In Comes Baby, Out Goes Sleep | The Ugly Truth About Sleep
When I ask new mom or dad how they are doing, I often get a half smile that is filled with love and excitement and also heavy with exhaustion. Sleep deprivation is no joke, as a woman who has given birth it may have started during pregnancy with aches, pains, sickness, hunger, anxiety and for partners, it may have also started here, tossing and turning, listening to snoring you never knew was possible and anxiety as well. After the baby comes, there is the crying, night feedings, gas screams, diaper changes, pumping, bottles, more diapers, more crying. It feels endless. So when I attended a conference recently I got a good chuckle when the keynote speaker was commenting how important sleep is to mental health and well being of new parents. Of course I already knew this but finding a way to tell new parents they need to be getting six hours of sleep seems inadequate and invalidating of their experience. That being said, I will be a reminder that sleep is actually really important to our mental well-being. In an article published by Harvard Health Publications at Harvard Medical School they report, “neuroimaging and neurochemistry studies suggest that a good night’s sleep helps foster both mental and emotional resilience, while chronic sleep disruptions set the stage for negative thinking and emotional vulnerability” (Sleep and Mental Health, 2009).
As new parents, we are already prone to self-judgment and negative talk, constantly asking if we are doing enough and if we are we doing well enough. So what do we do with this information when sleep feels impossible? We try to sleep, and if you can’t sleep, rest. If you can’t rest, sit. If you can’t sit, call in reinforcements. When your cousin-in-law comes to visit the baby ask if they can take the baby so you can rest. When your friend comes to meet the baby or bring you coffee, ask if they can hear the birth story later and see if they would be willing to stick around so you can take a cat nap. If you don’t have family or friends near by, look into a postpartum doula. It can feel strange to ask for help but the importance of sleep is true and will help decrease vulnerabilities for more emotional distressed. And if you too are laughing at this seemingly impossible task, know that lack of sleep will not last forever. You will get through this.
Written by Sonja Kromroy, MA, LPC
Sleep and Mental Health. (2009). Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/