Sleep deprivation and how to survive: Parents
Sleep deprivation and how to survive: Parents

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?

Surviving sleep deprivation
Surviving sleep deprivation

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.

Surviving sleep deprivation
Surviving sleep deprivation

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.

You know you're a mum when...
You know you’re a mum when…

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.

Make lists.

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.

ACCEPT HELP.

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.

Sleepless nights
Sleepless nights

The Royal College of Psychiatrists

32 COMMENTS

  1. Oh that poem makes me cry. I’ve read it before so I’m not even going to look as I’ll be a blubbering mess haha. It’s so difficult isn’t it but you have to remind yourself that it’s not forever. I find plenty of coffee helps me haha.

    #KCACOLS

  2. Love the ideas and your so right with them all. And I have to write so many lists or I forget everything #EatSleepBlogRT

  3. Neither of mine have done sleep very well. Number One didn’t sleep through the night until she started school, and Number Two at ten months old still wakes multiple times. I’ve broken all the rules and co-slept with both when they were little, I think my biggest tip would have to be so whatever keeps you sane. Eat chocolate, co-sleep, watch rubbish TV. There’s no right and wrong. Thanks so much for sharing this post at #PostsFromTheHeart I know lots of people will relate.

  4. I am beyond impressed you hv a four yr old who can get ready by herself. My son aged 11 can do it but I have to wind up the big key on his back several times before he finally puts his socks on. Slowly. #KCACOLS

  5. those words are so lovely! We are lucky with my daughter, she generally sleeps through the night no worries, has done since tiny. But every now and then she goes through mad weeks! Where she just seems to wake up for the sheer hell of it, or HAS to sleep in our bed, or she is having nightmares every night. It throws me for a loop, and I struggle a lot! Well done for you keeping sane for so long on sleepless nights! Fingers crossed he grows out of it soon! #KCACOLS

  6. The not going to bed early is always my biggest error! You’ve craved some adult time all day so the thought of going off to bed early and having it all come round again so quickly is so off putting! Sometimes though exhaustion gets the better of me! #postsfromtheheart

  7. So true! I have long forgotten what sleep is and mostly survive on a maximum of 4hrs broken sleep every night. Somehow my body has learned to cope with the lack of sleep and I pray that one day, the boys will give in x

  8. Hahahaha I laughed at the “getting up early” bit- because you are so right. I DO kid myself into thinking that sleeping for an extra 20 minutes will make me feel less tired. And then I run around like a mad woman. Eeeeeverry day. 😂

  9. So true. Great tips here. I try and make sure I go to bed early at least once or twice a week. I find it hard though because my son doesn’t settle until 8/9pm and will be up every so often until 11/12ish then again every 1-2 hours (sometimes three). #KCACOLS

  10. Ugh sleep deprivation. My kids always slept quite well until just before my youngest turned 2 and she just wouldn’t sleep. I was constantly up all night and I don’t know how I survived. Luckily it passed after a few months. I’m terrible at staying up too late though, I just like having that time to myself once the kids are in bed. #fortheloveofblog

  11. I was very lucky with both of my two, they slept through pretty much from about 2 months (I know I am smug). But now I struggle with my sleep, this is because of depression, or is it sleep karma? lol.
    #fortheloveofBLOG

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