How new dads can get the sleep they need without hiding in the crawl space

Guys who don’t have kids can be pretty clueless about infants. If you’re a dad, these exchanges might sound familiar:

New dad to his buddy while out for a walk: “Who’s that kid in the stroller?!?”

Buddy: “You told me you needed to change the baby, so I did you a favour.”

New dad to his buddy: “Boy am I exhausted! I was up with the baby till 4 a.m.”

Buddy: “I don’t think a baby should stay up that late.”

That second one will hit home with many new dads, what with late-night bottle feedings, burping, cradle-rocking and other care duties often interrupting sleep. Good thing there are some surprisingly easy ways to catch up on Zs with a newborn in the house:

Stick to a sleep routine (as best you can)

We’re not talking about your pre-baby routine here. We’re talking about the NEW sleep routine you develop as a new dad. Your goal should be to get a total of at least 7 hours of sleep each night, so if your baby has you up for a total of three hours, and you need to be up for work at 7am the next morning, just do the math: Turn in at 9pm each night, and by 7am you’ll have nabbed 7 hours of sleep (give or take). It’s a proven fact that if you go to bed at about the same time every night, you’ll snooze better.

Nap with caution

While daytime naps may seem mandatory after a rough night with your child, they can actually disrupt your sleep routine and, in turn, lead to fewer Zs overall. If you do nap, the key is to keep it to less than an hour. Set an alarm so that your power nap doesn’t turn into several hours in lullaby land.

Keep it cool

As a parent, it can be tempting to crank the thermostat to make sure your bundle of joy stays warm. However, too much heat can actually be dangerous for a sleeping baby. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies be “lightly clothed for sleep” and that the room temperature is kept “comfortable for a lightly clothed adult.” That means somewhere around 20 degrees Celsius. For adults, however, the ideal sleep temperature is between 15-18 C. The easy solution: Try closing or covering the heating vents in your bedroom so the temperature cools while you snooze, but remains constant in the baby’s room.

Curtail spicy food

Caring for a newborn can leave little time for preparing home-cooked meals. If you end up ordering more take-out than usual, try to avoid heavily spiced foods and heavy meals, as these can disturb sleep.

Keep the bedroom exclusive

As tempting as it is to browse the web for child-rearing tips or baby-sized hockey jerseys, the bedroom should be a sanctuary that induces slumber. Ban the TV, smartphone or computer, which are stimulating.

Keep it clean

As challenging as it can be to keep the house tidy with a newborn around, keeping your bedroom as clean as possible will help you sleep.

Let darkness reign

Bedside and hallway lights may flick on when the baby needs attention, but in between those wake-ups it’s a good idea to keep your bedroom dark with heavy curtains, and to cover the LED lights in electronics. The adult human body is programmed to wake when it’s light and sleep when it’s night, after all. The baby human body? Not so much…

Get some exercise

When you’re out pushing the stroller, pick up the pace a little bit or head up a hill. Walking briskly for 30 minutes is a legitimate form of exercise, as it burns around 250 calories. Exercise also makes you physically tired, which can help you sleep. Just try to avoid exercising a few hours before bedtime, as this can boost your adrenaline levels and keep you awake.

Shelve the caffeine

They may seem heaven-sent when you’re trying to bust out of a feeding-induced daze, but coffee, tea and cola, all of which contain caffeine, can wreck your sleep patterns. Switch to decaffeinated drinks in the afternoon, and simply bypass the cola when you’re grocery shopping. On that note…

New dad to his buddy at the supermarket: “Hey man, can you help me find the ‘8 to 14 pound’ diapers?”

Buddy: “Sure. And I gotta say, that’s one hell of a poop!”

What’s the funniest thing you’ve done as a sleep-deprived dad? Share the “joy” in the comments below!

Are you trying to get more and better sleep? If so, we’ve got your back!

Download the free “How to Sleep Like a Warrior King” right now.

About the Author

Adam Bisby

Adam Bisby

Adam Bisby is a Toronto-based freelance journalist and father of two. His award-winning stories have appeared in the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star and National Post newspapers, in magazines like Explore, Reader's Digest, International Traveller and Canadian Family, and on websites including MSN.com and DontChangeMuch.ca.

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