Sleep and the new parent | Why it's important and how to get enough.

Author
Dr. Carel-Piet van Eeden
Published:
September 17, 2020

Sleep. That thing that most new parents would dream of, if only they could sleep. We have seen in articles about stress, immunity and adrenal fatigue/burnout just how important rest is. As a new parent, you also don’t want to risk getting sick or being too fatigued to enjoy the new life that you are responsible for.

Getting sufficient shut-eye seems like an impossible task for many people, which is why we have put together some bite-sized tips to make it easier for you.

Why is sleep so important?

Of course, we know that sleep is important for us to be functional the next day.

Just like we have to plug in our phone in order to charge its battery, our bodies need time plugged into the unconscious world in order to rest and restore.

There are also some bodily functions that only happen while we slumber.

6 biological functions that happen while you sleep

  1. Human growth hormone
    hGH is secreted into the bloodstream by the anterior lobe of the Pineal Gland
  2. Testosterone is produced and released
  3. Your hair grows
  4. Immune system function
    Getting enough shut-eye enhances the function of the immune system.
  5. NK Lymphocytes
    These natural killer cells function optimally with optimal quantities of sleep.
  6. Memory
    Memory actually happens during sleep hence it is important for us to remember to get enough.

What happens if I don’t get enough sleep in the long run?

Chronic insomnia is something that does not only plague the new parent - up to 10% of adults experience it.

10 possible effects of long term insomnia

  1. Reduction in lifespan
  2. Hypertension
  3. Reduction in natural killer cell production (NK Lymphocytes)
  4. Increased risk of type 2 diabetes
  5. Fatigue
  6. Increased risk of insulin resistance
  7. Depletion of intracellular magnesium
  8. Impaired concentration ability
  9. Increased irritability
  10. Stress

Sleep and hormones

Generally, we do not think about sleeping in relation to hormones but, it is important to know that hormones impact our patterns and quality of rest. Let’s take a look at 4 such hormones.

Melatonin

Melatonin is most often linked to falling asleep at night. While it does have sleep-enhancing effects, there are also many other attributes such as fewer headaches, tinnitus reduction and irritable bowel improvement.

Progesterone

This hormone is usually underrated when it comes to its effects on sleep enhancement. It stimulates GABA, and thereby enhances your precious shut-eye, relieves anxiety and can even improve sleep apnoea.

Estrogen

Estrogen has a much more complicated effect on sleep. Undoubtedly, some of the most pertinent effects of estrogen on sleep is a decrease in the number awakenings after sleep occurs, an increase in the total time we are asleep and a decrease in sleep latency.

Cortisol

New parents have higher cortisol levels because of the adjustment to their new living conditions. High cortisol levels can have a big impact on your ability to go to sleep once your baby is in dreamland.

Top tips for new parents to maximise on sleep

Baby sleep
Sleeping baby

Nutrition

  • Avoid caffeine for at least six hours before going to bed
  • Warm milk has shown to help one doze off easier
  • Eat a small, light meal at dinner.

Be practical

  • Don’t do stressful stuff at night that will keep your mind active
  • Lie down even if you can’t sleep, you do get a measure of rest!
  • Avoid screen time. Taking that set of photos of sleeping baby, while worth documenting, might just be keeping you awake. with the stimulating light of your device screen.
  • Pump. Having milk at hand open up the possibility for someone else to help with feeding
  • Ask for help. It is not a sign of weakness so ask friends to watch your little one while you take a nap in the next room.
  • Place the crib near your bed so that you can attend to your baby and get back into bed without too much stimulation
  • Avoid bed-sharing. If you share your bed with your baby, you might lessen your chances of a good rest.

Environment

  • You will find most rest in a dark, quiet room.
  • It might seem impossible, but try to stick to a sleep schedule and waking up at more or less the same time every day
  • Morning walks can have some good rejuvenating effects after a long night - even if just around the block!

Safe supplements for the new parent

We’ve split the supplements in two to make sure that everyone is covered!

Supplements to enhance rest and boost the body while breastfeeding

Please check with your healthcare practitioner first before taking any supplementation whilst breastfeeding.

Supplements to enhance rest and boost the body

Dr. Carel-Piet van Eeden
About The Author

Dr. Carel-Piet van Eeden

Dr van Eeden completed his Ph.D and qualified in Holistic Life Counselling in December 2012 through the University of Sedona.  He is currently pursuing an MBAM through the same University.

After experiencing the trauma of cancer first-hand, Carel-Piet decided to leave his corporate position as legal business analyst and focus on the field of integrative medicine.  Together with Dr. Craige Golding, he works in the Golding Institute to provide evidence based integrative solutions and training for healthcare providers and patients alike.

As a practitioner, Dr. van Eeden focuses on a wide array of challenges people face.  Because of his diverse training, the challenges addressed in sessions are many and include:

  • Lifestyle management
  • Genetic testing
  • Emotional counseling
  • Mindfulness
  • Life Coaching