There’s no denying that sleep disruption is a part of life when you have a new baby. It’s to be expected that newborns will need feeding every few hours, keeping you from getting a solid night’s sleep.
That being said, it’s still important that you make sleep a priority and get some rest whenever possible (yes, that means sleeping while the baby is sleeping). Sleep deprivation in the last weeks of pregnancy and first months of your baby’s life can have serious consequences for your physical and mental health, and the problems will only worsen the longer you go without getting enough sleep. Here are six reasons that you should make sleep a priority, and seek help from your partner, family and friends, or medical professional if you aren’t getting enough rest.
Sleep Deprivation Contributes to Postpartum Depression
Poor sleep has long been known to be a factor in mental health issues like anxiety and depression, but a 2009 study found that in new mothers in particular, a lack of sleep is a significant contributor to postpartum depression independent of other risk factors. In other words, even if you don’t have any other risks for PPD, not getting enough sleep can increase the likelihood that you will suffer from it. It doesn’t help that many of the signs and symptoms of sleep deprivation are similar to those of depression, meaning that many women are simply diagnosed with sleep deprivation and not PPD. This only underscores the importance of women getting enough sleep after pregnancy and avoiding the tendency to just accept a lack of sleep as part of life with a new baby.
Sleep Deprivation Contributes to Chronic Disease
A lack of sleep is a significant risk factor when it comes to chronic diseases. For instance, people who report chronic sleep deprivation often have higher blood pressure than those who get adequate amounts of sleep. Studies show that sleeping less than five hours per night can increase your blood pressure, but there are other risks as well. Not getting enough sleep also increases your risk of diabetes and heart disease.
Sleep Deprivation Weakens Your Immune System
As a new mom, you’re likely to be focused on keeping your baby safe from germs and viruses that will make him sick, but if you aren’t getting enough sleep, you could be putting yourself at risk. Sleep helps keep your immune system strong enough to fight off viruses, such as those that cause colds and the flu. If you aren’t getting enough shuteye, your immune system doesn’t work as well as it could, increasing your chances of getting sick and possibly passing it on to the baby. In fact, your weakened immune system is one reason that getting enough sleep during pregnancy — and getting help sleeping while pregnant if necessary — is so important, as it helps maintain a healthy pregnancy and avoid complications.
Sleep Deprivation Increases Your Risk of Having an Accident
Even before you have a baby, you know that not getting enough sleep can make you feel like a zombie the next day. You may have stumbled through the next day in a fog, feeling like you couldn’t focus or concentrate, and your memory was shot. Well, after you have a baby, and you don’t sleep well for weeks on end, those effects are only exacerbated. Not getting enough sleep significantly reduces your creativity and problem-solving skills, makes it almost impossible to concentrate, and because your brain isn’t getting the time it needs to make new connections and process thoughts, your short and long-term memory suffers. While this might lead to amusing moments, like putting the remote in the freezer, it can also present serious dangers to you and your baby. Not only does a lack of sleep affect your balance and physical coordination — making it more likely that you will fall or have a household accident — but it can also increase the chances of having an accident while driving, putting you and any passengers, including your baby, at risk.
Sleep Deprivation Increases Weight Gain
If you are trying to shed the “baby weight” after giving birth, not getting enough sleep at night isn’t going to help. Sleep affects your body’s hunger responses, meaning that not only will you feel hungry more often and need to eat more to feel “full”, but you will crave foods that aren’t necessarily good for your waistline. Sleepiness naturally makes you want to eat foods that are higher in sugar and fat, causing issues with your metabolism and blood sugar and leading to weight gain. The longer you go without adequate sleep, the more you’ll have these cravings, and the greater the likelihood that you’ll not only hold on to the pregnancy pounds, but add to them.
Sleep Deprivation Can Contribute to Lower Milk Supplies
Although sleep deprivation in and of itself won’t reduce milk supply for breastfeeding mothers, the effects of not getting enough sleep can. For instance, sleep deprivation contributes to increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which can significantly reduce your milk supply in as little as 24 hours. Not maintaining a healthy diet, and getting sick thanks to a weakened immune system can also cause your milk supply to dwindle. While you may have interrupted sleep during the first few weeks of your baby’s life when she needs to eat every few hours, making sleep a priority and getting rest when you can can go a long way toward maintaining your own health and ensuring you produce plenty of milk.
Having a new little one in the house is a blessing and can be one of the greatest times in your life … but it can also be exhausting. Remember to take a few moments for yourself while you’re basking in the joys of new parenthood.
Did you like this article? Then pin it!