NEW DADS SLEEP CHALLENGES

in early parenthood

FATIGUE

Fatherhood and Fatigue - dads
For new fathers, the time around the birth is famous for sleep disruption.
But there are no regulations about being fatigued as a father.

Find out what specialists Dr Trent Watson and Dr Stephen Knipe had to say about fatherhood and fatigue

WHAT IS FATIGUE?

Fatigue is more than just feeling sleepy…

Going 24 hours without sleep reduces your performance in the same way as having a blood alcohol level of 0.05 percent. That’s why, if you are a pilot or a drive a heavy vehicle, there are regulations with serious penalties for being fatigued at work.


For fathers, the peak times for sleep disruption are the time around the birth and the first months of having a new baby. There are no regulations about being too fatigued as a father or mother but fathers are usually back at work a couple of weeks after the birth, trying to resume their work roles as normal.

 

Fatherhood and Fatigue - dads
Fatherhood and Fatigue - dads

Signs of Fatigue

  • Trouble focusing
  • Longer reaction times
  • Frequent yawning
  • Blurred vision
  • Micro-sleeps

Is fatigue normal for new dads?

Australian researchers analysed results from studies examining sleep disturbance of over 3,000 fathers of infants over the first 12 months and found that sleep difficulties included lying awake before falling asleep as well as waking up (or being woken up) after falling asleep.

Although babies will sleep better as they get older, fathers, in some of the studies had increased levels of fatigue over the first year. The researchers suggested that this might be a result of the build-up of fatigue over the critical first six months.

They also found that in the first three months after the birth fathers with greater fatigue had poorer safety compliance and participation at work.

Fatherhood and Fatigue - dads

So, What can you do about fatigue?

IF YOU ARE FATIGUED THERE ARE FOUR ASPECTS TO CONSIDER

Check your routines to help your baby to sleep better

Check that the family team is working well together

Check ways to ease work pressure

Check how you manage the fatigue

How do you manage?

If you have a new baby, chances are you’ll be up regularly during the night.

four ways to try to reduce your fatigue

Fatherhood and Fatigue - dads
Fatherhood and Fatigue - dads

ONE

GETTING YOUR BABY TO SETTLE & SLEEP THROUGH THE NIGHT

TIPS FROM DADS

Here are some tips from dads who told us things they try when settling their baby when they are upset :

  • Sit in a rocking chair and sing nonsense to her
  • Walk outside with him
  • Put your baby finger into their mouth with your fingerprint on the roof of their mouth to pacify them. Make sure your nails are cut
  • Play ‘Waterfall’ noises from Spotify

This WEB-LINK also offers some steps to follow to help your baby sleep through the night along with a case study to explain how to apply them. 

IMPORTANT NOTE

Babies have unique personalities, and some babies go down easily and sleep through the night and some are very difficult to put down and wake up often. Don’t blame yourself if things are tough.  

TWO

SHARING THE LOAD

Lack of sleep and too many tasks to manage can make it difficult to stop long enough to ask, “Who could help us with this?”

Maybe the way the two of you manage the nights could change a bit, or maybe there is a family member or friend that could do some of the tasks that need doing such as washing, cooking, picking up children or shopping.

COMMENTS FROM DADS ABOUT REACHING OUT

One tip to focus on having a great connection with your wife is to block out all negativity with friends and family. Constant pressure from friends and family puts stress on mum, dad and baby

I don’t always reach out to friends and family straight away so getting these texts at random times is really helpful

To deal with persistent crying, we get a support person to do 30-60 minute shifts trying to soothe the baby

Fatherhood and Fatigue - dads
Fatherhood and Fatigue - dads

THREE

EASING PRESSURE AT WORK

If your boss or supervisor knows that you have recently become a father then it might be worth letting them know how little sleep you’ve had. It may also be worth looking at sick leave or carers leave options.
Fatherhood and Fatigue - dads

FOUR

MANAGING YOUR FATIGUE

We know that a short catch-up sleep helps reduce the effects of fatigue, however the optimal length of a nap is still being researched.

A study published recently recommended 30 minutes as the most effective impact on alertness and switching on your brain. Long naps can leave you groggy and make it difficult to get back to what you were doing.

Apart from having a nap, there are other tips to help your body manage the lack of sleep:

  • Drink lots of water, minimum 2 L per day; more when it’s hot
  • Eat fresh whole foods
  • Avoid too much sugar
  • Limit your alcohol intake
  • Spend time away from screens
  • Move your body frequently: exercise or take a brisk walk

 

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT

 

Richard’s research revealed possible long-term negative impacts on the children of dads with mental health issues. Fathers’ depressive symptoms in the first year after the birth predicted behaviour problems in their children years later.

“If dads’ mental health has such a dramatic impact then we need to be screening dads for depression, not just mums,” Richard explains.

In response to these limitations, Richard and his team have designed a smart-phone based program that allows mobile connection for new and expectant dads.

Participants receive texts containing information and links, and self-report their mood. If the mood tracker identifies dads as needing extra support, they will be offered a phone call from a counsellor trained in this area.

Following the success of the pilot of the SMS4dads program, Funding was received to enable a National roll-out.

“When dad’s miss antenatal classes or activities, they also miss out on contact and links to other people.  They may never get the chance to say to anyone, look I’m really stressed,” he points out.

“SMS4dads is a way of bringing dads into the health system and keeping them linked in with services and support,” explains Richard.

Richard Fletcher

Associate Professor, PhD

Richard credits a varied career, a talented and innovative team, and much life experience for affording him the insight needed to address the challenges related to actively engaging dads.

After completing his masters in Medical Science, studying epidemiology, Richard earned his PhD focusing on fathers and attachment.

“Fathers are invisible in many places, and that is endemic. Not because people dislike fathers, but because the system is set up to be focused on mothers.”

Some services and organisations are aware of the need to engage dads, but have been unsuccessful in their attempts.

“When people are challenged about this, they generally want dads involved,” Richard affirms.

“Often, however, they just don’t know how to do it.”

Richard works with health professionals on issues related to fathers, and has delivered many antenatal programs for expectant dads.

He credits his own family with giving him an understanding of the role of fathers needed to make his work relevant.

“I have three daughters and two stepdaughters,”

“My kids would say they taught me just about everything I know and they’d be right. They’ve taught me a lot, and still do.”

Richard’s research revealed possible long-term negative impacts on the children of dads with mental health issues. Fathers’ depressive symptoms in the first year after the birth predicted behaviour problems in their children years later.

“If dads’ mental health has such a dramatic impact then we need to be screening dads for depression, not just mums,” Richard explains.

In response to these limitations, Richard and his team have designed a smart-phone based program that allows mobile connection for new and expectant dads.

Participants receive texts containing information and links, and self-report their mood. If the mood tracker identifies dads as needing extra support, they will be offered a phone call from a counsellor trained in this area.

Following the success of the pilot of the SMS4dads program, Funding was received to enable a National roll-out.

“When dad’s miss antenatal classes or activities, they also miss out on contact and links to other people.  They may never get the chance to say to anyone, look I’m really stressed,” he points out.

“SMS4dads is a way of bringing dads into the health system and keeping them linked in with services and support,” explains Richard.