Understanding and Overcoming Postpartum Sleep Deprivation

postpartum sleep deprivation

This article will provide comprehensive insights into postpartum sleep deprivation, offering new parents practical strategies and encouragement for improving sleep and overall well-being during the challenging postpartum period.


Looking after a new baby can be exhausting, especially when the new baby wakes up several times in the night. But there is a difference between being tired because you’re up with a new baby and struggling with sleep deprivation or postpartum depression. 

During the postpartum period, there are many challenges, but one of the biggest is sleep deprivation. This article will address sleep deprivation during the postpartum period, the impact it can have, how it compares to normal sleeping patterns with a newborn at home, and how to deal with it. 

What is Postpartum Sleep Deprivation?

Sleep deprivation is a normal part of being a new parent, associated with the accumulated fatigue that comes from being pregnant, the change in hormones, and the demand of having to take care of a new child around the clock. 

For the first two weeks after having a baby, it’s normal to experience a drop in your energy with some feelings of depression, sometimes referred to as the baby blues. It’s also normal to struggle with normal sleep patterns because you’re constantly sleeping when the baby does, or you’re up at night with nighttime feedings. 

However, postpartum sleep deprivation symptoms can look strikingly similar to depression. So, how do you know if you have sleep deprivation or postpartum depression?

Postpartum Sleep Deprivation Symptoms

Sleep deprivation and postpartum depression share similar difficulty sleeping at night, problems concentrating, irritability, and tiredness. Sleep-deprived postpartum mothers will experience things like irritability and low energy with difficulty sleeping or focusing, but that is usually where the symptoms stop. 

You can differentiate between sleep deprivation and postpartum depression if your mood does not improve after getting at least a short nap or a good night of sleep or if your symptoms gradually get worse even as your baby starts to sleep for longer periods of time. 

When to Seek Help 

You should consider reaching out for professional help if you have:

  • Severe sadness or mood swings accompanied by crying
  • Anxiety or panic attacks
  • A complete loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Feelings that prevent you from daily function
  • Excessive preoccupation about how your baby is doing
  • A complete inability to bond with your baby
  • Inability to sleep even if your baby is sleeping
  • Loss of appetite
  • Thoughts of suicide 

The Impact of Postpartum Sleep Deprivation

Any level of sleep deprivation can have a serious impact on your ability to function. It can impede your ability to safely drive a car, operate machinery, take care of your child, take care of yourself, or be there for your partner. 

If left untreated, it can cause damage to your immune system and hormone levels, disrupt your regular appetite, impede brain function, and result in other physical and mental health issues. 

How to deal with postpartum sleep deprivation: 4 Top Tips

If you are struggling with sleep deprivation or postpartum depression, you need strategies for overcoming sleep deprivation postpartum, and that includes having the right sleep habits, navigating the nighttime feedings, sharing responsibilities, and seeking support where necessary. 

sleep deprivation postpartum

Tip 1: Establishing Effective Sleep Habits

Figuring out how to deal with postpartum sleep deprivation centers on establishing healthy and effective sleep habits. There are ways you can improve sleep quality and duration:

  1. Create a sleep schedule where you try to go to bed or wake up around the same time, even if that includes several times when you wake up and then go back to bed to accommodate feeding
  2. Keep your sleeping space cool and dark so that your body can relax
  3. Remove devices from your sleeping space, including phones, so that you don’t have any distractions or blue light to impede your sleep quality and duration
  4. Practice some light stretching or guided meditation before sleep to improve your sleep quality
  5. Exercise more during the day, even if it is just walking because exercise (no matter how tired you feel) can help you sleep better

Tip 2: Navigating Nighttime Feedings

Figuring out how to deal with sleep deprivation and postpartum depression means navigating your nighttime feedings. 

There is no way around nighttime feedings, but there are ways to minimize sleep disruption. 

It’s quite common for a parenting team to designate all nighttime feedings to whichever parent isn’t going to work during the day. This comes from a good place, which is to make it a little easier on the adult who has to get up in the morning, but it can lead to significant sleep deprivation for the parent who ends up doing all of the feeding. 

Tip: Share the burden by trading off and rotating different nights so that one of you can sleep while the other handles all the nighttime feedings, then switch. 

If you are still nursing, consider pumping your breast milk ahead of time so that your partner or another family member can handle at least one of the nighttime feedings to give you better sleep quality and quantity. 

Don’t be afraid to consider formula feeding, which can offer a solution for whichever parent is up at night and help tackle sleep-deprived postpartum symptoms. 

Tip 3: Sharing Care Responsibilities

If you have a partner at home, it’s important that you both share the care responsibilities for a newborn, even if your partner is the one who goes to work. Doing so will help alleviate sleep deprivation. After all, the child isn’t just yours as the mother. 

Don’t be afraid to communicate your needs effectively and make it clear that you and your partner have to share responsibilities, such as dividing up nighttime feedings. 

Even if you don’t have a partner at home, there are ways that you can get some support when you really need a nap, like asking a friend, trusted neighbor, or relative to come over and look after your baby for a short while. Small things like this can make a big difference in your overall health. 

Tip 4: Seeking Support

There is no shame in asking for help if you are a sleep-deprived postpartum mother. In fact, whether you are dealing with sleep deprivation or postpartum depression, you should always ask for and accept help from friends and family. 

Many friends and family want to help and will offer, whether it is bringing you a meal directly or asking how they can help. Don’t be afraid to capitalize on this and ask for help where you need it, especially with simple things like looking after the baby while you take a nap. 

Seek professional support options, including sleep consultants and mental health professionals, when necessary. If you find that you are still unable to sleep, even with the tips above or with help from others, a sleep consultant or mental health professional can help address the underlying causes of postpartum sleep deprivation. 

Summing up

Don’t be afraid to look for additional tips and resources for managing postpartum sleep deprivation. It is extremely important that you address the issue of postpartum sleep deprivation. Take proactive steps towards better sleep and overall well-being.

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