While May is known for being the month of warmer weather and celebrating the return of spring to the UK, there’s a different occasion kicking off the month that we wanted to chat about. That event is Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week, a week dedicated to talking about mental health problems experienced during and after pregnancy.
Organised and ran by the Perinatal Mental Health Partnership UK (PMHP to their friends) the entire week aims to raise public awareness about Mum’s mental health, spread information to those who might need it, and get people talking about how pregnancy and motherhood can affect your wellbeing. The first awareness week was back in 2014, and this year we’re getting involved!
In this blog, we’ll be talking about how sleep can have an impact on the mental health of mums. We know a thing or two about sleep and we have some tips and tricks from sleep experts that can help you get as much rest as possible; so you can feel at your best!
What Is Maternal Mental Health?
So, before we get into the thick of it let’s talk about what exactly Maternal Mental Health means. In a nutshell, it covers mental wellbeing during pregnancy and after the first year of childbirth. Giving birth and having a newborn is a wonderful thing, but there’s no denying that it can also lead to a lot of stress, including sleepless nights.
The “Baby Blues” are a very common thing for new mums to experience, but the NHS recommend that if they last longer than two weeks then it’s more likely to be Postpartum Depression. PPD is not rare, with one in ten women experiencing it within a year of giving birth. While there are many different causes for this, experts agree that sleep deprivation can make symptoms worse.
How Does Sleep Affect Pregnancy?
Even though sleep is very important for pregnant women to keep themselves and baby healthy, actually getting a proper nights sleep can be incredibly tough. However, getting a good rest is seriously important, as a lack of it can lead to issues that include high blood pressure, and can even contribute to longer labor.
In terms of mental health, a high rate of women who reported a significant drop off in the amount of sleep they had per night was more likely to suffer from PPD. There are many things that contribute to sleep deprivation, including nausea, restless leg syndrome, heartburn and of course trying to get comfortable!
What About Sleep After Pregnancy?
While in a perfect world you’d be able to drift off in a blissful sleep without worrying about needing the loo or dealing with sleep apnea, getting a good nights rest and tending to a newborn are two things that just don’t go together. Just like during pregnancy, there are many factors that can contribute to losing sleep once you bring your little one home.
For one thing, pregnancy is incredibly tough, and many women experience fatigue following the experience. Not to mention a shift in hormones which can lead to a change in your body’s natural sleep cycle. Of course, the 24-hour job of looking after a newborn is by far the most challenging aspect of getting a good kip. From night feeds to fussing, interrupted sleep is something that all new parents struggle with.
Like we said earlier, with all of these factors at play it’s totally normal for new parents to experience a dip in mood. But, it’s also important to keep an eye on mums mental health and getting more sleep can help massively.
“It’s Totally Normal For New Parents To Experience A Dip In Mood”
Sleep deprivation can have a bit of a circular effect on maternal wellbeing, as it can make illnesses like PPD worse while at the same time, mental health issues make it more difficult to fall asleep.
How To Get A Better Night’s Sleep While Pregnant
Everyone always tells expectant mums and dads to get as much sleep as possible before the baby arrives, which is easier said than done. Luckily there are loads of hacks to help you get off to sleep through your pregnancy.
In the first trimester, experts recommend getting used to the idea of sleeping on your side, and research shows that sleeping on your left-hand side is the best position for the baby’s health later on in pregnancy. To help with nausea, avoid eating before bed and try to fill up on light foods like crackers. You can also still keep up with exercise, which not only helps with regulating your body but also helps your mental health. Yoga and swimming are brilliant options, as they are fairly light on activity and have options tailored to suit pregnant women.
In the second trimester, try to stay away from caffeine, and be sure to hydrate throughout the day. You can also take advantage of rising energy levels to get some exercise in the mornings and start practising sleep hygiene, like avoiding screens too close to bedtime.
In the third trimester, you can really feel the benefits of side sleeping. To make the whole thing a bit comfier though, you can use a pillow, or a more rectangular cushion, in between your legs to help you adjust more easily.
How To Get Better Sleep With A Newborn
Now here’s the really tricky part. Unfortunately, getting less sleep once you bring your wee one home is almost inevitable; at least for a little while. There are some ways that you can improve the quality of your sleep, however, so don’t panic!
The main advice from experts is to have sleep firmly as number two on your priority list. Caring for a new arrival takes up the vast majority of your time, and the rest of your time is often spent stressing about other things. Avoiding stress is hugely important, so when you have time to spare you can spend it getting some proper rest.
Most doctors recommend grabbing some shut-eye while your baby is napping. “Sleep when the baby sleeps” is very common advice. While napping is great, quality over quantity is always better when it comes to sleep.
Setting up scheduled shifts with your partner can help improve your sleep, even if it means sleeping in different rooms for a little while. If you’re finding it a struggle to get your little one into a sleeping schedule there are resources like the sleep mums podcast that have tons of advice, and your doctor can also help you out.
And of course, getting the right support from a decent mattress can help your physical and mental health. Whether it’s more space you need to get comfy with a king-size mattress, or a pocket sprung mattress for added comfort, at Nimbus we have firmness options to help you drift off.