If you ask any new mom how she is feeling after her baby arrives, there’s a good chance she’s going to tell you that she’s tired. Sleep disruption and deprivation are a part of life when you have a new baby -- and the effects can continue well into your child’s school years.
Although you should expect to be tired in the early days of your child’s life, that doesn’t mean you need to go through your days like a zombie because you’re trying to do everything on your own. Asking for, and accepting help, is important to both your health and your child’s well-being. Although your family and friends are likely to be more than willing to pitch in, there may be times when you need to hire a babysitter to take over for a few hours.
You probably think that hiring a sitter is something that should be reserved for special occasions, or when you need time to run errands or go to an appointment. However, as an exhausted mom, bringing in an experienced child care provider to care for your little one for a short time can be exactly what you need to stay happy and healthy. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with paying a professional to watch over your kids while you take a nap and catch up on some much-needed sleep. In fact, here are three reasons that you should put a babysitter on speed-dial, and bring in some assistance when you need it.
Sleep Deprivation Is Hazardous to Your Health
You undoubtedly know that adults should get an average of 7-9 hours of sleep per night. And now that you have kids, you know that achieving that goal is virtually impossible, between postpartum insomnia, late night feedings, and other disruptions.
However, prolonged sleep deprivation, meaning less than the recommended amount of sleep for several nights in a row (or longer) can wreak havoc on your physical health. Without rest, your body cannot naturally repair the heart and blood vessels, increasing your risk of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and stroke. Adequate sleep is also important for proper immune function; without a strong immune system, you’re going to have a harder time fighting off colds, the flu and other diseases. And of course, sleep is important to your brain, helping to maintain your overall cognitive abilities, including memory, judgment, and decision-making.
For moms who are concerned about their weight, sleep is vitally important. Sleep deprivation is strongly linked to obesity. In short, the less sleep you get, the more likely you are to be overweight or obese. Getting sleep helps regulate your blood sugar and hunger hormones, not only helping reduce the amount of fat stored in your body, but also controlling how much you eat and the types of food you crave. Essentially, when you don’t get enough sleep, you have a harder time feeling full, and tend to crave food that is high in sugar and fat. When you’re trying to shed those extra pregnancy pounds, sleep is one of the best things you can do for yourself, not to mention the fact that maintaining a healthy weight helps reduce your risk of chronic disease.
Sleep Deprivation Can Mask Postpartum Depression
You know that not getting enough sleep can be disastrous for your mood, making you cranky and grumpy. If you want to maintain good mental health, getting enough sleep is one of the best things you can do.
Unfortunately, many of the symptoms of postpartum depression mimic those of sleep deprivation. For instance, irritability, lack of interest, anxiety, and forgetfulness are all common signs of depression in adults, but during the postpartum period, they are more commonly associated with sleep deprivation. This means that many women either overlook the signs of a serious mental health problem, or they are misdiagnosed and do not receive proper treatment.
One of the best ways to determine whether your mood is a result of sleep deprivation or PPD is to evaluate your sleep and how you feel after getting some sleep. Many PPD sufferers report that they simply don’t sleep well, despite being exhausted, while parents who are just sleep deprived typically report that they have no trouble sleeping when they have the chance, and wake up feeling refreshed and less irritable. There are other factors that contribute to a PPD diagnosis, including feelings of attachment and appetite, but the effect that sleep has on you is a major indicator. Taking a break with the help of a babysitter can help you get a better sense of your mental health, and spur you to get help if necessary.
Sleep Deprivation is Dangerous
Finally, not getting enough sleep can be dangerous to you and your baby. Again, when you are completely exhausted, your cognitive function is impaired, affecting your judgement and ability to make good decisions. A lack of sleep can actually affect your brain the same as several glasses of wine, meaning that if you are driving or doing other tasks that require quick reaction times and your full attention, you are putting yourself in harm’s way.
Hiring a babysitter for a few hours when you’re exhausted can make a significant difference to your health and well-being, allowing you to be the best parent that you can be. It’s not reasonable to expect that you should be doing everything, so don’t feel guilty about asking for help when you need it. Everyone will be better for it in the long run.
Guest blog contributor: Robyn South, Sleep Advisor