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7 Ways to Get a Good Night's Sleep

Name a place, any place -- a new mom has probably dozed off there. The shower, for instance. "I was washing my hair and the next thing I knew, my body jolted as my arms came down, and I realized I had fallen asleep," says Cecy Zeis of Pickerington, Ohio.

The office. The OB's exam table. Locker rooms. Parked cars. Movie theaters (my personal weakness). AnneMarie Hurston of Titusville, Florida, has actually napped while breastfeeding in her baby's crib. (Not to be outdone, other moms have napped in their babies' strollers.)

Gas stations. Subways. Bookstores. The pediatrician's. Even the toilet. "One week I was so desperate that I pretended I had a bad case of diarrhea," says Lindsay Metcalf of Grayslake, Illinois. "I'd give my husband that 'I gotta go now' look and head for the bathroom. I'd sit on the toilet, lay my head on the vanity, and snooze until he would knock 30 minutes later and ask if I was all right."

Clearly, the motto of early motherhood is carpe siesta. According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), more than two-fifths of new moms rarely or never get a good night's rest in the six months after giving birth. More than four-fifths suffer symptoms of insomnia at least a few nights a week up to 18 months later. And, as you may have noticed, lack of sleep can really suck the fun out of life with your baby -- and be risky, too. One-fifth of new moms confess that they've driven while drowsy with their kids in the car. So how can you catch more zzz's? Try tweaking the same tips that work for sleep-challenged babies.

Set a soothing bedtime routine

"As a new mom, you think, 'The baby is asleep, now I can get something done,'" says Kathleen Kendall-Tackett, Ph.D., a health psychologist in Durham, New Hampshire. But if you want more sleep, save stimulating activities -- cleaning, answering e-mail, watching Deal or No Deal -- for daytime. "I make a to-do list of all the things I'm tempted to do but know I shouldn't because it's time for bed," says Steffany Johnson of Quail Valley, California. "My mind is relieved by having them written down."

Start winding down 60 to 90 minutes before bedtime, Kendall-Tackett suggests. Try a light snack, a movie, or a little reading -- but not in bed, so you don't come to think of it as a place to be alert. Other things moms find relaxing: warm baths; soft music; massage (thanks to a partner, foot rollers, or soft balls you can roll around on); cuddling with pets; decaf tea or milky cocoa; stretches; and yes, even sex.

 

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