Napping: what was once a college pastime is a rare luxury now that you're a mom. And if you have a new baby in your home, it might be the only chance you get to make up some of the sleep you lost during the night. But no matter how many times you hear "sleep when the baby sleeps," it's still easier said than done. To find out how sleep-deprived mamas can actually catch restorative zzz's during the day, we spoke to the experts at Reverie, a company that makes innovative sleep systems. Check out their pro nap advice below.
Stick to a Time Frame
While you can never really plan how much time you'll have to nap with an unpredictable newborn, ideally, "naps should either be 20-30 minutes or 1.5 hours," said Reverie CEO Martin Rawls-Meehan. He explained, "A shorter nap is a great way to boost alertness, while a longer nap should be reserved for recovery after a really bad night of sleep." But be warned: if you sleep between 30 and 90 minutes, you're likely to wake up feeling groggy because you're not getting a complete sleep cycle.
Create Optimal Conditions
Martin encourages you to set up an environment that mimics your regular sleeping habits, so take out your contacts, change into comfy jammies, and find a place to curl up that's "dark, quiet, and cool." If you need a little help to make it feel more like nighttime, consider an eye mask or white-noise machine.
Wind Down Mentally
Part of the reason napping when the baby naps can be such difficult advice to follow is because new moms' minds are so wound up with everything they have to do and catch up on. "Leave the laundry for another time," advised Reverie Sleep Advisory Board Member Dr. Amelia Bailey, M.D., who specializes in obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive endocrinology. "Your body has to have sleep . . . Even a 30-minute nap will be beneficial." Consider adding nap time to your to-do list or calendar so you feel less guilty about taking one. To calm your mind, Amelia suggests you do a quick self-guided meditation with an audio recording or smartphone app.
Build Up a "Sleep Credit"
In case you're not convinced you should stop and take a nap instead of powering through, Amelia explained: "Sleep is like money: you can save it, or you can burn it. So, the most important thing you can do is to have a 'sleep credit' that you have built up by getting extra shut-eye." In other words, if you can't guarantee a full night of rest, new moms should take every opportunity to put some sleep in the theoretical bank, even if it's just a short midday nap. "This will help your body function well even after one night of sleeplessness."
Power Through Intelligently
For those times when taking a nap truly isn't an option, Amelia says to wake yourself up with an energizing body wash or shampoo in the shower and then to grab an extra cup of coffee. But, she warns, chugging coffee all day every day isn't the answer. "Limit the number of caffeinated drinks you consume regularly so that an extra cup will work when you need it," Amelia said.