3 tips for exhausted new moms to get some sleep

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For new mothers, a good night’s sleep can seem like a luxury they can’t afford when a hungry baby is the top priority.

But finding moments for rejuvenation is crucial — for the baby’s sake as much as your own — and first-time parents should avoid neglecting their own well-being while navigating the challenges of a newborn or toddler.

“There are a lot of advantages to sleeping better,” says Neha Gandhi, MD, neurologist on the medical staff at Methodist Dallas Medical Center. “It’s a foundation of your health, so when we give it priority, we will get better rest.”

Just know you’re not alone: It can take up to six years for new parents to fully recuperate from sleep deprivation after the birth of their first child, according to research published in the journal Sleep.

Here are some tips — shared at an annual Mom Camp forum sponsored by Methodist Dallas — to help moms (and dads) reclaim some much-needed rest and prevent fatigue from becoming their new normal.

A woman kisses a crying baby who is lying on a fleecy rug.


Caring for a newborn demands considerable time and attention, so it’s important for new moms to establish a sleep routine that meets their individual needs.

“Bedtime is not just for kids; it’s for adults, too,” says Ashley Chapel, MD, MPH, internal medicine physician on the medical staff at Methodist Dallas. “We did all the things that we needed to do. Now we need to focus on ourselves and our sleep.”

Newborns generally sleep 16 hours or more a day, but that shut-eye comes in short cycles that can last as little as 20 minutes. New mothers often overlook their own sleep schedules entirely, instead making their babies as comfortable as possible during those short bursts of sleep.

“We’re putting our kids to sleep with perfect sleep hygiene, and then we get into our bed and get Netflix going,” says Brett Stanley, director of wellness at Methodist Health System.

Dr. Chapel recommends ditching the screen time and implementing a few simple acts at the end of each day that are just for you. Even though it might not seem to fit into your busy schedule, remember that your rest matters as much as your baby’s.

A woman and infant snuggle on a pillow. A teddy bear lies nearby.


Starting the process of prioritizing your rest can begin with small steps, such as setting an alarm for when it’s time to go to bed.

“We all have a wake-up alarm. We need to set a bedtime alarm to go to sleep at the same time every day,” Dr. Gandhi says. “Everybody needs between seven to nine hours of sleep, but it’s also important to be consistent about when you go to sleep.”

If you’re still wired when it’s time for bed, there are some tried-and-true ways to wind down, including meditation, practicing mindfulness, and yoga, which is good for waking up and going to sleep.

Another technique to reduce stress and promote relaxation is “box breathing“ or 4-4-6 breathing: inhaling deeply for four seconds, holding for four seconds, and exhaling for six seconds. This is often referred to as our “rest-and-digest” response to activate the body’s restorative parasympathetic system.

Another great option for adults is to indulge in a sleep story. Just like bedtime stories for kids, apps like Calm and Headspace tell calming tales that help take your mind off noises or worries, making it easier to drift off.

A young woman sits on a sofa in a dim room, holding a pillow on her lap. She is looking at a cell phone.


If you find yourself mindlessly scrolling on your phone, doctors suggest an easy solution to shut your brain off to break the cycle of bedtime procrastination.

“Try to do something very boring. No TV, no fun,” Dr. Gandhi says. “Once you start scrolling through the phone, you’re done.”

Instead of scrolling social media in bed, pick up a physical book and dim the lights. This quick change to your nightly routine helps facilitate good sleep hygiene.

For new moms, sleep hygiene encompasses both environment and habits. You can improve sleep hygiene by sticking to a regular bedtime, creating a cozy atmosphere, and avoiding eating too much before bed.

“There may be something that you eat where you notice that every time you have this specific food for dinner, you’re waking up earlier or not able to sleep as well,” says Dr. Chapel, who advises against eating large meals too close to bedtime.

Both doctors agree that the mental aspect of getting sleep is just as important as the physical.

“For me, it’s the 50 billion things going on in my brain that keep me awake,” Dr. Chapel says. “So do whatever works for you to remove that anxiety and promote a calming, relaxing environment.”

Remember, as you navigate this incredible journey of motherhood, taking care of yourself is just as important as caring for your little one.