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Sleep expert Erin Berman has advice for men juggling work and fatherhood
All dads know the value of sleep. It’s the one thing all new parents have in common – the sudden appreciation of something they’ve taken for granted up until the point a tiny human takes it away from them!
For working dads it’s a particularly tricky area. Most of us want to support our partner when the baby – or child, some kids don’t get the hang of sleeping through for years – kicks off in the night. Even if, in some instances, we can’t do the actual feeding we can still provide vital companionship in the wee small hours.
But whereas many mums can catch up a little when the baby naps the next day most men have to go out to work bleary-eyed. Or if they are taking shared parental leave it’s still a struggle to keep a kid entertained while your brain is a sleep-deprived go-slow.
According to mattress firm Nectar Sleep 4.2 million Brits are getting a poor night’s sleep as a result of their baby.
Their in-house sleep and wellness expert Erin Berman, offers advice for new dads on how to make the most of the time that you get to rest besides juggling new family life.
Whilst on paternity leave, make the most of the opportunity to sleep when the baby sleeps. This means to go completely against normal sleeping rules and start napping during the day. If your baby nods off for a 20-minute nap at 2 pm then join them. Also, use this time to initiate a routine that your baby can start getting used to once you get back to work.
When you do manage to get some sleep, then your environment needs to be as welcoming as possible. The perfect temperature to help you fall asleep quickly is below 22 degrees and lighting should be kept to a minimum so blackout blinds could now be a godsend.
Becoming a new parent can also bring a tidal wave of emotions that can be exacerbated through sleep deprivation. Don’t underestimate the change your body and mind goes through and make sure that you tune into how you’re feeling as the weeks go by, especially when you transition back to working life. If you feel burnt out, speak to your employer about having some more time off or making your hours a bit more flexible until your baby starts sleeping through the night.
At moments of severe sleep exhaustion for both mums and dads, it’s understandable to reach for some relief to nod off but it might actually do more harm than good. One in ten (10%) Brits admit to self-medicating in the form of alcohol or medication, specifically to aid their sleep.2 Whilst some think that consuming these ‘sleeping aids’ help you fall asleep quicker, you spend more time in deep sleep rather than the REM stages of sleep – this means you aren’t getting the full benefits of sleep and you won’t feel rested or refreshed in the morning.
If you can speak to your employer about leaving early and avoiding the evening rush hour, this could help ease your stress levels post-work and start your evenings off calmly. If working remotely or from home is a possible option, breaking up the routine of commuting between the office and home every day could also help with easing your mind and helping you get to sleep at night.
Besides sharing the parenting workload with your partner or immediate support network, there are other small things you can do to alleviate stress and make your evenings more freed up. Try batch cooking and weekend meal preps so you have one less thing to do in the evening. Also, try and get into bed earlier than usual so you are training your brain to fall asleep quicker. Podcasts are a really good thing to have ready for the nights when you have been getting up and then need to get back to sleep.