toddler sleepingAlexander, (unfortunately) is not really asleep and I try not to let him watch programmes on TV or on the iPad before bed, so the only reason I’m using this photo is because it fits the theme and might bring you a little smile! 

Sleep-deprivation isn’t just for parents of newborns, I’m still waiting for my 5 year old Oliver, to sleep through the night, every night. Really.

Both he and Alexander are light sleepers like their Mama and both will usually wake up at least once a night if not more. Good times.

…And it seems it’s not just this family who are suffering either, the majority of parents I’ve asked recently are struggling too.

It appears we’re all relentlessly searching for the holy grail of consistent sleep-argh remember the full 8 hours pre-kids, it’s now but a distant memory for myself and so many other zombie-fied parents!

From teething toddlers to bad dreams, illness and even treacherous weather (hello storms that woke us all up last week), we never, EVER seem to get enough zzzz’s in this house.

GP, Dr Juliet McGrattan, mother and runner, sheds light on how truly awful sleep deprivation can be for us all, and what helps her-

‘Life with small children goes hand in hand with sleep deprivation. It’s normal to be grumpy, irritable or emotional. You can’t think straight or concentrate and getting through the day with any enthusiasm can be a real struggle. Everyone needs a different amount of sleep but most mums aren’t getting as much as they’d like or need.

In the longer term, lack of sleep can affect your physical health too making you more prone to picking up infections, more likely to be obese and even increasing your blood pressure. Feelings of stress and anxiety are always worsened by tiredness making surviving the hours until bedtime even harder.

The important thing to remember is that this won’t go on forever. Your sleep bank may be very in debt but as the years pass you will eventually top it up and might even get to the point where you’re in credit!

In the meantime, use any survival tactics you can, take up all offers of help, never turn down a lie-in and don’t ever feel lazy if you get the chance for a nap or a sit-down. Personally, I always find it easier to get out and get the children playing outside, the fresh air wakes me up and they can expend all that energy without destroying the house! It’s an effort to get out there but it’s my best option, that and coffee! ‘

I also asked friends and fellow bloggers on my Honest Mum Facebook Page  to share their pearls of wisdom on sleep deprivation so here, along with some that work for me, are 10 tips to help you deal with not getting enough sleep:

1. Wear what makes you feel confident

I always remember my Mum advising me after my first child, in the midst of a sleep deprived haze she’d come to relieve me of, to pop on some make up and a pretty day dress to lift my spirits.

Red lipstick became my armour from that day forward-it wakes up my face and the small confident boost (along with concealer and a lick of mascara) it gives me, makes me feel refreshed and ready to face the world again. You might not like make up or dresses for that matter, but do wear whatever makes you feel good about yourself. It can work wonders, honest.

2. Yoga

My kids love getting on the mat with me and even 5-10 minutes makes a huge difference to my day. As does the food I choose for fuel. Slow releasing carbs, good quality protein and limiting sugar help keep my blood sugar steady, stress at bay and my brain functioning.

Yoga teacher in training, the brilliant Zaz of Mama and More‘s yoga video is a favourite of mine. Here she shares her wisdom,  

‘My top tips would be for night time waking keep it dark and quiet, take deep breaths and be patient. And to survive during the day when you’ve had little sleep, take a brisk walk outside to let the fresh air hit you, and oxygen rev up your blood cells, do an energising yoga routine like my quick 8 minute yoga routine‘.

3.  Step away from the chocolate and caffeine-

Rachael of Mumma McD Blogs has an 18 month old who has kindly given her sleep deprivation since birth- ‘My main advice is drink lots of water, limit caffeine (1-2 cups) and don’t reach for the chocolate that you’re craving, have some fruit instead.

Amy of Everything Mummy agrees, ‘We just seemed to of cracked this by getting Lottie to sleep in her own bed but it was so tough before. I think making sure you have a good diet and not too much coffee during the day is important otherwise you get a burst of energy then crash, feeling much worse’.  

4. Write lists 

Rachael also advises to keep a note of what you need to do the next day – ‘My memory disappears after a night of no sleep. Do try to keep things in perspective too. Be aware of the signs of depression, as sleep deprivation can be a major trigger. I also like to tell myself that, ‘He’s not giving me a rough time, he’s HAVING a rough time right now’ .

5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Stephanie of Hello Baby Blog advises, ‘Don’t be afraid to ask for help, people won’t think any less of you. Easier said than done most of the time but rest when baby rests (if possible) and try and get out and about in the fresh air to clear the sleep deprived fog away!

I’d also recommend joining baby groups, not only will meeting other mums take your mind off the tiredness, you can also compare notes and you’ll always find someone more sleep deprived than you to make you feel better!’

