Ah sleep deprivation, the most dreaded part of parenthood, the thing everyone warned you about…and you know what? It’s real! No matter how many all nighters you pulled in college or how many times you woke up to pee while pregnant, nothing can truly prepare you for being as sleep deprived as you will be as a parent.
I know I was one of those first time moms who thought I would just get lucky and have a “good sleeper” from the get go…HA! How wrong I was! I should have known in the hospital (where Asahi woke up every hour after being born…) that it was just not in the cards for me. Now, a lot of people do have babies who sleep extended hours, which is awesome! In that case, maybe this post isn’t relevant to you. But for those of us still waking up multiple times at night to parent our little ones, you may find some of these tips helpful in handling your own sleep deprivation.
The thing is, I’m an active woman. I love getting out and about and I HATE just staying at home. Being bored is literally the worst thing to me. Because of that, it doesn’t matter how sleep deprived I am, I had to learn how to cope with it and still maintain some sense of normalcy on a day to day basis.
The first and most important thing I had to do was change my perception on sleep deprivation. This may seem crazy at first because, of course, being sleep deprived is not anyone’s favorite state of being. However, if you can wake up in the morning and focus on the day ahead versus the night you just endured, you will feel a million times better.
Some of the things that helped me shift my focus were:
- Not tracking my child’s sleep at night. I turned off the apps/timers/etc and focused on simply tending to him throughout the night without counting wake ups.
- Trying not to dwell on how many times he woke up (because you will inevitably have some awareness even if you aren’t deliberately tracking) and therefore not spending my entire morning focusing on how exhausted I am.
- Realizing that no matter how exhausted I feel, I am able to push through and still enjoy my day.
This brings me to my next realization regarding sleep deprivation: since becoming a mom, my sleep requirements have changed.
Seriously, they have. I used to be an eight hour a night type of girl to be a functioning person the next day. These days, I probably average 8 hours of highly interrupted sleep per night. As in being awake for 10-15 minutes every 1.5-2 hours during the hardest periods of teething. Even so, somehow I am able to wake up and have a normal day and even have people say how I don’t look tired at all. So what’s the secret? I’ve accepted that I don’t need as much sleep and I’ve chosen to have a good day regardless of how I am “supposed” to feel.
Which leads me to my second realization: I am completely in control of how I respond to getting less sleep and I don’t have to feel horrible just because people say I should feel that way. I can choose to feel energized and positive on a daily basis.
Through these two realizations, I have been able to change my mindset on sleep deprivation and find new energy to continue parenting my son 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If you are feeling desperate, trying to change your mindset may help you get through another day regardless of your situation.
In addition to this mindset change, I have been making a few changes to my daily routine that help me feel more energized and in control.
- Exercise! I have always been an athlete and exercise is a big part of my life. Even though I don’t have time or childcare to go to the gym for intense workouts, I aim to do yoga or pilates at least three times per week at home. I see such a huge difference in my mental state when I stick to this routine.
- Get outside every day. Going out in the fresh air, no matter what the weather is like, always does wonders for my mood (and my son’s!) Even if it’s just going to the grocery store or to a local cafe, it makes me feel much better about my day.
- Having an errand or engagement to do every day. Somehow it’s much easier to feel pepped up when you are going to meet friends for a playdate or have some sort of engagement. The process or getting ready and out the door can feel exhausting, but I always feel inspired and energized after socializing or accomplishing an errand that needed to get done. Click here for some of my fave mama/baby hangout spots!
- Limiting my caffeine intake. This may seem counter intuitive but I’ve found that when I drink too much coffee, I feel good in the short term but eventually crash and feel much worse. If I limit myself to one coffee per day, I feel like I am able to energize myself naturally versus through caffeine.
- Taking short naps when I can. This isn’t possible for everyone, especially if you work, but if possible try to take short naps during the day. I usually limit my naps to 15-20 minutes during my son’s nap so I can still get other things done and have that feeling of accomplishment when he wakes up. In the newborn stage I slept for as long as I could, whenever I could though!
- Take it easy on yourself, but not too easy. You don’t need to get everything done every single day. The world will not end if you don’t get that load of laundry done. However, if things start feeling out of control you may start feeling worse. Sometimes pushing through your tiredness and accomplishing a few chores around the house can help you feel better.
- Remembering that this isn’t forever. Even if it doesn’t feel like it, you will sleep like you used to again and probably sooner than you think.
I hope if you are feeling sleep deprived, this post can encourage you to make a change to your mindset and give you some tips on how to reinvigorate yourself every day. How do you deal with sleep deprivation?