Monday Musing – Sleep and Parents Back to Work

Are you dreading the time when you’re due back to work after baby? Wondering how you might cope with it all?

An Australian study in the past few years has described “excessive sleepiness” as a major factor in a reduction in performance levels by new mums going back to work. And whilst in Ireland, many mothers are entitled to maternity leave of 6 months, it is more than likely not long enough for sleep patterns to return to “normal” for some time after the birth of a child. 

Particularly for first time mums, the adjustment to life with a new baby brings a host of new challenges on many levels:

Physically, it takes time for your body to adjust to no longer being pregnant and hormone levels are all over the place. 

Emotionally, you are now responsible for another human life and this brings an array of worries and fears.

Even if your child is a so called “good sleeper”, you yourself may find it difficult to wind down and fall asleep in the way you used to pre-baby.  You hear every little whimper and stir in the middle of the night. Even if the baby settles themselves, I often hear parents say that once they have been woken it is more difficult for them to get back asleep.

Going back to work in itself is difficult, never mind trying to function on very little sleep.  Unfortunately many women still feel they have to “prove” themselves and will pretend that everything is fine.  This can result in poor decision making due to exhaustion and should they work in a role where they are driving or operating machinery, it can be very dangerous.

A few years back, there was a TV series on Channel 4 about children and sleep. One episode was focusing on the effects of a lack sleep in parents.  They did an experiment using a simulated car.  One volunteer who was regularly woken at night by her children was asked to “drive” for a certain length of time.  Another volunteer was given a few (3) alcoholic drinks before getting into the simulator.

The experiment showed that the tired mum was most at risk of crashing or indeed falling asleep at the wheel. It is frightening to think that there are so many people trying to function on little or no sleep on a daily basis. 

Sleep deprivation in adults results in poor judgment, bad moods, poor decision making, physical exhaustion, confusion, depression, fatigue, poor attention span. The list goes on. 

Should a non-parent go to the doctor with symptoms of excessive sleepiness, they would be advised on how this affects their daily lives. Unfortunately, for mothers, the response is generally “you have a baby, what do you expect” and not much help is offered!

Gradual re-introduction to the workplace may be a better option for new parents returning to work. Thus, relieving some of the pressures associated with the return.

If you are struggling and need a hand with your little ones and their sleep, visit

Niamh x logo

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