baby

"I haven't had a good night's sleep in nearly two years."

Like most new parents, I haven’t had a good night’s sleep in a long time – it’s been nearly two years – and I am on the lookout for a good strategy.

Sleep is society’s “top modern problem” according to Professor David Hillman, Chair of the Sleep Health Foundation.

“About 30 per cent of the community complain of inadequate sleep on a daily or near daily basis and that’s across all age groups,” he said.

The causes for poor sleep change from teenage years to adulthood  –  from social media to new parenting.

“Throughout life, sleep is under challenge and there are strategies to cope with each of those challenges,” said Professor Hillman.

How to get the best night’s sleep.Post continues after video.

“Some brains are better at coping with disrupted sleep than others,” says Professor Hillman.

I know which camp I am in.

He says some people seem to be “born for shift work” and can get by with relatively little sleep.

However, the sleep expert says most people who suffer from a little bit of disrupted sleep get a bit of daytime tiredness but if there’s a big decrease in sleep, that can cause excessive daytime sleepiness.

The effects of poor sleep can include tiredness, lethargy, irritability, poor productivity, difficulty getting things done and slow reaction times.

Julie Maddox advises to sleep when the baby sleeps. Image supplied. 

I fear I am nearly at my limit of fragmented sleep. I just want to go to sleep and wake up the next day.

I've had an unrealistic expectation of a full-night's sleep since my baby boy was around six-weeks-old. One of my new mum friends had a baby who was "sleeping through the night" by then.  Gwyneth Paltrow's first baby was "sleeping through" the night by six weeks.

Julie Maddox, a Tresillian clinical nurse consultant, says "sleeping through" may mean six hours - if you're lucky.

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After helping new parents for 20 years, she's seen how common it is for new parents to struggle with lack of sleep.

"We try to get parents to look at the normal growth and development of the child and what to expect at that age. Sometimes parents have high expectations. Mums think the baby should be sleeping through the night by four months," said Mrs Maddox.

My little baby at a few weeks old. Post continues after video.

"The best thing new parents can do is learn about the growth and development, and milestones, and then they have a normal expectation what's going to happen and can work around it," she said.

The Tresillian approach promotes responsive settling - where parents learn to respond to the needs of the baby. They have hands-on help for sleep deprived parents with sleep school residential units, outreach, day-stay, website tips and a telephone help line.

My son's actually asleep - why am I not sleeping? Image supplied.

"I believe the biggest things parents can do is a bit of self-care. Ask for help, get people to come and give some support - have a nap," says the clinical nurse consultant.

"Nine times out of 10, the parents have the answer, we just help them find their own answers."

I am still looking for the answers, but I am not alone.

Around a third of Australians are regularly reporting sleep complaints so I seem to be in good company.

Professor David Hillman says there are a range of strategies to help with sleep problems - even if they are not baby related.

"It's worth making some inquiries about it, go to see you could GP, read some of our advice on our Sleep Health Foundation website and get some help for it because there's plenty of help available."

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