As a parent of three, I’ve lost hundreds, possibly thousands, of hours of sleep over the years. Losing two hours of sleep every night adds up to 14 hours of lost sleep over a week. Over a year, that’s more than 700 hours of lost sleep.
For twin parents, losing sleep is a fact of life. For two months after giving birth, mothers of twins average 5.4 hours of sleep per night. Most adults need at least seven to seven and a half hours of sleep each night.
A lack of sleep can lead to increased fatigue and depressive symptoms. The exceptional workload, exhaustion, and limited time to meet your own needs is a lot of pressure, even if you’re somehow able to get enough rest.
- Although you may be short on sleep as a parent of twins, there are ways to catch up on the sleep you may be missing out on at night.
- Take as much parental leave as possible. If you’re a working parent, take all of the leave that’s available. Not going back to work means you’ll have more hours available in the day to catch up on sleep with naps.
- Accept help from friends and family. Allow others to help you, whether it’s with childcare, food, cleaning, or running errands. Place a premium on helpers who will watch your babies while you take time to sleep.
- Don’t allow visitors who require entertaining. Lots of people want to visit new babies, but early postpartum is when you need more rest than ever as you recover from delivery and tend to the intense needs of newborns (times two). Be careful with visitors, ideally only allowing those who will be genuinely helpful or will limit their visit to a short period when your babies are awake.
- Make sleep your most important chore. The age-old advice to sleep when the baby (or babies) sleeps is tried and true. Instead of catching up on the dishes or laundry, take time to get some rest. Letting chores suffer may be somewhat stressful, but sleep is your most important chore postpartum. And if you’re able to get more rest, you’ll have more energy to tackle household needs along with the needs of your babies.
- Start sleep training from the start. It’s never too early to start teaching your babies healthy sleep habits. Follow a consistent morning and bedtime routine, as well as a nap routine. Keep your daily schedule consistent, following a pattern of wake, eat, play, (and another eat if you have hungry babies), and sleep.
- Make daytime and nighttime different. Although babies need sleep around the clock, naps and bedtime should be different. When your babies are napping, allow household noise such as dogs, vacuuming, doorbells, television, and talking, and don’t block out light in the nursery. Keeping their room too quiet and dark can confuse their circadian rhythm into thinking it’s nighttime and time for an extra long nap (which may translate into shorter sleep at night). At night, reinforce the cues that it’s nighttime with a dark, cool, quiet, room so your babies can learn early on the difference between night and day.
- Support quality sleep hours. When you can’t sleep as much as you need to, improving the quality the sleep you can get is key. Practice healthy sleep hygiene, such as a consistent bedtime, bedtime routine, and avoiding caffeine and alcohol at night. Make your bedroom a healthy sleep environment, with comfortable bedding that’s appropriate for your needs, comforting and relaxing colors throughout the room, and a dark, cool, quiet environment at night.