It's a simple biological fact: babies simply cannot sleep through the night. Having been housed inside the cozy, warm compartment for the first 40 weeks of their life (and considering that this perfect environment is all they know), entering the outside world full of weird sounds, breezes and hunger can make sleeping very difficult. Even things like breathing, diapers, and life, in general, are all very unfamiliar to a baby.
While the baby may spend the majority of the day sleeping off and on, moms and dads tend to use that time to clean up around the house, cook and spend time with each other and their other children. But using those precious moments to sleep when your baby is sleeping is vital. Sleep deprivation is like spending money from a bank account that has no funds. Eventually, mom and dad will have to pay back the loan or face very real health-related consequences.
Exhaustion can impair motor skills and ability to perform daily tasks.
Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Health
The typical adult needs between six and eight hours of continuous sleep per night, although this number will vary from person to person. When getting up every few hours to tend to a crying baby, the body must wake-up and then fall back asleep. This can leave mom and dad feeling like they have not slept at all because their bodies never enter deep sleep.
Over time, sleep deprivation can affect immune system function, appetite, and mental health. Being depressed worsens when you are depressed and exhausted.
Rethinking Sleep and Home
While mom and dad may have kept the sink free from dishes and the laundry washed, dried and put away before the baby came home, things quickly change once the baby actually is home. Household chores will fall by the wayside in exchange for quick naps and borrowed minutes on the couch, and this is not only OK; it's healthy!
Researchers believe that taking short naps of 20 to 45 minutes during the day can greatly improve mental acuity and alertness. Exhaustion can impair motor skills and ability to perform daily tasks. So, instead of cleaning, mom and dad should take a nap, rest and relax whenever they can spare a few moments, and say yes to any help that is offered!