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We have been very lucky that our 1.5 year old child is a good sleeper. We did some sleep training early on and she now sleeps through the night quite consistently. We are grateful for that!

However, it feels like both my sleep quality and my wife’s sleep quality have been permanently damaged. Before having a child, we would both sleep very well: 7-8 hours per night, rarely waking in the middle of the night. Now, our child is sleeping peacefully for 10-12 hours, but we are often lying in bed awake. Tossing and turning; waking sometimes at 2 or 3 am and being unable to fall asleep again. We regularly now get less than 4 hours of sleep. It is ironic that our child sleeps so well and yet we are still so sleep deprived!

Is this a common experience for new parents?

Are there actual changes in the brain that cause sleep quality to diminish?

Any tips or solutions?

  • My 4 month old just started sleeping reasonably well in the night. He goes 6 hours without needing a feed. But I keep hearing phantom cries after I put him down for the night! Especially when I've just started drifting to sleep, i hear crying, but he's fast asleep. Happens many times before my brain shuts down due to sheer exhaustion! – learner101 May 7 at 12:52
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Yes, this is common and expected - you now have someone else to worry about.

The good thing is that over time you will relax more about the new human you are responsible for, and each one you have makes it easier, and eventually you'll be delighted to send them on their way and out of your house.

There isn't really much you can do to accelerate the process of gaining confidence that they are fine, but I would recommend any of the common relaxation techniques - yoga, meditation, even reading and so on. Having friends or relatives who can look after them for a weekend so you can get away is also incredibly valuable.

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Certainly not sure about brain changes; but things are just different, so it's not surprising you'd have something change. You're also older now - and as my doctor regularly tells me, getting older changes all sorts of things. You don't sleep how you did when you wre 1, or 12, or 20 (well, unless you're 20 now?).

For me, it was the opposite: I never slept well, until I had kids, at which point I started sleeping soundly. My wife always joked it was my attempt to avoid dealing with their middle-of-the-night issues... she on the other hand sleeps much less soundly now.

If you're waking due to anxiety about your child, what worked for my wife was to go ahead and acknowledge those worries, and go check on them. Don't fight it; that's what keeps you up for hours. Walk over and check on them, and then go back to sleep.

You could also get a baby monitor if you don't already have that, one with video; that might help both reduce the amount of waking and walking required when you want to check on him, and give you a bit more peace of mind.

Finally, perhaps most importantly, remember to take some downtime for yourselves that isn't kid related and isn't just washing up, and try to make a routine of it. You need a routine just as much as your child does - I'm guessing they have a teeth-brushing, story-reading, kiss-on-the-forehead routine, or something along those lines, right? Try to put yourself in a routine as well - kid in bed at 7, check; hour of TV together, check; bowl of ice cream, check; then brush teeth, lie down with a book, half hour later lights off. See if that helps with the sleep some - kids are major routine-breakers, and it can be hard to get back into one after you have them.

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