Tips for falling asleep when you are a sleep-deprived mother. Learn how you can fall asleep and get the rest you need as a new mom.
by Elizabeth Liddiard
As a mother of a newborn, getting sleep is challenging in many ways.
With round-the-clock feedings, sleep deprivation is a certainty during this time.
As a first time mom, I knew this would be the case, but there was a lot about the newborn stage I did not anticipate.
Some of the effects of this sleep deprivation were not things I had heard anyone talk about. One of the unexpected effects was the difficulty I had sleeping when the baby was asleep or being taken care of by someone else.
I thought since I was so tired, I would be able to fall asleep and stay asleep easily. I found that I frequently felt “too tired to fall asleep”, although that didn’t make any sense. It felt as if my brain was overstimulated and couldn’t settle for sleep.
How Tired Moms Can Fall Asleep
Before I had my second child, I was determined to find some strategies that helped me fall asleep during the sleep-deprived newborn days.
Through some research and experience, I found some things that worked for me. I know not all sleep issues are the same and what works for one person may not work for another, but these are the simple practices and tips that helped me tremendously through those hazy newborn days.
1. Give yourself a foot massage
There is something about a foot rub that calms down the nervous system for sleep.
You can use a little lotion but it works just as well without it.
I found if I spent even just one minute rubbing my feet, I was able to fall asleep much easier.
I use my thumb to press on the souls of my feet and toes, rub around each individual toe, and use my fingers to rub the top of my foot from toes to ankle.
There are endless tutorials on YouTube that can give you ideas on good bedtime foot massages. But in my experience, it doesn’t have to be complicated or follow any particular technique to be beneficial.
2. Practice deep breathing
I realized how shallow my breathing was when I had a hard time falling asleep.
Taking a few long deep breaths helps to slow down my breathing and also my mind. It relaxes tension in the muscles that I don’t realize is there until it releases.
Just two or three deep slow inhales and exhales to slow down the breath can do wonders.
I found one breathing strategy that was particularly helpful. It is called the 4-7-8 breathing method. First, you inhale to a count of 4, hold your breath for a count of 7, then exhale to a count of 8. It doesn’t matter exactly how fast you count, just that you keep a steady rhythm. The ratio is what is important.
I typically repeat this 4-6 times. It has amazed me how frequently I don’t remember finishing this exercise because I am asleep after only three or four breath cycles.
3. Sleep away from the baby
Babies are not quiet sleepers. No one knows that better than a new mom. As a first-time-mom, I found it very difficult to sleep, especially during the day, if I was in the same room as my newborn.
I would wake and worry every time she made the slightest noise or movement.
On my second day home alone with my first daughter, I felt so terrible and hadn’t slept much at all for a couple of days. It was late afternoon and I’d been trying unsuccessfully all day to get in a nap.
I finally left my baby safely in her bassinet upstairs, brought the baby monitor downstairs, turned its sensitivity down so I couldn’t hear every little movement, and slept on the couch.
I know there are so many strong opinions about how close a mother and baby should sleep. For me, this was vital to be able to get in some sleep during the day.
If you can have someone you are comfortable with and who is willing to come sit with or hold your baby while you get a nap in another room, all the better. Then you can relax knowing the baby is cared for.
>>>Read: When To Move Baby to Own Room
4. Don’t let yourself get too sleep deprived
During the newborn stage, there is so little time that you are not actively caring for the baby, and so many other things you want to do (like take a shower!), it can be hard to make sure you sleep when possible.
But the more sleep-deprived I got, the harder it was to fall asleep when I had the chance.
I have found that if I make it a point to get at least one good nap during the day and sleep as much as possible at night, I usually don’t get sleep-deprived to the point that it affects my ability to fall asleep.
Whether you enjoy the newborn baby stage with all the sleepy snuggles, or are barely emotionally surviving it, it is important to take care of your sleep needs as best you can during this wild time. I hope some of these tips will help you as much as they’ve helped me.
About the Author
My name is Elizabeth Liddiard. I have been married for 13 years and have four amazing kids. Clarissa is 8, Amber is 5, Kayla is 3, and Ivan is 16 months. Being a mom has been the most challenging experience but also the most wonderful and rewarding. I was introduced to Babywise before I was even pregnant with my first child. I believe its principles have greatly contributed to my love of motherhood.