Families are born the moment a first baby is brought into the world, but it's not just babies that need their sleep. All members in a family directly caring for the new little ones need help with achieving adequate, quality sleep, and not just for a few nights at the beginning.
While being sleep deprived is a reasonable expectation for new parents to acknowledge going into the business of family building, there's no rule that says any parent has to suffer through it.
Writer Katie Letourneau correctly asserted in Huffington Post's Sleep+Wellness section on November 2, 2016 that "sleep deprivation shouldn’t be considered ‘the norm’ for parents." SHC heartily agrees.
While jokes about sleep-deprived parenthood take the edge off, is it really a badge of honor to laugh about one's sleep deprivation as "part of the job," or is it tragic that we are expected to just endure it, no questions asked?
Frankly, sleep deprivation is not something anyone can endure for very long without paying major consequences in physical, emotional, and mental health. What kinds of parents can we be for Baby, then, if we are battling chronic illness, mood disorders, and memory problems? And what kinds of healthy living examples are we offering them when we don't prioritize sleep ourselves?
Getting adequate sleep won't make parenting the easier job in the world, but it sure will help bolster you on days when the challenges seem insurmountable. Getting your Zzzs will also help you make better long-term decisions about how to raise your kids as well as provide better modeling for your children to learn from.
SHC recently found these interesting links to the problems of (and even solutions to) sleep deprivation among parents and caregivers.
Bringing up Baby
Understanding how newborn, infant, and toddler sleep is different (from each other and from adult sleep) is useful for new parents so they can better know if their young actually have sleep problems. Information is power and can alleviate much of the anxiety that leads to poor sleep for parents of youngsters.
- Who doesn’t want to know the answer to the question, Why don’t babies sleep at night? The Guardian writers answered this commonly Googled question on October 26, 2016.
- The Pediatric Sleep Counsel launched the resource, BabySleep.com, last fall: if offers extensive advice for first-time parents who are concerned about their baby’s sleeping patterns, schedules, and behaviors.
- Related: This clever father made a fantastic visual aid of his daughter’s first six months of sleep that could be a very effective learning tool for new parents trying to understand infant sleep cycles (ZME Science, January 6, 2017)
- Also, the American Academy of Pediatrics updated these Recommendations for a Safe Infant Sleeping Environment in 2016 to help give parents practical advice for keeping their babies safe.
- Your child’s own sleep disorders can have a tremendous negative impact on your own sleep. For instance, parents who have children who suffer from insomnia, bedwetting, nightmares, sleepwalking, and night terrors will struggle to fall back asleep, along with their own children. This article in the Richmond Register from May 27, 2016 offers some advice for helping them back to bed so you can get back to yours.
- The baby that never stops crying can launch the beginning of a long and disastrous affair with sleep deprivation for many parents. Project PURPLE helps parents to deal with the frustration of crying babies, a situation that, if not alleviated, and further affected by sleep deprivation, can lead to shaken baby syndrome and other forms of abuse. (Philly.com, January 13, 2017)
The Sleepy Father
- Jokes about sleep deprivation aren’t funny when news about drowsy driving in your community leads to mortalities: In this case in Australia reported by Perth Now on December 4, 2016, a sleepy father fell asleep at the wheel and caused an accident which killed his baby daughter.
- Though he had been drinking earlier that evening, it’s important to know that, according to the National Traffic Safety and Health Administration, “consumption of alcohol interacts with sleepiness to increase drowsiness and impairment.“
- Poor judgments that are the result of sleep deprivation aren’t limited only to drowsy driving. This father lost his 23-year-old son to a “hot car death” which might have been the result of memory lapses caused by sleep deprivation, according to University of South Florida neuroscientist David Diamond in this report by KSDK-TV (December 6, 2017).
- The sleepy father records some insights into the patterns of thinking and feeling that come with sleep deprivation in his essay in Parent.co on January 7, 2017: “Circles, Cycles, and Spirals: Musings of a Sleep-Deprived New Father.”
The Sleepy Mother
- Mothers are just as likely as fathers to experience the devastating consequences of sleep deficits. This Mirror article (“Mum who went 10 days without sleep after giving birth was sectioned after she saw the devil in a mirror,” November 30, 2016) about a sleep-deprived mum speaks to the hallucinations that can be a scary and dangerous byproduct of inadequate sleep.
