By Elina Winnel, Sleep Expert and Emma Ambassador
“Say goodbye to sleep” is a common phrase that first-time parents hear.
From having to wake up multiple times during the night to feed, to soothing when crying, and even racing out to check when bub’s been suspiciously quiet for too long – there’s so many reasons why new parents’ sleep can be impacted when a new addition joins the family.
However, UCLA scientists report that too little sleep in the first six months after birth can add three to seven years to a woman’s ‘biological age.’
Why? Sleep is crucial for regenerating the body, promoting healing, and is a natural mood booster. During sleep, our skin’s blood flow increases, rebuilding its collagen and repairing damage from UV exposure, which reduces wrinkles and age spots.
If you’re not getting enough each night, you’re reducing your body’s regeneration processes, and therefore, increasing the ageing process.
The first six weeks after childbirth can be particularly trying. Studies have found that new mothers average about six hours of sleep each night during this period. And, this disrupted sleep cycle doesn’t stop once your kids start sleeping through the night.
Some women suffer from a form of “Post-Child Sleep Disorder” or PCSD. This is where you have become so accustomed to operating on a low amount of sleep that this habit remains even after your kids learn to sleep through the night or leave home all together!
I see mums at my practice in their 50s and 60s who are still suffering from disrupted sleep patterns because they never readjusted once their kids got older. Many of them even believe that an 8-hour sleep is unachievable.
This belief is incorrect. I can assure you there are a number of ways you can get your sleep back on track both with a newborn and once your kids have gotten older!
Many parents think it’s too late to change their sleeping patterns, and this can’t-do mindset is actually a big contributor to the issue! The first step to getting a better sleep is believing you can do it, and accepting that it is okay to sleep through the entire night.
Just like your newborn or kids, parents also need a good sleep routine. Setting yourself a target bedtime (at the same time) every night will help to retrain your body into recognising when it’s time for bed. An easy step is scheduling a shower 60-90 minutes before bed as it will help signal to your body to start getting ready for sleep. Going from hot to cold reduces your body’s core temperature, which is a trigger for sleep in the body.
This one should be familiar to many parents, but in the case of adults, it’s relaxing yourself back to sleep when you might be used to naturally waking up during the night. This habit is very common for parents as you would wake up and feel alert immediately listening for your kids. This habit triggers an almost fight or flight response which in turn starts producing adrenaline in the body. Learning to relax rather than react when you wake up during the night is one of the toughest to master. When you wake up, remind yourself that you are retraining yourself to sleep through the night, and focus on relaxing your body, whilst breathing slowly, deeply and rhythmically. If you still don’t fall back to sleep, try meditating, listening to soothing music, or some lavender on the pillow. Over time, you will establish a new habit of sleeping through the night.
Outside of creating some healthier sleep habits, there are some physical changes in the bedroom that can support a better, deeper sleep. A big part of this is your bedding. When you climb into bed at the end of the day or after a nightly feed, you want to be able to get back into a deep sleep as quickly as possible. Choosing a mattress that has inbuilt temperature regulating features is a great start. Emma’s Diamond Hybrid Degree has graphite particles integrated into the foam layer, this helps distribute your body heat evenly across the bed, cooling down your body to help you get deeper, sleep faster. The more deep sleep you have, the more refreshed you will feel when you wake up.
Parents can be guilty of “sleep procrastination”, a bad habit where you try to steal back a little “me time” once the kids are in bed. This is actually doing you more harm than good. The best, and most productive “me time” you can have is sleep. You’ll wake up feeling better, more refreshed, and have more energy throughout the day. Don’t sacrifice your sleep for the sake of one more episode.
Elina Winnel is a sleep expert and a brand ambassador for Emma – The Sleep Company.
Emma – The Sleep Company, is the most awarded mattress brand in Europe and Choice ® Top Scorer for Best Mattress in 2020 and 2021 in Australia!
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