The impact of sleep deprivation on new parents

It’s no surprise, but 91% of new mums are affected by a lack of sleep, impacting their physical and mental wellbeing and taking a toll on relationships

Research by Sweet Dream Babies, a baby and child sleep consultancy, questioned 500 mums, all of whom have had a baby in the past five years. The effects of sleep deprivation were so profound that 84% said they had a poorer enjoyment of day-to-day life, and 27% said it had made them not want to have any more children.

Samantha Bell, who founded Sweet Dream Babies, says; “I am often shocked and saddened by how little sleep my clients have been existing on for months, sometimes even years. By the time they call me, this has often already had a huge impact on their lives. One of the most upsetting issues is the negative effect that lack of sleep can have on the relationship between the parents. Mums and Dads deserve to feel like they have the energy to be the kind of parent they want to be, and to enjoy life with their children. But for many, those early months and years can become a real challenge.”

The most common sleeping challenges parents face are baby getting upset when parents leave the room, needing to see, touch or be held by parents in order to fall asleep, and taking a long time to settle in the evening.

“Babies need to slowly learn the skill that is falling asleep. Often accidentally, a series of ‘sleep dependencies’ is created, without which the child is unable to cope. Unfortunately, this is a vicious cycle; the more times the baby is ‘helped’ to fall asleep, the more ingrained the habit becomes, and the result is often a poor night’s sleep for everybody.”

“Young babies are not physically able to sleep for long, unbroken stretches. The baby’s ‘inner sleep system’ needs time to develop and mature, but it can certainly benefit from some guidance and gentle encouragement along the way. Long-term difficulties can arise when a baby falls asleep in an environment (such as being carried or rocked in their cot), which may not be present when they stir later.”

Mothers questioned said their baby’s sleep was most problematic when aged between six and 12 months. “Two natural sleep ‘set-backs’ occur within the first 12 months of a baby’s life: the first at around four/five months and the second between eight and 10 months,” explains Samantha. “These often affect the quality and quantity of a baby’s sleep, leaving parents exhausted. But, gently introducing a few simple sleep training techniques can help hugely in terms of nurturing and building up healthy sleep habits, even during these slightly tricky phases. Furthermore, this can all be achieved without ever having to use any form of ‘controlled crying’.”

And, on a lighter note, for those parents who are in dire need of a little more shut-eye, David Lloyd Clubs is now hosting a new fitness class focused on just that. ‘Napercise’ consists of 45 minutes of calming atmospheric sounds in a cool studio, teaching participants the benefits of napping during the day. If you’re interested, the new class will be trialled at the Sidcup branch on 29 and 30 April – sign up now.