Understanding the Impact of Sleep Deprivation on New Parents
Updated: May 3
Research has shown that some new parents don’t get enough sleep for six years after a birth. Whether you choose to believe that or not, almost everyone can agree that there are plenty of sleepless nights ahead when a new baby is brought into the home.
Between midnight feedings, changing diapers, or just sitting in a rocking chair to soothe them, there are plenty of reasons why babies wake during the night.
But, the sleep deprivation on you could be doing more damage than you realize.
You might think it’s impossible to get a good night’s sleep with a newborn in the house.
However, if you don’t find ways to rest your mind and body, sleep deprivation can cause various health concerns.
Let’s look at the real impact of sleep deprivation on new parents and what you can do about it if your baby isn’t sleeping through the night.
The Physical Symptoms
Have you ever had someone tell you that you look tired? It usually isn’t the best kind of “compliment” to receive, but chances are you already know it’s the truth. Tiredness can show up in many ways, including heavy eyes, bags under the eyes, or just a dull look to your skin. This appearance is due to a decrease in collagen production.
The appearance of no sleep is only what’s going on above the surface. Sleep deprivation can cause more severe health issues within your body, including:
Weakened immune system
Parents dealing with a lack of sleep are also more likely to make poorer health choices, like changing their dietary habits to feature more unhealthy foods.
Managing Your Mental Health
The mental health issues associated with sleep deprivation can be far more severe than their physical counterparts.
A night or two without sleep can affect your mood and cause you to feel cranky. But, when it becomes a chronic occurrence, it can lead to symptoms of anxiety and depression.
When you’re a new parent and not sleeping enough, your emotional regulation is thrown off. You might find yourself having more “breakdowns,” more easily agitated with your partner or other children or you might more frequently argue with your partner. Merely getting through everyday tasks can feel overwhelming and daunting when you wouldn’t have given them a second thought before.
If you’re already dealing with postpartum depression, sleep deprivation can exacerbate your systems and make you feel more guilt or frustration due to your thoughts and ideas.
What Can You Do?
There is no magical way to make a new baby sleep through the night when you want them to. Most children transition into more extended periods of rest on their own, though every baby is different.
As a parent, you have to make sleep a priority for yourself — the old advice of “napping when the baby naps” is exceptionally sound. Sure, you may have things you want to get done while your child is sleeping. But those things can wait. Focus on your health and wellness. And if you happen to be one of those people who just can't manage to nap when the sun is up, consider laying down for a quick rest. It can help more than you realize.
Additionally, you can “take turns” with your partner. If you’re feeling drained, ask them to take over for a while so you can take a nap or ask them to let you sleep a bit later in the morning after an early morning feeding session. If you don’t live with your partner, enlist the help of family or friends.
You can’t pour from an empty cup. If you want to provide the best care for your child, you need to first take care of yourself first. Sleep deprivation is more than just feeling frustrated or cranky because you’re tired. It’s a real problem that can contribute to multiple physical and mental health issues.
Do what you can to start getting more sleep and rest, and you’ll be able to put more energy into raising your little ones.
For more help improving your mental health as a new parent, please reach out to me today. I want to help. I offer a complimentary phone consultation to all potential clients. To schedule yours in a matter of seconds, please check here.
To learn more about how counseling can help you during the postpartum months, please click here.
BRINGING BABY HOME: A NEW PARENT WORKSHOP IS GOING VIRTUAL!!!! A workshop for couples who are thinking about or planning to have a baby, who are expecting a baby or who have children already. Based on years of research and experience and developed by the Gottman Institute, this 12 hour workshop is designed to repair communication skills and jump start your relationship with your partner. For more information, please click here.
Jennifer Perera is a mom, spouse and Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has over a decade’s worth of experience in mental health. She has a private practice in New Jersey, with locations in Cranford and Princeton. Her passion is helping new moms and dads find their joy again in parenthood through individual, group and couples counseling. Jennifer specializes in working with parents during the prenatal and postpartum periods and those coping with a pregnancy loss or infertility. Her other passion is travelling to different parts of the world and her goal is to vacation in a different locale every time. She also has a great fondness for cats!