Making the most of your sleep!

Having a poor night’s sleep can affect our mood and performance. It makes us feel tired and without motivation for the day ahead.

If you are a first-time mother, you may experience the ‘baby blues’. This is often associated with hormonal imbalance happening after labour but can also be attributed to abrupt changes in sleep patterns and cycles during the perinatal period.  

Poor sleep is a serious situation for new parents so you need to catch up on sleep whenever possible. The following tips may help you and your baby sleep better and for longer:

  • Adjust your sleep routine to your baby by avoiding turning on the lights in the night when nursing or changing his/her nappy, use only a dim light.
  • Take some naps during the day if you can and start teaching your baby, as early as possible, a ‘sleep ritual’. For example, play some lullabies when the baby is awake in the cot and turn off the lights after a warm bath.
  • Babies will often cry when you leave the room, check on them intermittently every few minutes but do not pick them up. Use a white-noise or a sleeping sound to cue for sleep consistency. As the baby grows, he/she will assume it is time to sleep and easily settle.

If you have trouble sleeping generally, try the following strategies to improve the quality and duration of your sleep:

  • Understand and evaluate how much sleep you are actually getting a night. You can use a simple diary to note when you went to sleep and how long you slept for. If you spent too much time awake in bed for example 10 hours but only slept for 7 hours, try finding a relaxing activity for those three hours instead of lying awake in bed tossing and turning.
  • Restrict your sleep to only when you are sleepy so that you sleep more continuously and go to sleep faster.
  • Keep your sleep schedule constant. Stay consistent with the times you go to bed or wake up, including holidays and weekends. This helps your body-clock stay in sync.
  • Avoid stimulating substances such as nicotine and caffeine too close to bedtime as well as having too many fluids before bed as this can disrupt your sleep by keeping you awake or waking you up to use the toilet.
  • Ensure your lifestyle is conducive to a good sleep by doing regular exercise and only eating healthy and light foods before sleep.
  • Make sure your bedroom is cosy, cool and dark.
  • It’s important to restrict the use of technology and screen time at least two hours before bedtime.

Ana Noia, Senior Clinical Physiologist in Neurophysiology and Sleep, Bupa Cromwell Hospital