Sleep deprivation and how to survive: Parents
Once upon a time there was a woman named Helen. She got 7 hours sleep every night. Helen was a happy person. Helen had no dark circles under her eyes. Helen could multitask, concentrate and do amazing things…then it all changed.
Like most people I love my sleep. The importance of sleep is well documented. The body needs rest so it can repair and recharge. Lack of sleep can affect body and mind. The Royal College of Psychiatrists state that after a few days of sleepless nights you can have trouble making decisions, trouble problem solving and coping with emotions. Sound familiar? Sleep disturbance has also been linked with depression. Prolonged disturbed sleep can contribute to the increased risk of a heart attack, stroke, obesity and depression. So why oh why mother nature did you do this to us parents?
Ok so most of these studies address people who have sleep disorders and suffer lack of sleep long term. Most of us parents could and would have a good night sleep if we weren’t rudely awaken. For most of us these nights of broken sleep will only be for short while. But for some of us, sleepless nights can go on for longer than a few months and The Royal College of Psychiatrists recognises this. The good news is once you start getting sleep again the body is excellent at reversing the damage.
Our daughter was kind to us on the sleep front. I would be the smug mummy as all the others would discuss how often theirs would wake in the night and how much coffee they have consumed as a result. Our son on the other hand is a totally different story. He’s just turned one and he still wakes on average twice a night. Usually falling back to sleep with a dummy or some gentle stroking. Sometimes he will wake and be so unsettled we resort to bringing him in bed with us. He no longer feeds in the night. Occasionally he’ll give us a night of amazing sleep, but it is not often enough for my liking! Are you listening Mr?
Thankfully both our children go to bed between 6.45pm and 7.45. First our 1 year old closely followed by our 4 year old. Both are tucked up, read a story, given cuddles and kisses and wished good night. Both fall asleep by themselves, no dummies. Our 4 year, generally sleeps through the night. She occasionally wakes if she’s poorly or has a nightmare but generally goes back to sleep with little bother.
My other half and I debate on what it could be with him. Is he hungry? Is it his teeth? Is it wind? Is it hormones? I have come to the conclusion that we will probably never know! I have also come to the understanding that I’m not going to get a good night sleep until he’s a teenager…anything before that will be a bonus. I’m hoping that by lowering my expectations I will be pleasantly surprised at some point!
As much as I would like there to be a remedy I’m not sure there is. Sorry. Any suggestions welcome. The only thing I can do is to ensure I prepare our days and myself to best cope with the lack of sleep.
Here are my tips to surviving sleep deprivation.
Go to bed early.
I find this one really hard to do. I enjoy my evenings once the children are in bed. It’s adult time and chill out time. So as a compromise to myself, I try to go to bed somewhere between 9pm and 10pm. It might just buy me an extra hour sleep. I also try to make sure I’ve not eaten after 7pm.
Get up on time.
There is nothing worse than kidding yourself another 20 minutes in bed will somehow resolve your tiredness. I know, it feels warm and snug but your head will thump with stress from rushing around too.
Prepare the morning tasks the night before.
I try to make sure all drinks containers are washed, snacks are in the school bag, breakfast items are out ready to be used and school uniforms are ready to put on. My daughter is 4 and can get ready by herself (with a lot of asking) if her clothes are out ready.
Set tasks for your day.
This way you know what you expect from yourself through the day. Set rough times to get tasks done. My worst days are when I have an idea of what I need to do but haven’t really thought it through. I spend the morning trying to plan and it reaches lunchtime before I start anything productive. So whether it’s a day of nothing (which we should do more of but often seems impossible) or a busy day, plan your tasks. Don’t arrange too much though. It’s ok to say no to events and invitations.
It may just be me, but there is a sweet sense of achievement ticking tasks off a to do list. Again it adds some structure to a day. Less thinking for me.
Again, a big fail of mine most of the time but I’m trying to change this. How often do you reply ‘no, it’s ok…[hesitate] i’ll be ok’ when someone offers you help. Someone helping just for a short period of time or for a small task can make all the difference to getting through the day.
Oh and not forgetting chocolate and coffee.
Still need a bit of help being convinced that it’s ok to be sleep deprived, that you CAN cope? Read this poem, it made me cry, yes I’m a soppy so and so! I’m not sure who to credit with this, it’s an image I saved from Facebook. The web address stated isn’t valid. I wish I could credit someone as they are beautiful words.