If you have disturbed nights, getting through the day can be challenging. We share tips to help you cope with sleep deprivation as a new parent.
Mums and dads across the country will agree that going without sleep or having disturbed sleep is physically and emotionally draining. One thing to keep in mind is that this period of sleep disruption – however difficult and tiring – won’t last forever. Babies do eventually start to sleep for longer stretches at night (BASIS, 2018).
Until then, here are some suggestions to help you get through the hazy fog…
Watch tips and advice from other parents about the early days with a newborn
Rest when you can
Don’t worry if you can’t actually sleep when the baby sleeps. We know how frustrating it can be when everyone around you keeps telling you to. Maybe just aim for some rest or a lie down. Simply switching off your phone could help you relax while your baby’s sleeping (Healthy WA, 2018).
Leave any non-essential jobs around the house. And always accept help from family and friends when it’s offered or just ask (Healthy WA, 2018). This isn’t a time to take on too much or feel like you have to manage everything.
Couples tend to cope with tiredness better if they share parenting and domestic tasks, as well as taking it in turns to have a lie-in at the weekend (Relate, no date).
Get out and about
Getting out for a walk and fresh air could help blow away the cobwebs (NHS, 2021). Daylight during the day has also been shown to improve a baby’s sleep at night (Thomas et al, 2016).
Tiredness can make it more difficult to feel motivated and might mean some mums find it easier to stay at home. But getting out during the day could help you feel less isolated and give you something to aim for, even look forward to, each day (Mind, 2019).
Take extra care of yourself in the day-time with nourishing food and some gentle exercise when you’re ready. When you’ve had a baby, a balanced diet will help keep you feeling well (NHS, 2019).
Social support is the best tonic
Social support is not just about making new friends; it can also help with mental health problems (Corwin et al, 2005; NICE, 2009).
Do speak to your GP if you’re finding sleep difficult even when you’re exhausted. It’s common but in some cases, this could be a symptom of postnatal depression.
There are lots of baby classes or groups - often free - where mums can make friends and enjoy a stimulating activity for their baby. NCT postnatal courses and drop-ins also offer an opportunity to find out more about your baby's development from a qualified practitioner, as well as a much needed cuppa!
This page was last reviewed in November 2021
Our support line offers practical and emotional support with feeding your baby and general enquiries for parents, members and volunteers: 0300 330 0700.
You might find attending one of NCT's Early Days groups helpful as they give you the opportunity to explore different approaches to important parenting issues with a qualified group leader and other new parents in your area.
Make friends with other parents-to-be and new parents in your local area for support and friendship by seeing what NCT activities are happening nearby.
BASIS (Baby Sleep Info Source). (2018). Normal sleep development. Available at: https://www.basisonline.org.uk/normal-sleep-development/ [Accessed 7th November 2021].
Corwin EJ, Brownstead J, Barton N, Heckard S, Morin K. (2005) The impact of fatigue on the development of postpartum depression. J Obstet Gynecol Neonatal Nurs. 34(5):577-586.
Healthy WA. (2018) Sleep 0-3 months. Available at: https://healthywa.wa.gov.au/Articles/S_T/Sleep-0-3-months [Accessed 7th November 2021].
Harrison Y. (2004) The relationship between daytime exposure to light and night‐time sleep in 6–12‐week‐old infants. J Sleep Research. 13(4):345-352. Available at: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1365-2869.2004.00435.x [Accessed 7th November 2021].
Mind. (2019) Physical activity and your mental health. Available at: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/tips-for-everyday-living/ph… [Accessed 7th November 2021].
NHS. (2019) Eat well. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/ [Accessed 7th November 2021].
NHS. (2021) Benefits of exercise. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/exercise-health-benefits/ [Accessed 7th November 2021].
NICE. (2009) Depression in adults: recognition and management. Available at: https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg90/chapter/Recommendations [Accessed 7th November 2021].
Relate. (no date) How to maintain a healthy relationship after a baby has been born. Available at: https://www.relate.org.uk/relationship-help/help-family-life-and-parent… [Accessed 7th November 2021].
Thomas KA, Burr RL, Spieker S. (2016) Light and maternal influence in the entrainment of activity circadian rhythm in infants 4-12 weeks of age. Sleep Biol Rhythyms. 14(3):249-255. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4955618/ [Accessed 7th November 2021].