Unless you plan on becoming a Navy SEAL, the sleep deprivation you experience as a new parent will likely be the most severe you ever encounter. Need proof? During the first 24 months of your child’s life, a survey revealed you’ll lose an average of six months’ sleep.
One of the best things you can do for your overall wellbeing during this incredible period of your life is to take daily naps. For most of us, the last nap we had was some time during our senior year of college, but for new moms and dads, we encourage a short daily nap as often as possible.
Sleep makes everything better
The recommended amount of nightly sleep for adults is seven to nine hours. Whether you’re doing all the nightly feedings yourself or dividing them up with your better half, you’re not going to meet that nightly quota during the first few months of your child’s life. That means you’re going to be exhibiting signs of sleep deprivation.
A person deprived of sleep experiences more than just a tired body. In one study published by the Journal of Neurobiology and Circadian Rhythms, researchers found that sleep-deprived individuals had trouble identifying facial expressions of happiness and sadness.
It’s not only your capacity to recognize other people’s emotions that suffers. When you’re not getting enough sleep, your ability to express joy in your face and voice is also impaired.
Enter the benefits of a nap.
Napping does a body good
A short cat nap (we’re talking no more than 20 minutes) improves your mood and cognitive abilities. Naps do everything from restoring alertness to reducing accidents and creating feelings of rejuvenation.
Get the timing right
Most experts recommend taking either a short 20-minute nap or completing a normal adult sleep cycle, which lasts 90 minutes. Anywhere in between or over that timeframe, and the napper will awake in a groggy state, which for our purposes is not what we’re after. Unless you’re certain your baby will snooze for an hour and a half, you may want to play it safe and set your alarm for 20 minutes.
If you’re a stay-at-home parent, then the best advice is to nap when the baby naps. Both stay-at-home and working parents should try to avoid napping past 3 p.m. as it may affect your ability to fall asleep later that night.
Ditch the stigma
Napping is viewed as somewhat taboo in American culture, often creating perceptions of laziness. If you’re a stay-at-home parent, then you may feel guilty or judged for napping instead of doing the housework, and if you’re a working parent, then you might worry that your boss and coworkers will think you’re slacking off.
The truth is you’re going to be a more productive and relatable person if you nap during the first couple years of your child’s life. You are 100% allowed to let the dishes and laundry pile up during this time in your life, but you must take care of yourself in order to take care of your baby.
Ask for help
We know, we know. As a new parent, you want to feel like you have it all together (or just mostly together). But here's a little secret: nobody does! It's totally OK to ask for help. Call a friend or family member to come over and hold your adorable baby while you take a nap. They'll likely be thrilled you asked, and it gives you some much-needed rest. Think of it this way: if your friend called you with this request, you'd be happy to help. Know they would do the same for you.
Happy napping, everyone!
Pregnant? New parent or have small kids? Tired? Get tips and info on our special site for exhausted moms.
Ready to start sleeping better?