6. Be kind to yourself and others

Stephanie importantly mentions that-

‘You need to be kind to yourself and each other. You can become so forgetful and all over the place when you’re exhausted so don’t expect to do everything perfectly all day long. In the early weeks of having Phoebe, my husband, in his sleep deprived state, left the front door open for hours when he left the house in the morning and I mean wide open!

He just forgot to close it behind him! All logic and common sense goes out the window when your super tired!’

7. Remember you won’t feel like this forever

Katie of Pouting in Heels has written a superb post How to Deal With Sleep Deprivation (For Exhausted Parents) brimming with useful tips. She comments that, ‘Sleep deprivation is the pits. I think the key personally, is be kind to yourself and remember the words “one day this will pass” ‘.

Write those 5 small words out people, pin it on your fridge and remind yourself of them when you feel your worst.

8. Fight the Sleep Fairies

Emma of Mrs Shilts made me chuckle with her tip, ‘Keep as busy as possible. Whatever you do don’t sit on the sofa, it’s where the sleep fairies take you away to snoozy land’.

9. Share bedtime

As with Katie of A Mother Thing, my husband Peter and I share the night shift.

We try to alternate nights so we can catch up on sleep the following night which does help to keep us sane most of the time (well as sane as we’ll ever be)!

Katie offers more advice too-

‘I’m struggling with it as I’ve got three kids under four and one is only a newborn. The oldest suffers from nightmares. I get about four hours of sleep each night. My best advice is drinking water through the day, going out for fresh air a few times a day, letting sunlight in the house, splashing your face with water and keep caffeine as a back up! Also take turns getting up with kids at night and each parent gets a weekend nap or lay in.’

10. Focus on positive goals

Make a note of what you have to look forward to, from lunch with friends, a family day out to work or the all important ‘you time’ (book a massage or a blow dry, anything that makes you feel more ‘normal’ and gives you a break.

And breathe!

There you have it, 10 tips to help you cope with fewer hours in the land of nod!

I really hope they help offer you solace that firstly, you’re not alone and there are some simple, quick ways to help yourself feel a whole lot better.

Thanks so much to everyone for their wise and generous insight.

I would love to hear from you too, and specifically what helps you survive sleep deprivation, so please share your tips in the comments.


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33 Responses

  1. Laura Evelyn Bee

    Great tips. Pre-baby I can remember thinking what was all the fuss about with being sleep deprived…but oh boy, being tired and having a little one is one of the hardest things. Taking one day at a time is my advice, and always try to remember that if things go wrong…its not the end of the world. Tiredness can really turn molehills into unnecessary mountains! It will all be ok x

  2. Cardiff Mummy Says

    I’ve insomnia my while life, so a lack of sleep is something I can really relate to! Yoga has really helped me. Five minutes of energising poses is great to get you through the day. Also, 10 minutes of yoga nidra (a relaxation technique) feels as good as an hour of sleep. I also think state of mind counts for a lot. Just like your hot lipstick! If you wander around saying I’m so tired, you will indeed feel tired. If you smile and say I’m fine, then your mind starts to believe it. x

    • Mama JoJo

      I so agree re state of mind Cardiff Mummy – have very recently found that there’s a negative and a positive thought reaction to everything, even things that are negative in the first place, and if we choose the positive one – even down to ‘ha, I’m gonna wear a bright red lippie instead of frowning’ things start looking up, baby! The mind is an incredibly powerful thing indeed. Anyway, I”ll shut up now, that’s getting too deep for a Thursday morning x

  3. Mama JoJo

    Absolutely brilliant post! I haven’t slept since I was 6 months pregnant, and I’m now the proud owner of a seven-year-old mini-me. (I won’t blame her though, I’ve turned into an insomniac!)
    The tips you’ve collected are definitely good ones, I’ve tried ’em all! But my all time tip-top advice would be laugh, laugh, and laugh again! Whenever I meet my particularly hilarious friend for a coffee following a sleepless night, I feel all lively and wide-awakey again. And sometimes I re-read the email of epic iphone auto-correct fails that has me literally crying with laughter every single time I read it. Instant revival! I’m sure there will be a biological/hormonal explanation for that, but I’m too tired to look it up, lol.

    And for those who can’t get to sleep in the first place, I’ve just discovered the 4-7-8 breathing method, and it’s like an anaesthetic, honestly! Breathe in for count of 4, hold for count of 7, and breathe out for count of 8. ‘Tis like magic.
    Anyway, keep the great blogs coming! Love the way you’ve shared input from other sleep-deprived Mamas too 🙂 Jo xx

    • honestmum

      Oh thanks for this amazing comment, love the sound of that anaesthetic style reading, I remember reading about that and conveniently forgot. You are bang on about laughter and meeting up with those friends who really bring the best out of you. So glad you liked this and going to follow your tips on reading funny things too! Made up you enjoyed this post, fingers crossed we all get some sleep soon x

      • Mama JoJo

        Yes, do try the breathing thing, it’s amazing. I’ll need it tonight – Epic fail #2, working ’til 9pm as mini-me is at Daddy’s… will take me hours to wind down now, DOH. If in doubt, get the vino out 🙂 Sleep tight! x

  4. Jenni - Odd Socks and Lollipops

    Amazing post, Boo doesn’t sleep through the night (she is currently 13 months) but her sleeping has got a lot better recently, which I am immensely grateful for, but still, she is not sleeping through the night.
    I follow some of these tips but I will be definitely trying out the others!!

