Circadian Rhythm: Sleep Tips for New Parents

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More sleep is a parent's dream.
New parents often struggle with the adjustment to the sleep patterns of their infant. In fact the absence of a circadian rhythm (the day-night sleep cycle) in a newborn, and the changes to a developing child's circadian rhythm can leave Mum and Dad struggling to cope.
Parenting books often focus on getting your infant, or baby to sleep. However, many parenting books may neglect guiding you to getting enough sleep, too. Improve your own health, and sanity by having a few parenting sleep-tricks to maintain your own circadian rhythm. Remember, there are no perfect solutions to getting enough sleep when you are a parent. And, each child, and each parent is a little different.

New Babies Have No Sleep Patterns
Newborns are not born with a circadian rhythm (sleep patterns). A new baby is somewhat unaware of daytime, and night time. In fact, a baby's brain develops rapidly over the first weeks after birth. Parenting researchers suggest that somewhere between two and four months, most babies develop a basic circadian rhythm. Your infant nurse, or your GP can provide you with useful guidelines on the feeding, and sleeping patterns that work best during the rapid changes in your infants first months.
While your new baby is growing, support your own sleep health, and gradually restore your circadian rhythm:

• Don't worry about your daytime sleep patterns; take naps at the same time that your baby does
• Set a consistent night time schedule, and adjust the schedule as consistently as possible as your new baby changes
• Nap in a darkened, cool room when possible
• Set an alarm to wake you from your nap, especially when you've had irregular sleep patterns
• Nap in a location where you can hear your baby; not only to help your baby, but to ease your mind
• Drink plenty of water, and reduce the amount of caffeinated beverages you drink to maintain your hydration
• For Mums who look forward to sleeping on their stomachs, place a pillow under your pelvis and upper thighs to ease the stress on the lower spine

Parenting doesn't stop with your baby's nutrition. Avoid sugary snacks as much as possible, because the boost of sugar can add a false sense of energy - and further disrupt your circadian rhythm.

Maturing Infants Strange Sleep Signals
Maturing babies can offer you mixed night time sleep patterns. During the period of introducing foods into a maturing baby's routine, most babies nap longer, and sleep through the night. Your infant nurse, or GP will advise you on when to start solid foods, and which foods to start.
Accept that night time sleep may be punctuated by restless nights of teething, or digestive distress. Teething often happens concurrently around the time of introducing solid foods. Teething can bring your growing baby periods of shortened sleep, and disrupt both parents' and baby's circadian rhythm.

• Having a family member sleep over once in a while, or your partner take over for a weekend evening, allowing you a full night's rest
• Take longer naps with your baby, even during the day, while going through restless periods of teething, or digestion
• Ask your infant nurse, or GP for help if your baby is extremely distressed and not sleeping, or if you are feeling depressed
• During the day put your baby, and yourself down for a nap at the first hints of tiredness
• Work with your health nurse to set a night time routine that works for both you
• Learn when and how to change the night time routine, as your baby grows

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