How Much Sleep Do New Moms Need?

by Yvette Manes

The one thing a new mom can depend on is losing sleep. It typically begins in your third trimester, when finding a comfortable resting position is next to impossible. It only gets harder to sleep once the baby arrives and you no longer have any say as to when, or for how long, you'll be able to get some shuteye. Sleep deprivation can last for several weeks, or even months, with some moms logging in only three to four hours per night. But, how much sleep do new moms need?

The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults between the ages of 18 and 64 sleep between seven and nine hours per night. The recommendations, however, have recently been updated to include the minimum and maximum number of hours which may be appropriate for some individuals. For adults it is no less than six, and no more than 11 hours of sleep per night.

Dr. William C. Dement, a physician and sleep specialist, told Health Day that new parents lose about two hours of sleep per night for the first five months after bringing home their baby. This correlates with the Daily Mail's report that in the first year of their child's life, parents sleep an average of just 5.1 hours per night. When these hours are compounded, the shocking result is that new moms lose the equivalent of at least one whole month of sleep in the first year after their baby is born.

Sleep deprivation is especially trying on a mother whose body has gone through so many changes throughout her pregnancy. But, it isn't only the body that is affected by lost and interrupted sleep. Lauren Broch, director of education and training at the Sleep-Wake Disorders Center of New York-Presbyterian Hospital told Parents that fragmented sleep also affects the way you think and cope. Lack of REM sleep, which takes about 90 minutes to reach, can cause memory lapses and can negatively affect the way you perform your daily activities, possibly even putting your baby at risk.

And, the end isn't always in sight. Mothers can continue to experience excessive sleepiness as long as 18 weeks postpartum, according to an Australian study published on PLOSone. When you consider that The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) only allows for 12 weeks of time off, sleep deprivation can significantly affect your professional life, as well.

So the question remains, how do you get more sleep as a new mom? First, don't be afraid to ask for help. Whether you are trading off nights with your partner, or you ask Grandma to lend you a hand, assistance is invaluable while your body recovers from childbirth. Be clear with your helper that you need someone to help with the chores so that you can bond with the baby and get more rest. Sometimes visitors think they are helping by taking over baby snuggle duty, leaving Mom to handle the housework as well as act as hostess.

If Grandma asks for more time with the baby, ask her to sleep over one night and handle the overnight feedings so you can have a full night's sleep, or come in early one morning so that you can take a long nap.

It's important not to be hard on yourself. You aren't going to be able to get the same amount accomplished with a newborn that you could prior to having children. It's going to take time for you to develop a routine. Don't feel that your house has to be spotless or that you have to accept every invitation that is extended. Expect that it will take some time to figure it all out, and before you know it, your baby will be sleeping through the night and so will you.