Overheard the other day–two new mothers talking over double lattes. Very tired Mom says,“I fantasize about sleep the way I used to fantasize about sex.” More tired Mom replied, “I plan my whole life just hoping I will get some sleep.” And very tired mom mused in bewilderment, “Finally, my baby falls asleep and I can’t, what the….”
Sleep while your baby sleeps.
This just might be the most common piece of advice a new mother gets, and it’s the most difficult to follow. Because once that baby is finally quiet all you hear is the siren songs of email, bills, laundry, and lunch. Not to mention the fact that your postpartum brain simply isn’t wired to relax into sleep. It takes practice to turn off the impulse to stay awake and vigilant, your ears straining for a cry of distress and another interruption. Sleep comes in waves called circadian rhythms and if you miss one, it can be hard to order another one up on demand like an online movie.
The good news is you don’t have to sleep in order to gain a few moments of restorative rest, or to reboot your tired mind.
Studies show that yoga and deep relaxation can decrease stress and inflammation, and restore immune function. With a little practice, you can slip into a state of restful relaxation. I know this might sound like getting the kale salad when you ordered the chocolate soufflé, but the next time your baby is asleep, and you are wide awake, rather than worrying about getting to sleep, consider practicing a few minutes of deep relaxation. You can do it lying down in bed. If that leads to catnap, great, and if not, you’ll still be able to greet your waking baby in a more rested state of body and mind.
One of my babies loved to sleep, the other two, not so much. I had a really hard time falling asleep and worried and worried about it. Here is my short list of advice, with love.
- No matter what, don’t read studies about the effects of sleep deprivation on new mothers; you’ll just scare yourself.
- Don’t ask other new mothers how much sleep they’re getting, unless you’re sure it’s less than you are.
- Don’t read expert advice on getting your baby to sleep… when you could be sleeping.
- Do read “Go the F*K to Sleep”
- Do take warm baths if you like them.
- Do ask someone to take care of your baby for a few hours and then do whatever you want.
- Do know you aren’t alone. Check out how many hits there are on Google for “babies and sleep”. It’s a wildly popular topic.
- Do know this too shall pass.
Here’s an excellent free guided deep relaxation to get you started.
In the meantime I hope you all get some sleep. Let me know what you do when you are sleep deprived and can’t sleep.