How a Sleep-Deprived New Mom Can Feel Perfectly Rested Every Day
Photo: appliedvitals / Creative Commons
We've all been there: that sleep-deprived state of new-motherhood, when we didn't know it was possible to feel that tired. It doesn't have to be that way, though. The secret to feeling well-rested is called polyphasic sleep.
When my daughter was a newborn, I frequently skipped daytime sleep altogether, figuring that I would be able to cobble together enough sleep at night to feel somewhat human. While I was technically spending more hours in bed, I was actually feeling worse for it. What I wish I knew then was that a power nap during the day would have solved all my sleeping woes.
How an Exhausted New Mom Can Feel Like New
According to the book The 4-Hour Body, it's possible to cut your total sleep time in half, yet feel completely refreshed with a "polyphasic" sleep approach. This is a fancy way of saying you're going to nap during the day, but there's slightly more to it than that.
There are 5 different methods of polyphasic sleep, but I'm going to only focus on the ones that are pertinent to new moms. While it's possible to get by on 2 total hours of sleep per day and feel great using the Uberman method of polyphasic sleep, the rigid sleeping schedule required is not realistic for the parent of a newborn, who will need to change and feed a squalling baby at surprise instances during a 24-hour schedule. So we'll focus on the three methods that are achievable for a new parent.
The Siesta: 6.3 Total Hours of Sleep
If your baby sleeps for a stretch of six hours at night, then all you need is one 20-minute nap during the day to feel well rested. Yup, that's it. Just a 20-minute daytime nap will shave an hour and forty minutes off your sleep requirement.
The Everyman 2-Nap: 5.2 Total Hours of Sleep
If you can get a stretch of 4.5 hours of core sleep at night, then take two 20-minute daytime naps and you'll feel fine and dandy.
The Everyman 3-Nap: 4 Total Hours of Sleep
This is one you can do the day you get home from the hospital: get 3 hours of core sleep at night; that's probably as much consolidated sleep as you're able to get anyway. Take a 20-minute morning nap and two afternoon naps of 20 minutes in length each.
The Finer Points
According to Dustin Curtis, who wrote about polyphasic sleep in The 4-Hour Body, "The more naps you have (and thus the less sleep you have total) the more rigorous you have to be regarding your nap times. You can't miss a nap by more than a couple hours in the 2 and 3 'Everyman' methods."
Make sure you limit your naps to 20 minutes. If you drift into deep sleep during naptime and aren't able to complete the sleep cycle, or if you miss a regular nap by more than a couple hours, you'll feel tired for days. But without this method, you'll feel tired for days anyhow. So it's definitely worth a shot. See the diagrams on Dustin's web site to get an idea of working nap schedules.
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