- No mother wants to be a bad example, but sleep deprivation can lead to unhealthy behaviors like drowsy driving. This girl near Disneyworld in Orlando witnessed her mother falling asleep at the wheel, according to a report from ClickOrlando.com on May 16, 2016, before the woman drove into a bus, injuring several people.
- The practice of breastfeeding has both pros and cons when it comes to a mother’s sleep according to this article in Romper (June 28, 2016).
- They followed through on December 29, 2016 with this guide to “Breastsleeping Positions That Ensure Everyone Gets Enough Sleep.”
- Romper also brings us this bevy of problems associated with sleep deprivation when the mother is also experiencing postpartum depression in this article from October 19, 2016.
- Even mothers-to-be aren’t immune to the challenges of sleep deprivation: research now shows that many pregnant women experience underlying (and untreated) sleep disorders that could lead to collisions and other kinds of accidents, as suggested in this Psychology Today article from June 2, 2014.
- Working single parents are some of the most sleep-deprived people in the world. When employers deny working mothers break time to rest or breastfeed their children during the work day, it’s a big deal (VnExpress.net, January 10, 2017).
- If you’re caring for small children and aging parents simultaneously, you’re part of the Sandwich Generation, and that means your sleep time may take a double whammy if you’re not careful. (Throw in part- or full-time work for some truly scary roller coaster living.) This May 29, 2014 commentary in Disruptive Women in Health Care highlights just how exhausting this way of life can be, and what it should and could lead to in terms of public health policy as more people find themselves inside this distinct population.
- The Irish Times captures the reality of living the Sandwich Generation in this feature from February 15, 2016 about an author who wrote about her experiences caring for her stroke-disabled mother while also raising three daughters and trying to keep a job.
- If you’re into making New Year’s Resolutions, it’s not too late to include these suggestions from Huffington Post Canada (January 6, 2017) of ways to avoid the traps of sleep deprivation.
- If you’re a Sandwich Generation parent, there are resolution ideas for you, to: The American Association of Retired Persons recognizes the challenges its readership has with sleep while belonging to the Sandwich Generation and offers great advice for those resolved to survive their caregiving efforts intact in 2017 in this January 7 post.
- There’s hope in new generations: One young adult was so concerned about his parents’ sleep deprivation and the increased likelihood they would perish in a car accident that he joined others in inventing this gadget (The Newspaper/Singapore, December 10, 2016).
- Quartz uncovered details of a new crib that could help calm crying babies and give parents more opportunities to get their sleep in its article on October 16, 2016.
- Parents might find ways to practice an ounce of prevention to give their children a pound of cure. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine (November 23, 2016 via EurekaAlert) suggests that there might be links between a parent’s poor sleep habits and their children’s eventual development of poor sleep habits later in adulthood.
- Another concerning observation about parental behavior suggests we might need to rethink our jobs as role models for our kids: A Common Sense study referenced in Sleep Review on December 7, 2016 calls out a disturbing reality—that parents spend more than nine hours a day with screen media.
- It’s no wonder than one in five teenagers is losing sleep because of social media, as reported by Science Daily just last Monday.
- Sometimes the best advice comes from the trenches. In this case, the trenches are home to these parents of triplets who offered KSL.com readers (October 22, 2016) these tips for managing the sleep schedules of multiples.
- A postpartum doula may be a worthwhile option for parents who just cannot get the sleep they need; KNWA in northwest Arkansas reported (January 6, 2017) on a local class by such a professional who teaches new parents “important basics of how to reclaim their night’s rest.”
- If you’re more into geek approaches to parenting, Paste Magazine offers this list of potentially useful apps you could use to help you improve your baby’s sleep, so that you can get your own (January 18, 2017).
- Minnesota public employees successfully bargained for paid parental leave (Truthout.org, January 4, 2017) which might be one class-action approach for other large groups of workers seeking better means for getting their new families and family members off to a healthy start.
- Related: The Chicago Tribune (January 16, 2017) offers this guide to the key elements of a good parental leave plan, reprinted from Inc. Magazine, which states: “New parents lose an average of six months of sleep in the first 24 months of the lives of their children. Sleep deprivation is indeed a form of torture.”
- Finally, though joking about parental sleep deprivation does not fix the problem, having a sense of humor about the challenges of getting enough sleep as a parent can help alleviate stress. This father made a space suit for his daughter to sleep in as a way to land a smile on his wife’s tired face in this December 9. 2017 news feature in WHAS-11.