The first months of motherhood can be challenging in so many ways: it’s emotional, it’s 24/7, there’s so much to learn so fast, and it’s a whole new responsibility that you just can’t imagine until you’re really IN it...
And then BAM!
A wave of tiredness smacks you right in the face and knocks you to the ground, because your body just realised that it hasn’t slept for a full night in weeks. Maybe even months.
Okay, we’re being a little bit dramatic… but it’s no big secret that early motherhood and sleep deprivation go begrudgingly hand in hand.
And while we know it can’t be helped - baby’s gotta eat, cry and get back to sleep, right? - mum’s got to get some sleep, too.
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So we thought we’d ask some experts to show us how to have the perfect 'new mum nap'...
How long should I nap for?
"Twenty minutes is sufficient to turn off the nervous system and recharge the whole body,” says The Sleep Council’s sleep advisor Lisa Artis.
But set your alarm if you're not sure you'll be able to wake up, because anything past 20 is a no-go. "30 minutes, however, is long enough to put you in a deep sleep and leave you feeling groggy when you wake."
As if you'd have longer than 20 minutes anyway, right? ?
When is the best time for a new mum to nap?
The best time is usually after lunchtime.
A post-lunch slump is something many adults (not just mums and dads) experience, which makes it the perfect time to get a little shut-eye.
"This is in line with the body rhythm, which takes a natural dip in the afternoon," says sleep expert Chireal Shallow.
Feel out if that's the best time of day for you personally by "monitor[ing] the quality of your rest by how you feel/function during the day," Lisa adds.
Should I nap while my little one's asleep?
The easiest thing to do is catch those zzzs while your little one's sleeping.
"It's good advice to try and sleep when babies sleep," Chireal explains. "But this is often hard to achieve, as parents may want to use this time to get stuff done, like eat and or shower."
So give it a good shot, but don't beat yourself up if you can't manage it. Showering is important, too ?
Should I nap more than once a day?
It’s generally not recommended to get in some extra shut-eye several times throughout the day.
What are the best tricks to help me drift off?
It's pretty simple: staying warm, and keeping the light out are two key factors to perfecting your nap.
"Blocking out light helps you fall asleep faster so nap in a dark room or wear an eye mask," advises Lisa. While Chireal agrees that if you do need a light, soft lights are best.
Both experts also emphasise the importance of warmth.
Chireal recommends a wheat warmer, while Lisa suggests "stash[ing] a blanket nearby to put over you because your body temperature drops while you snooze."
Will lavender help me fall asleep?
Perhaps not always... Chireal suggests a "mixture of essential oils such as sandalwood and jasmine", as these are less stimulating than lavender.
Should I try the 'power nap' or 'coffee nap'?
The power nap (drinking something like coffee or Coca-Cola, then snoozing for 15 minutes before waking up) is something that's often recommended in articles full of napping tips, and in online forums.
However, for new mums, both Lisa and Chireal recommend avoiding caffeine before napping, as it is a stimulant.
Reap the benefits of the new mum nap...
"Mums are notoriously sleep-deprived so a planned nap is beneficial,” Lisa notes. “It can improve alertness and memory and relieve stress and fatigue.”
"If you haven’t slept well, a short kip can give you as much energy as two cups of strong coffee, but the effects are longer lasting.” ☕☕
…but don’t think napping is a long-term solution to sleep deprivation
"If you experience insomnia or long-term poor sleep quality at night, napping might make these problems worse,” warns Lisa.
"Napping will help [new mums] but be careful not to disrupt your sleep patterns too much."
Generally, napping might help your short-term sleep deprivation, especially if you’ve had a particularly rough night thanks to your little one.
And most importantly, hang in there!
Chireal notes that babies usually start to get into a regular sleeping pattern from 9 months, due to their immature body rhythm.
Which, luckily for us, isn't forever.
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