Sleep deprivation might go hand in hand with having babies, but it can be a tormenting and emotional journey – which for some parents, is often a lengthy one. And that’s the thing that makes sleep deprivation so hard to cope with. Most of us can deal with a short-term lack of sleep, or the odd night here and there. But when the lack of sleep is ongoing and relentless, that’s where things get hard. None of my babies were ‘good sleepers’, which has amounted to thousands of hours of lost sleep for me along the way. This means that over the years I’ve figured out a few ways to cope with feeling constantly exhausted, both physically and mentally. None of these will get your baby sleeping better – but they might just help keep you afloat while you get the hang of it.
Here are 9 ways to cope with sleep deprivation:
1. Stock up on coffee capsules
If you’re partial to a coffee, do yourself a favour and make sure you never run out of the stuff once you have a baby. If you haven’t come across them already, there will be some torturous mornings that start well before sunrise, when the thought of a cup of coffee will be the only thing holding you together.
2. Snooze when you can
I know the advice to sleep when the baby sleeps isn’t always realistic. There are dishes to wash, showers to take and coffee to reheat, plus if your baby is like any of mine have been, they’ll wake up the instant you drop off. But if you’re the type that can nod off easily, you might as well take advantage off the chance to catch up on a bit of shut-eye whenever the opportunity presents itself – even if it’s 15 minutes on the couch while the baby is asleep. The dishes can wait.
3. Get out and about
So you feel like you’ve been hit by a truck. All the make-up in the world couldn’t hide your tired, grey pallor. The last thing you feel like is being out in public. But joining the real world can do wonders for dusting off the cobwebs and giving you an energy boost. Your baby will probably enjoy the change of scenery too. Pile on the under eye concealer, grab your sunnies and get out there.
4. Know you’re not alone
You’re far from the only mum suffering from ongoing sleep deprivation, even though it might feel like you’re the only one with a baby who doesn’t sleep. Seek out the other tired mums and commiserate together. Together you can swap notes, compare stories and cheer each other on. You might even find yourselves having a good laugh about it all, which is always therapeutic.
5. Know that it won’t go on forever
Sleep deprivation can feel all-consuming and like there’s no way out, but I promise you it won’t go on forever. There will be a time in the not-too-distant future when you will all be getting decent sleep and wondering what all the fuss was about. Whether the settling technique finally works, you decide to co-sleep, or even get some professional help in, there is definitely light at the end of the tunnel.
6. It’s not about you
The worst thing about sleep deprivation is that we tend to blame ourselves, especially when it feels like other everyone else’s baby has got the hang of sleep. It’s not your fault, and you’re not ‘doing it wrong’. All babies are different, and not all of them are sleep-lovers. Some mums just get the wakeful babies.
7. Seek support
While it’s completely normal for babies to wake in the night, you don’t actually have to suffer through the ongoing lack of sleep, especially if it’s getting worse rather than better. There’s this pressure on mums to ‘just get on with it’ and tough it out, which is destructive and unnecessary. There are lots of services around that you can contact if you need a hand.
8. Talk about it
If you keep telling your loved ones that ‘you’re fine’ and not letting them know how much you’re struggling, they won’t be able to support you. Please don’t pretend to the world that everything’s okay when it’s not. Talking about how you’re really feeling can be a wonderful release and help get you the support you need.
9. Accept help
If a neighbour offers to cook you some food, say yes. If a friend offers to hold your baby so you can spend the afternoon in bed, go for it! This is not the time to let pride get in the way. You can always return the favour or pen a thank you note down the track. For now, just say YES.