How to deal with sleep deprivation (for exhausted parents)

how to deal with sleep deprivation

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. 

With love,





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18 Discussions on
“How to deal with sleep deprivation (for exhausted parents)”
  • My 5yo has only just started sleeping well after a three year period of being upto night time antics. Of course this doesn’t mean I get any sleep because I now have an 8mo baby who wants boobs all night ;-) I can honestly say this is all amazing advice – especially being kind to ourselves in the midst of being so deprived! Eating well is my top tip for anyone who asks. Another awesome post lovely xxx

  • Oh you have my sympathy. I have been there I really have. My son didn’t sleep through the night until he was six and I spent those six years in a sleep deprived haze. It is tough but they are worth it and it isn’t their fault. There are some great tips there though and I hope you get some sleep soon x

  • I wrote a similar post not so long ago – it really torturous isn’t it? You offer really good advice here and I do most things you wrote about. Getting outside and napping when I can are my coping mechanisms at the moment!

  • I’ve been blogging about sleep deprivation today too. It’s nasty! Some of this advice is new to me, and your timing couldn’t be better. I really must learn to be kinder to myself! Thank you.

  • Great tips as always. I totally agree with you about a tidy environment, it makes life so much easier when you don’t have the chance of slipping up on a toy or a random piece of fruit.

    I’m lucky that both my girls have been good sleepers from the start, I wish I could tell you how we managed it but the truth is I have no idea. Just plain luck! Having said that my baby (who is 2 this week) does not nap, and has not napped for the last few months, so I get no rest during the day.

  • Fab post honey with loads of great tips! I’m terribly lucky with the Little Man as he sleeps well *touches every piece of wood in sight* but the eldest didn’t sleep hardly at all for the first 6 months and woke at night for a LONG time. I found I struggled most when I gave myself a list of things to get done. The stress of being so tired and not achieving what I set out to was demoralising. I’d definitely recommend planning to do very little on ‘bad’ days and anything you DO get done is a bonus! X

  • Thanks for the tips. I don’t have a little one keeping me awake but I do have a job that makes me feel constantly tired (especially when you are working 6 day weeks!).
    I can relate to the tidying up one, it does make me feel better if I tidy up a little and it gets me moving which also helps me wake up.

  • I needed to read this post a couple of weeks ago! I had finally had enough. The housework was piling up and I felt exhausted. I finally realised that life with a newborn isn’t easy. I got the advice that housework can wait and sleep when she sleeps. However that is hard when visitors want to come and meet your lovely little newborn. I didn’t feel better until I opened up and told people how I felt. Then I did some of the things off your list. I asked for and accepted help. Mum came round with her rubber gloves and helped with housework. I said no to some visitors and relaxed and napped. The thing that is helping me lots is picking up as I go along and having a quick tidy before I go to bed. It feels much better to come down in the morning to a tidy house. Also the shower and get dressed idea is amazing… pj days feel so unproductive. Showered and dressed makes you feel ready to face the day.

    Great post. I will try some of the other tips x

  • Great advice! The house cleaning part has a lot to do with it for me. I need a clean house or I get nasty lol! Now my “O” she sleeps through the night and now I can’t sleep…. a bit of a vicious circle for me!

  • Love this post and such great tips, I find though for me I always feel worse when I eat carbs and sugar when tired, I’ve got PCOS and insulin resistance though so body rejects it and I become more tired. I have to say running-even for 10 minutes makes the world of difference to me and yoga helps too. It’s funny as last thing you have the energy for when so tired but if you can find it from somewhere it really revitalises you! Hope we all get more sleep soon! #allaboutyou (PS my Mum always says the smartest kids never sleep well-hhaha) x

  • Oh Kate, my darling, this post makes me want to cry!! I know it’s not forever but I remember those feelings of hopelessness and never being light at the end of the tunnel. And it’s desperate. You ARE amazing and you LOOK amazing so I would say to say to any sleep deprived parent that they should take your tips incredibly seriously xxx

    Thanks for linking up to #AllAboutYou xxx

  • I can’t remember a time when I got less sleep than when I had my first child. It seemed like I was in a complete daze for the first year of his life. I found though, that changing your diet helps a lot with sleep deprivation and can help you feel more energized if your only option is to never get any sleep. Try these tips if you aren’t sleeping or just don’t have any time to!

  • Fab post chick, remember it now, will be linking back in my post-after 2 and 5 year old have been taking it in turns to wake up I want to write a post collating lots of parents’ tips and some experts too, got a Dr contributing. Friends have recently had newborns too and sleep deprivation affects us all x

    • Thank you darling. It’s so tough isn’t it?! Sleep deprivation is the absolute pits and as you say, so many of us suffer from it, yet there doesn’t seem too much advice out there to tackle it! Can’t wait to read your post, I know it will be really useful for so many x

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