New mums and sleep

How much sleep is normal? And how can you get more? Find answers to common questions and get helpful tips.

Is it normal to be tired? 

Yes. Sleep deprivation is common for mums worldwide. And dads can get tired with a new baby around too. Babies have no concept of night and day so they sleep at random intervals and wake up during the night. So if you’re tired, it’s not surprising!

 

How much sleep do I need?

It’s estimated that an adult needs between 7.5 and 8 hours of sleep a night – something you’re probably not getting if your baby isn’t sleeping through. But things get more complicated when you have a baby because you can build up what experts call ‘sleep debt’, an accumulated lack of sleep that can be difficult to catch up on.

 

Parents of newborns will also find that being woken up frequently for short periods is more tiring than having, say 4 hours of straight sleep. This is because frequent waking disturbs your sleep cycle, reducing the amount of deep sleep you have and making you feel more tired.

 

How much sleep is normal for babies?

Babies need to be fed and changed around the clock, which is what makes it so difficult to sleep when you’re a new mum. The amount they sleep varies from baby to baby, depending on their age.

 

Newborns tend to sleep a lot – 16-20 hours a day is quite normal – but they wake very frequently for feeding and have no sense of day and night so can sleep and wake at any time.

 

The amount babies sleep tails off as they get older. At about 4 months they may be sleeping 10-12 hours a night as well as napping during the day – but they may still be waking up for feeds. If you’re lucky, by 6-12 months they’ll be sleeping straight through for 11 hours or so a night.

 

How can I encourage my baby to sleep?

Once your baby is around 8 weeks old, you can start getting him into a routine, teaching him the difference between night and day and doing calming things before bed. When he’s older, keep him busy during the day and don’t let him nap for too long as it can affect him at bed time.

 

I sometimes sleep during the day, but I still feel tired. Why?

It might be because you’re sleeping for too long. A nap of 30 minutes or so is refreshing, but sleeping longer can make you feel groggy. It can also mean you don’t sleep so well at bed time.

 

I’m exhausted but I can’t sleep. What should I do?

Try following a soothing bed time routine for yourself. Keep your bedroom quiet and dark and have a warm bath before bed to relax you. See our tips on getting more sleep

 

Could being tired be a sign of something else?

Feeling extremely tired could be a sign of anaemia or an underactive thyroid gland. Feeling exhausted and unhappy, and losing interest in things that usually interest you could be a sign of post-natal depression. If you’re worried see your healthcare adviser.

How dads can help

You’re probably tired too, but if your partner is exhausted she can try expressing some breast milk and you can take over a few of the night feeds to give her a break.

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