Parents vary and babies vary, but during your newborn’s first year of life there’s one thing you can count on as a responsible parent: you will lose sleep. Yes, on top of losing sleep over the probable excitement of having added a new life to your family, as well as, perhaps, the anxiety over how you will protect and care for your newborn, there are also biological reasons why “sleeping like a baby” for eight or nine hours a night is nearly certainly out the window during your newborn’s first year.
So how much sleep can you expect to to lose?
The Biology Of It All
Newborns have different sleep cycles than do adults. Newborns sleep more lightly and for shorter periods than the average adult does. Therefore, your baby’s biology is set up to ensure that your baby wakes up when you’re sleeping, multiple times a night.
With a typical newborn sleeping no more than three to four hours at a time, you can expect to wake up at least two times a night. And if you count on your baby being up for at least 30 minutes for each of those times, you’re losing at least an hour of sleep each night.
The Reality Of It All
Of course, that hour of lost sleep is based on a better-case scenario where you would fall asleep instantly after tending to baby. Realistically, though, more time could be needed for you to transition from caring for your woken newborn to falling back asleep yourself. That being considered, you could easily expect to lose more than an hour of sleep per night, all depending on your disposition and other circumstances.
Interestingly, in April 2020, National Public Radio reported on a study showing that fathers tend to get less sleep during a newborn’s initial year (less than 6 hours a night) than do mothers, due to mothers generally being at home during the day — where they can take a nap — and fathers generally working a job during the day — where they can’t take a nap.
Additionally, this same report mentioned another study showing that mothers who have cesarean sections generally get less sleep (about 4.5 hours a night) than mothers who have vaginal deliveries (about 6 hours a night).
How To Deal With It All
Even if you can’t take a nap during the day in order to compensate for lost sleep during the night, there are ways to keep lost sleep from becoming a problem. For example, working parents can take advantage of days off, such as on the weekends, to get some extra snooze time. Also, establishing a rotating schedule of “night duty” can help parents catch up on sleep by giving each parent an alternating night off.
Furthermore, if you use a baby monitor, turning the volume down so as to not pick up your baby’s minor whimpers will keep you from getting out of bed unnecessarily, and will help you keep sleeping until duty really calls.