Ah, sleep! So many parents tell me that they miss it. Like, really miss it. And yes, sleep deprivation is horrid. It truly is one of the hardest parts of being a parent. Sleep deprivation in itself can cause so many problems for parents. Low mood, lack of energy, loss of appetite, reduced cognitive behaviour, slow reactions… but I guess if you’re reading this you know all of this already. But don’t fear! There are things that you can do to ease the pain while your little one settles into the business of sleeping. Here are three survival tips for sleep deprived parents. You might want to pass this on…
The first thing I do when I visit a new family is to ask about baby’s routine and see where adjustments can be made to improve sleep. So let’s the do the same for you. Are you staying up late because that’s the only time you get to yourself right now? Or are you getting up early so that you can have a hot cup of coffee before the chaos begins again? Maybe your routine needs a little tweaking too.
It’s important to remember that this level of sleep deprivation really isn’t going to last forever. So a few early nights in the grand scheme of things is not the end of the world. Perhaps just one or two earlier bedtimes each week will be enough for you to feel like a new person. Or maybe you need to get to bed early every night. And yes, that well worn tip ‘sleep when baby sleeps’ might actually work for you here too. Grab any chance for some extra rest if you can, and if you can’t then ask for help. Turn to your partner, friends or family and let them know that you need some help while you sleep. Nobody is going to think any less of you for it! Take the help if it’s offered and get to bed early- you’ll feel the benefit for sure.
Adjust your diet
It is so easy, when you’re tired, to simply grab the quickest meals you can find in an effort to simply eat while you can. But often the quickest and most convenient foods are not most nutritious either. And studies have found that when we’re sleep deprived we tend to crave foods that are filled with sugar and fat, which give our bodies a spike in energy that we need… only for that spike to then plummet into an even lower slump. And so the cycle begins again. And not only that but a lifestyle like this results in weight gain and further feelings of lethargy and low mood. So with no sleep and a poor diet we are probably not exercising either. And this is going to wreak havoc on your emotions and perceptions of body image… it’s just not a great place to be.
I know it’s not easy. But try to take some time to plan out your meals and snacks. Order your groceries and make sure that you’re getting plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables plus ingredients for healthy meals that are going to fuel you and help you get through the days on limited sleep. When you start to see food as fuel, you can appreciate the power it can have over sleep deprivation too. Choose foods that are going to give you energy and make you feel good too. And try to get out into the fresh air too for some time each day- this can do wonders for rejuvenation and reminding you that this is just another day, and this phase of sleep deprivation will NOT last forever.
Adjust your mindset
So many parents tell me that when help is offered, they prefer to decline and to soldier on instead. This is insane! Raising a human being that does not sleep well is REALLY HARD WORK. You need help with this, and the sooner you realise the better! If you’re breastfeeding it can be hard to share the night duties, but there are other things that your partner or your family can do to help. You can ask them to change your baby when they wake so that you can rest until feed time. You can go for a sleep while your baby plays and someone else watches them for an hour. You can take a shower. You are breastfeeding but you do not need to be attached to your baby 24 hours a day.
It can be hard to offload some of the responsibilities onto someone else, but it’s important to remember that there isn’t just one person in this family. You matter too. Your health and emotional wellbeing is just as important as your baby’s and for you to function as parent you need some rest too. So take the help, take the time for you now and then do NOT feel guilty about it. Show your family that you care about yourself too, and that is absolutely fine.