But, sleep is not optional–unless you consider good judgment, coordination and the ability to remember one's own name optional as well. What's a bleary-eyed parent to do? First, prop open your eyelids and check out these affordable and drug-free tips for better sleep. Then, drift off to dreamland.
Set a Schedule1 of 13
Time and again, parents in-the-know report that sticking to a schedule is the key to sleep success. No matter the method you prefer, establishing a set eating and sleeping timeline for the baby means that mom and dad can adopt a regular rest cycle, too. Once the little one is on the clock–or as close as can be expected–parents can alternate their own sleeping and waking hours. As dad minds the baby, mom gets her rest, and vice versa. It will take time to find the best schedule for your family, but it's well worth the effort.
Snack to Snooze2 of 13
The right bedtime snack can help ease your mind and body. For starters, while turkey gets most of the tryptophan-centered attention, cheese and nuts are also good sources of the sleep-friendly substance. Calcium has calming effects, too, which makes traditional warm milk a solid choice. Figs and oranges are also good sources of calcium, if dairy isn't your style. Finally, dark chocolate's serotonin-boosting ability can help soothe your mood when it's time to sleep.
Stick to a Bedtime Routine3 of 13
Total exhaustion can make simply falling into bed–socks, shoes and all–an appealing idea, but a bedtime routine sets you up for sleep success. It needn't be as time-consuming as a bubble bath and a novel, but wouldn't that be nice? Busy new parents can usually squeeze in a few minutes to brush their teeth, change into comfy clothes and turn down the sheets. These simple steps, performed in sequence each night, signal the mind that it's time to go to sleep.
Chores Can Wait4 of 13
Along with kids come dishes, laundry, sticky countertops and floors that constantly need sweeping. Guess what? They'll still be there after you catch up on your much-needed sleep, so cut yourself a little slack. Even better, assign the tasks to your spouse or older kids to be completed while you rest.
Be Selective with Screens5 of 13
There are many reasons to sleep sans cell, and that's the best choice, if possible. Parents can't always cut off phone communication, though, so the next best thing is choosing the "vibrate" setting or softest ringtone level. And, when it comes to laptops, don't even think about taking a bright, glowing email factory to bed–that's surefire sleep sabotage.
Soothing Sounds6 of 13
If your racing mind just won't slow down, try focusing on a soothing sound as you drift off into dreamland. The gentle patter of raindrops or a softly babbling brook beats an endless parade of to-do lists any day. Choose a white noise or sleep sound machine, rather than a cell phone, to avoid introducing blue electronic light into the bedroom.
Light Bulb Moment7 of 13
Touted by the likes of Time magazine, a simple light bulb can help improve your baby's sleep–and therefore your own. LED nursery lights may help infants fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. As an added feature, these bulbs provide necessary illumination for parents to navigate the room without disturbing the little one's beauty rest. At less than $20 each, they're worth a shot when you're taking every possible step to ensure a good night's sleep.
Make Time to Meditate8 of 13
The relaxing practice of meditation is easy, free and it can improve the quality of your sleep. Getting into a mindfulness routine can also have a positive effect on blood pressure, mood and more–all this, in as little as a few minutes each day. Not sure where to begin? Click here for a few apps to get you started.
Legendary Lavender9 of 13
Lavender is legendary in the realm of relaxation. Research has shown that the comforting scent of this fragrant herb can ease anxiety and help improve sleep quality. Try switching to lavender-scented body wash if you shower in the p.m., or touch pulse points with lavender oil at bedtime. For even more purple power, invest in a scent diffuser for the bedroom.
Lighten Up10 of 13
When caring for a new baby, parents' internal clocks often start whirring like crazy at all times of day. Morning can feel like midnight, and the other way around, making a good night's sleep a distant dream. While it may seem counterintuitive, sunlight can help reset your circadian rhythm–the fancy name for your body's self-regulating clock–so you can fall asleep when the time comes. Try taking an afternoon walk or eating lunch outside to encourage your brainwaves to sync with the actual time of day.
Keep Your Cool11 of 13
Are thermostat-fueled disagreements common in your house? If so, this tip may be a tie-breaker. According to the National Sleep Foundation, a cooler room–or downright cold, depending on your perspective–makes for better sleep. The experts recommend 65 degrees, to be exact, with higher room temps running the risk of making you restless. If this level seems a bit brisk for your taste, know that natural variations in optimal sleep temperature occur from person to person, so you may be fine to dial it up a few degrees.
Ditch the Guilt!12 of 13
Last, but certainly not least, always remember that sleep is important for your wellbeing. While guilt may tiptoe (or stomp) inevitably into many aspects of a new parent's life, dreamtime need not be one of them. Lack of sleep can negatively affect judgement, memory, mood, coordination and so much more. A well-rested parent is a parent ready to take on whatever challenges the day may bring.