family. We celebrate the new life, share the responsibilities, baby-proof our houses, and change our lifestyle to synchronise it with that of the baby’s. One of the very important things for a baby, along with nutrition and love, is sleep. However, in order to take care of a baby’s sleep cycle, the parents end up disturbing their sleep cycle significantly, which is not healthy. Staying awake round-the-clock for the baby takes a toll on parents’ mental and physical health. Let us understand the dangers of sleep deprivation and some solutions to the problem, ensuring that both the parents and the baby live in a healthy environment. 

Understanding Sleep Deprivation Risks

A lot of times, in our day-to-day conversations, we tend to equate sleep deprivation with tiredness, which is not always correct. Sleep deprivation is way more serious and poses serious threats to our well-being. It impacts our nervous system and may lead to a lack of concentration, weak memory and mood swings. It also increases the risk of major health issues like diabetes, obesity and heart disease. Our respiratory system also takes a hit due to sleep deprivation, making it difficult to maintain productivity throughout the day. Especially in the case of working parents, it is imperative for them to be able to deliver both at their job and at home. Lack of concentration and dozing off during the day can lead to serious implications on the professional front as well. For new parents, these sleep deprivation dangers are important to understand, as only if they are aware of them can they start working towards a healthy sleep schedule. 

Recognizing Signs of Sleep Deprivation

Fitness experts and doctors always say that our bodies talk to us. In their own way, our bodies communicate with us using various tactics, and at that time,  it is important for us to be attentive to those signals. Similarly, if we are sleep deprived, our body will give us signs such as irritability, memory issues, lack of concentration, fatigue, muscle strains, headaches, sometimes blurred vision, cravings for high-calorie food and snacks, or dozing off in the middle of the day, to name a few. It is important to acknowledge and recognise these signs and then act upon them by adjusting your routine and lifestyle choices accordingly. 

Strategies for Better Sleep

The first and most effective strategy is to align your sleep schedule according to the baby’s sleep pattern. An infant sleeps for around 16–18 hours a day, which means you can squeeze in a little amount of sleeping time for yourself during those hours. Even if it comes in the form of short nap times when your baby is asleep during the day, these naps will energise your mind and body. Secondly, developing a sleep-friendly environment is important. If your room is cluttered and messy, has too much light, or is noisy, it will result in an uncomfortable sleeping schedule. Make sure you create a cosy, quiet space for yourself and the child to sleep in. 

We all know that some babies stay active at night. In order to avoid fatigue, it is always better to take turns with your partner and divide the responsibilities during the night hours as well. Teamwork makes the dream work, as they say. Also, remember that it is not wrong to ask for support. Especially in India, we have families and extended families that are involved in childbirth from a very early stage. So, it is okay to ask for their advice and seek help. 

Effective Communication and Support

Communication is the key to a happy life. Communicating openly with your partner about the responsibilities and sharing the duties is a great way to begin parenthood. Similarly, communicating with your parents, extended family, and friends about your need for their support is also important. Note that it is not necessary for a parent to know everything about parenting newborns. Sharing your feelings and responsibilities whenever possible can take the burden off of you, and both parents can have a better sleep schedule. 

Self-Care Practices

What is also crucial to know while we give so much love to our newborns is to keep loving ourselves. New parents need to understand that their own bodies are equally important as their babies’ because, without the former, the latter cannot be taken care of. Incorporate small self-care practices like a grooming session, exercising, yoga, meditation, eating good food, listening to your favourite music, etc. These small moments of self-care leave a substantial mark on your mental and physical health. These are important practices for a parent coping with sleep deprivation. 

Balancing Responsibilities

It is all about balancing everything, right? Parents often end up doing it all in the name of love. However, it is important to remember that they might have other responsibilities along with caring for their child. Whether it is in their professional or personal front, they need to prioritise what is important at that given point in time. To do this, start by setting achievable and smart goals, assessing progress at regular intervals, and being realistic about them. Also, seeking assistance when experiencing burnout is not a sign of weakness or failure. Ensuring that is crucial for parents in order to not overwhelm themselves. 

Adjusting Expectations

Another one of the sleep tips for newborn parents is managing expectations. If they expect a straight 8–10 hours of sleep with an infant, they are possibly expecting a little too much. It is important to acknowledge the fact that sleep interruptions are normal and bound to happen with a newborn. Some days or nights will be more difficult than others, and some days will seem like a cakewalk. This acceptance and expectation setting comes with immense peace and joy for a new parent to enjoy the experience of seeing a newborn life take shape in front of them.

Planning for Sleep Interruptions

As we have established that sleep interruptions are to be expected, planning for them is always a better solution. Small practices like preparing milk bottles in advance, having a space for nighttime feeding of a baby, and creating a space inside your home where you can engage with your child at night without waking up the whole house minimise the chances of a longer duration of sleep disruption. 

While parents deal with a lot of internal guilt if they prioritise their well-being when they become new parents, it is established that sleep deprivation is dangerous for both the caregiver and the child. Parenting newborns is not a chapter taught in textbooks, but it is an experience that requires a lot of adjustment. Understanding the signs of sleep fatigue, tweaking the lifestyle accordingly, and seeking help from the people around you does not make you a bad parent. Ultimately, by taking care of your own health, you are ensuring a happy environment for the newborn as well. These tips for better sleep with a newborn are both efficient and effective, leading to a healthy childhood and healthy parenthood. 

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