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Everyone thinks that the second you get pregnant, you must kiss all the sleep you’ve been able to get over the years goodbye. You’ll be waking up every hour to pee while you’re pregnant and every 2 hours or so once you have a newborn, sleeping in and sleeping over 7 hours a night will be a total luxury, and you’ll be riddled with under-eye bags, messy buns and jealousy directed at your other mama friends with babies that sleep through the night. Why did we take sleep for granted for so long?!
Well—good news—it really doesn’t have to be that way. With so many resources out there to combat insomnia, we were able to turn to Dr. Janet Kennedy (THE NYC Sleep Doctor), clinical psychologist and author of The Good Sleeper. Getting baby to sleep through the night is half of the equation, and then you’ve got to work on your own not-so-great habits.
In Dr. Kennedy’s book, all of the conflicting and confusing noise about how much sleep your baby should be getting and how to best get a baby to fall asleep is dismantled. Within The Good Sleeper, Dr. Kennedy talks co-sleeping, the Ferber Method and other ‘cry-it-out’ methods and is the straight-forward solution for new parents that just need direct answers. What’s more, Dr. Kennedy is also a pro when it comes to what you can do to find healthier and more consistent sleep.
Most people have been taught that 8 hours per night is the gold sleeping standard (and it gets even better beyond that!), but according to Dr, Kennedy, “there’s no magic number” and assigning an hour-based standard is more likely to make an individual stressed and anxious—which will inevitably counteract sleep. In order to help you find your own rules for the Zs, we put together a guide for expecting and new moms on how to get baby to sleep, and then how to doze yourself, all based on the good work of The NYC Sleep Doctor.
HATCH: What are some good ways to help a baby who’s having trouble sleeping through the night? What are some good ways to help a toddler who has insomnia and/or can’t sleep in their own bed? What should moms who struggle with this try?
DR. KENNEDY: There’s not really a short answer to this. That’s why I wrote The Good Sleeper! But one really important point to keep in mind is that babies need to sleep well during the day to sleep well at night. Babies get overtired easily and that makes it harder for them to get the sleep they need. Parents also train babies to keep waking up by responding to them all the time. In the early weeks, that’s necessary. But as babies get older, they don’t need as much help. And parents’ intervention can prevent them from learning how to self-soothe and get better sleep. As for toddlers, toddlers get overtired, too, and that will cause sleep problems. Overfatigue makes it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep. It creates an adrenaline response that can feel like anxiety, making the toddler think she needs her parents’ help. The first fix for toddler sleep problems is to figure out whether and how the child is getting overtired (Is the bedtime too late? Is the nap insufficient?). Once the child is more rested, parents can work on setting limits to teach the child to sleep in her own bed.
HATCH: For an expecting mother who’s having trouble falling asleep, what do you suggest?
DR. KENNEDY: Avoid eating heavy meals late at night and avoid foods that are likely to trigger reflux. Also, set aside time earlier in the evening to make To-Do lists. Bedtime is a time for escape, not a time for business.
HATCH: Is it okay to set personal goals for how much sleep you need per night?
DR. KENNEDY: Don’t try to sleep. Trying to sleep creates performance anxiety that makes it harder to sleep. When you are very sleepy, get into bed. You won’t have to try to sleep if you are sleepy enough. Understand that sleep disturbance is normal during pregnancy. You have a lot on your mind, you have to pee all the time, hormones can cause insomnia, and your body is not your own. Allow time during the day to rest or take a short nap if you can.
HATCH: What do you suggest doing prior to bedtime to get relaxed enough to sleep if you aren’t sleepy?
DR. KENNEDY: If you are not sleepy, read, watch TV, listen to music, color, or do something else relaxing—preferably not in bed. Avoid reading pregnancy and parenting books at bedtime. Read fiction instead so your thoughts will get lost in something pleasant, allowing your body to relax and get sleepy.