5 tips to help sleep deprived parents

sleep

A nationwide study found that the average British couple will spend EIGHT long months sleeping in different rooms after the birth of their first child. We all know the importance of sleep and how much we need it.

And more than one in 10 (14 percent) will continue to bed down in separate rooms long after their child’s first birthday, due to the lack of sleep that comes with having a baby.

With the average British parent getting just four hours sleep a night for the first year of their baby’s life, it’s no surprise that more than eight in 10 (81 percent) said tiredness put their relationship under huge pressure.

The study, by trusted baby brand Tommee Tippee, found that the average parent of a newborn will lose out on a staggering 780 hours of sleep in the first year of their baby’s life, equating to more than three months’ worth of sleep.

Little wonder then, perhaps, that 59 percent of mums and dads said they rarely or never had time for intimacy with their other half during the first year of parenthood. And almost four in 10 (38 percent) women and 18 percent of men admitted that they completely lost their sex drive due to the exhaustion and lack of sleep that came with having a new baby.

Almost a quarter (24 percent) of parents argued constantly about who was the most tired, while four in 10 (39 percent) percent said they couldn’t stop snapping at each other.

And 77 percent said the demands of their newborn and the lack of sleep it brought meant they had no time together one-on-one anymore.

Sleep deprivation in the first two years of their baby’s life leads to a quarter of parents having bloodshot eyes, 38 percent gaining weight, and 32 percent feeling scruffy as they have no time for grooming.

Almost half (47 percent) of the 1000 parents polled said for the first two years of their baby’s life they constantly had bags under their eyes, while 27 percent claim their clothes were always smeared with baby food, sick and snot.

Which may go some way to explain why 10 percent of parents confess they stopped finding their other half attractive after the birth of their child. However, the research also found that nearly half of parents (48 percent) said that having a baby changed the relationship with their other half for the better. In fact, six in ten parents said it brought them closer together.

The study also uncovered the extreme measures UK parents take to catch up on sleep when their children are young, with napping during conference calls at work, catching 40 winks in supermarket car parks, and even having a doze in a toilet cubicle (11 percent) all on the list.

The poll found that 13 percent of exhausted parents had even resorted to taking a day off work in secret so they could stay at home and sleep while everyone else was out.

And 12 percent of tired parents had slept in their car during their lunch hour to catch up on sleep, while more than half (52 percent) routinely went to bed at 7pm as they were so tired. 

5 Tips for sleep deprived parents

  1. Have regular sleeping times during the week and weekend. In having young children, you’re very likely to have the same waking times, so it’s important to watch your bedtimes. There will, of course, be many times when your child wakes during the night, needing you and disrupting your sleep. This is all part of parenthood!
  2. Have regular light exposure and get lots of light in the morning. Daylight helps reset your body clock and boosts your alertness. In the evening, dim the lights and set a cut-off time for looking at your LED devices. Avoid looking at your phone during the night.
  3. Use stimulants such as caffeinated beverages strategically. Avoid caffeine after lunch; it can be tempting especially if you already feel tired from your child keeping you up the night before. However, caffeine can affect your sleep the following night, thus creating a vicious cycle.
  4. Create some ‘me’ time. Being a parent often leaves little time for yourself. There’s a lot you have to juggle and fit in, and feelings of being overwhelmed can develop quickly. Alternating childcare can help to create little time pockets for yourself, allowing you to do something relaxing or to have a short nap (unless it’s already the evening!). During the day, when the baby sleeps, can you take a moment to yourself – no matter how short – and do something self-caring? It could be as simple as savouring a sip of water or taking a few slow breaths. 
  5. Acknowledge, there is a baby in your life! And with its arrival there will be a lot of change. Experiencing disrupted sleep as a parent is unpleasant but normal. Allow yourself to be tired; the more you can embrace it as part of being a parent, instead of being annoyed about your ‘slowness’ and ‘forgetfulness’, the more valuable energy you’ll save. This energy is better dedicated to the things that matter. Always seek out help if you’re struggling – turn to your paediatrician, midwife, family, friends, sleep specialist and employer for support.

Key findings include:

  • The average British parent loses a staggering 780 hours of sleep in the first year of their new-born baby’s life, equating to three months’ worth of sleep
  • 81% of parents said tiredness put their relationship under huge pressure
  • 59% of mums and dads said they rarely or never had time for intimacy with their other half during the first year of parenthood

You may also like to read Making the most of your sleep by BUPA and Sleep Tips for Children.