Raising little kids is exciting and fun, but it’s also incredibly challenging—especially when it comes to sleep. The first year of new parenthood tends to be the sleepiest, as a new baby develops the ability to sleep longer stretches and adjust to the schedule and flow of the household. Even after the first year, kids’ illnesses, nightmares, separation anxiety, early rising patterns, and more can make healthy and consistent sleep difficult for parents.
Still, moms and dads should not just accept sleepiness as a way of life; there are ways to improve sleep for both kids and parents that will make a difference. In the newborn months, for example, it can help to have baby sleeping close by so feeding and soothing is convenient. If possible, parents can rotate night shifts with baby—one parent sleeping in another room (or even simply wearing earplugs) so as to protect that parent’s sleep. During this time, many moms and dads also find it important to take naps during the day while baby sleeps and go to bed very early.
In fact, adjusting your own bedtime earlier is incredibly helpful through the first few years of your child’s life. Six a.m. is a normal wake up time for many babies and toddlers—meaning that parents typically need to be asleep by 10:00 p.m. (or earlier if the child wakes up during the night) to get a full night’s rest. White noise machines, fans, and turning the baby monitor volume down so that parents hear cries, but not every gurgle and grunt, can help the adults in the house sleep soundly.
If you have a hard time falling asleep in the evening, disconnect from social media, ipads, cellphones, and laptops well before bed. Try not to be on your computer or phone at night if possible, and also try to resist engaging with these devices when you’re awake at night (whether because your baby has awoken or otherwise). Electronic devices can be activating to the brain and could make it more difficult for you to fall asleep.
To cope with sleepiness during the day, take walks to get sunlight and fresh air, and try to nap when your baby is asleep or ask a friend, family member, or babysitter to watch your child so you can sleep. Know that as your baby grows, her sleep will improve and so will yours. If you need more help addressing concerns about your child’s sleep, ask your pediatrician or consult with a sleep specialist.