    • honestmum

      She’s still so young chick and I always found as soon as Xander did, he’d get ill or start teething we were back to square one. Thank goodness for big beds huh x

  5. Julie

    *Sigh* Sleep deprivation, I sure hope it doesn’t continue into toddler years and beyond. I can barely handle it in this newborn/infant stage now that I’ve returned to work. Good tips though. Definitely gotta stay active to keep the Z monster away.

    • honestmum

      Oh no don’t want to worry you-my 5 year old has had nightmares recently but I honestly think you get used to the disrupted sleep (if that helps) x

  6. Katie / Pouting In Heels

    Absolutely brilliant advice! I do many of these on this list and they most definitely help! Thanks for sharing my post and pearl of wisdom too. Us knackered parents have to stick together! 😉 XXX

  7. Urban Mumble

    And I thought it would end one day! My son started sleeping round the clock quite early but my seven month old still wakes up frequently. We sleep trained her and it went better for a while but now we’ve been off the track for weeks again. I hope it’s just teething. Makes me desperate to think some children don’t sleep through the night until they are like 10!! Thanks for sharing these tips. I feel writing lists and working out are particularly helpful tips. Makes you feel more in control.

    • honestmum

      You said 10-eek! I think we all have to do what feels right for us, in our case it’s a king size bed and the boys have doubles and we just survive it! x

  8. Ting at My Travel Monkey

    What an informative post – I wish I had read this a few years back. I find now that nursery just knackers him out now! I especially like the ‘fighting sleep fairies’ I’ve definitely had to do that a few times xx

  9. Mama and More aka Zaz

    Thankyou so much for including me in this brilliantly useful post. Sleep deprivation is quite literally torture, but I wholeheartedly agree with your lovely mama, you have to fake it to make it – even if you don’t feel like it, when you look a bit brighter it just automatically gives you a lift. We are lucky not to suffer often with waking babes as they’ve pretty much always been sleep monsters, but I love the idea of listing positive things to look forward to and planning them in! Great post!

    • honestmum

      Thanks so much Zaz for your brilliant contribution and lovely comment, Mum’s always right, huh and you guys are so lucky your kiddies like sleep x

  10. Juliet McG

    Great to read everyone’s survival tips. I’m definitely going to try the red lipstick! Important points about sleep deprivation leading to depression and not being afraid to ask for help. Look after yourselves everybody x

    • honestmum

      Thanks Juliet for your wonderful contribution and comment. I love that blogging really enables us all to share the tough times with the good and it’s that honesty that is key-it gives us and others the confidence to ask for help if we need it. Thanks x

  11. Mumma McD

    Great post Vicki!
    I forgot to add my most important tip – invest in a good quality concealer!!! These bags aren’t going anywhere for a while 😉

  12. Fiona @ Free Range Chick

    Vicki, if I’d have got my bum into gear (and got enough of my own zzzzz’s) and given you some of my survival tips, I would’ve suggested LOTS of make-up, and definitely wouldn’t have suggested stepping away from the coffee. 8 hours…? Pah, 5 hours in a row would be bliss with my two. However, insomnia is something I’ve battled with on and off (see my latest post) for years, and it doesn’t seem to matter how good my habits are – it just happens. And it usually happens when the kids are having an amazing sleep! As you so rightly say, one day, we may be in sleep credit. But in the meantime, I shall embrace the sleepless pre-school/toddler years with open arms, as they are only like this for a short time. Thanks for compiling these great tips and an excellent, informative post lady! xxx

    • honestmum

      Oh next time chick, would love to hear your tips. I’m like you and last night couldn’t sleep until 2am. I think our bodies get into a routine of disturbed sleep making it harder for us to relax properly as we’re always on alert. I’ve gotten strict about going online before bed and try not to for at least 90 minutes before slumber and yoga helps as does something like porridge with coconut flakes and a little banana before bed to fill me up and help make me sleepy. Hope you get more sleep soon lovely x

  13. Paul

    Really like the idea of sharing, that`s what we plan to do when I go back to work soon, at least you get a decent nights sleep every second night. Although the constant up and down during the night is tough I love getting back to bed every time and drifting off….


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