Coping with sleep deprivation is one of the biggest challenges of parenting. It’s something nothing can prepare you for. So how do you cope? Meg Faure offers her insights.
In 1964, Randy Gardner set the world record for going without sleep – he survived 11 days without nodding off. Since then others have tried to break his record. Some have claimed to but his is the longest period someone has stayed awake whilst carefully monitored for ‘micro-sleeps’. Amazing? You may think so but you are probably also thinking “What on earth would you do this for?” One night of broken sleep and I am so unpleasant that breaking a no-sleep record would be murderous or at least a suicidal thing for me to do!
I love sleep and so do you! Baby Sense and Sleep Sense look at how to get your baby to sleep well. This article is not about how to get more sleep – it’s about what you can do to help yourself cope with sleep deprivation if your baby is not sleeping at night:
Early morning sleep-in
The parent who gets up at night gets to sleep in, in the morning. Anything after 4am is a ‘morning waking’. In other words if you do all night wakings between 7pm and 4am – it’s hard but you know that you have a three hour sleep to look forward to – 4am to 7am or (hopefully) 8am. It just makes those night wakings easier to survive.
Take turns over the weekend doing the early morning shift. You do Saturday morning and only wake your partner at 8:30 that day and your partner does Sunday. Just one lazy morning will help you survive the week ahead.
If your baby is not sleeping through, really try to sleep over midday, even for just an hour. As soon as your baby goes down for her midday sleep, close your curtains, pop on a soft tracksuit or even PJ’s and try to sleep. A few drops of Rescue Remedy will help your cause and assist you to fall asleep on your own.
Go to bed early
As tempting as that episode of your favourite series is, it is not helping your cause at all. Your natural awake times mean that 8pm is the best bedtime for adults. Try to be in bed by 8pm to ensure you get a good few hours of shut eye, before the first night waking.
Share night duty
Some couples find that ‘sharing is caring’ and that you both feel better if you share the load. In this case, take it in turns to get up when your baby wakes. This does not work well if you are breastfeeding as your poor tired husband will be getting up to bring your baby across which means you are both awake and sleep deprived.
Walks in the fresh air before dinner time
Exercise in the late afternoon will help you get a better quality of sleep when you do finally sleep at night. In addition, at the time of day when you are flustered and tired, you will be out and about getting some air.
Life with a new baby can be tough and the sleep deprivation can feel relentless. It really is worth trying to get to bed early at night and back to sleep as quickly as possible. The odd late morning makes all the difference too. But at the end of the day – it’s your friends and support system who will make you feel normal, supported and understood. And finally know this – it will pass and the day will come when you are getting a full 8 hours again!