How to deal with sleep deprivation (for exhausted parents)
AAAH children, they make our worlds go round don’t they?
They amuse us, melt our hearts and are the very centre of our existence but wouldn’t it be nice if they just slept? More. Well. Better. Through the night?
I adore my daughter Elsie. Like every Mum, there is no one I love more on this planet than her, but – and it’s a big ol’ but – I just wish she would sleep!
I cannot remember the last time I slept for more than a couple of hours at a time. Possibly it was a few months ago. Probably, it was before I got pregnant.
Elsie is now 2 (going on 14) and still doesn’t sleep through the night. We have good weeks and then we have not so good weeks in our household. We have odd nights of pretty good sleep only for them to be followed by nights of numerous wakings, horrific nights when we’re lucky if we can get 40 winks, never mind a few solid hours.
It’s not their fault of course. They are little. And all of them are different. Some sleep brilliantly (if you are one of these parents to have a child who sleeps well, know that you are indeed lucky!) others not so much. Then there is teething, nasty colds, snotty noses, sickness bugs and separation anxiety to contend with.
It’s tough for our children and we do our best to help them. But it’s also tough for us too as we try and hold down jobs, keep up with the housework, look after other kids and somehow get through the day.
I’m sorry to say I don’t have the answer to help your child sleep through the night. And you. (But oh, how I wish I did!)
However what I do have is experience. Two years plus experience of surviving each day and somehow managing to hold my s**t together when I could weep with exhaustion.
Below are some of the things that work for me plus some brilliant advice kindly shared with me by my fabulous FB readers. If you’re struggling to stay awake on a daily basis and are doing a great job at keeping matchstick makers in business, you may like to give them a try.
How to deal with lack of sleep (and feel human)
- Get up, get showered and get dressed – It’s an old saying but it’s true. You’ll feel better if you look better, plus a warm invigorating shower helps to recharge those batteries a little and get the engine running so to speak.
- Get the kettle on – some people say you shouldn’t drink too much caffeine but when it comes to sleep deprivation I say indulge a little. Whether it’s tea or coffee, grab one or two to wake you up a bit and then lay off a little. Swap your caffeinated drinks for herbal teas or water. Unless you’re really flagging, then I reckon it’s ok to stick the cuppa on again and have a proper brew.
- Tidy up mess but only do what you can manage – Call me crazy but a tidy environment makes me feel better about life. When you’re tired there’s nothing worse I think than being surrounded by mess, so if you can face it, tidy up a little. When your home is easier on the eye, it’s easier on the mind. Especially a knackered one.
- Get out the house and breathe – When I posed a question about sleep deprivation on my FB page last week, nearly everyone recommended fresh air and with good reason. Often when we’re totally shattered the last thing in the world we want to do is to go out. But if you can manage it, it’s amazing how much better it can make you feel. Fresh air will clear those cobwebs away and add colour to your cheeks so get out as much as you can.
- Eat well – Whenever I’m tired I crave carbs and unhealthy ones at that. If you can, and you’re more virtuous than me, then yes you should definitely stick to a healthy balanced diet packed with fruit and vegetables. But for the rest of you (and me) I say eat whatever the hell you like, whatever you need to get through the day. Yes white bread will probably make you feel crap after a while, yes biscuits will make your energy levels spike and slump but if you ‘need’ them, have them. Now is not the time to beat yourself up.
- Exercise – If you have the energy for it, a little exercise can work wonders, even if it’s only a short walk around the block or a few minutes of yoga. Just don’t force it though, if you’re too exhausted it can have the opposite effect and leave you feeling burnt out.
- Relax – It’s a hard one this when you’re shattered beyond belief and your nerves are fraught, but it’s so important in trying to get some decent sleep in the near future! Just like our little ones, we too can become overtired, which can make it very difficult to sleep well. So relax, especially near bedtime. Turn off the TV, have a warm bath, read a relaxing book, switch your phone off, drink a camomile tea and try an aromatic sleep spray. Before you hit the sheets, make sure you are as relaxed as you can possibly be.
- Accept help – Take it in turns with your partner if you can, that way one of you will get a half decent night’s sleep every couple of nights. Or ask for help from Grandparents, other relatives or even your best friend. One night of bad sleep is awful but weeks and weeks of it, night after night is horrific. I know, I’ve been there and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. We all function better with sleep so when times are very tough, ask for help or accept it.
- Do what works – For you and your family. Lots of people have recommended cry it out methods to me for my daughter. I tried it once and it was awful. For us it did not work, in fact it actually made things worse. People will offer you all kinds of advice, with the very best of intentions but if I’ve learnt anything as a parent it is this – do what works for YOU. If your child needs to sleep with you so you can all get some sleep do it. If your child is better going to bed later, then do it. Do what works and take everyone else’s wisdom with a pinch of salt.
- Nap whenever you can – If at all possible. If your child still naps during the day, get your head down too. If a friend offers to take your little one of your hands for an hour or so, let them and shut your eyes.
- Finally, know it will pass – This was a brilliant piece of advice shared on my FB page and something that is worth well remembering when it all feels too much. It will pass. One day things will improve. One day you will sleep again. One day we’ll be dragging our then teenagers out of bed. One day they won’t want to cuddle us through the night. One day they won’t want to sleep with Mummy. Hard I know when you feel like you could just collapse with tiredness but true. Till then, we’ve just got to hang on in as well as we can and if possible, appreciate those middle of the night cuddles and conversations. Who knows, one day we may even miss them?
Any tips to share? Have you found the parent’s holy grail for sleep? I’d love to hear so please do share in the comments below.