Alexander, (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.
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.
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.