Exhaustion is a rite of passage for new parents. These high-maintenance little creatures are sometimes even incredibly high-maintenance overnight. I can’t count the number of people who, upon seeing me and my daughter out and about, don’t comment on cuteness, blue eyes or chubby cheeks but instead ask, “Is she sleeping?” And my honest answer is usually, “Oh, not at all.”
Which isn’t totally true. She sleeps. Just in fits and starts.
An ever-so-brief run-down of our sleep situation:
Up until last week, at just over 7 months old, my baby hadn’t slept for more than four hours straight. Ever. There were a few months she was sleeping in our bed that I didn’t notice the waking as much, but she’s now back in her crib and we’re readjusting. And by readjusting, I mean worse-than-newborn sleep. Waking up every hour or two, all night long. Sometimes twice an hour. And just when I’d started to think that my baby was sleep-defective, miracles started happening. It started with a 4-hour stretch of sleep. And then we hit a couple of 6-hour stretches. And while technically a 5-hour stretch is considered sleeping through the night, five hours is NOT impressive to me when the sleeper goes to bed at 8 p.m. But these 6-hour stretches? This is practically cause for a freaking party.
So these last seven months have been exhausting. Add that to pregnancy and getting up every hour to pee, and I haven’t had an uninterrupted night of sleep in well over a year. And even if I cobble together 9 or 10 hours of interrupted sleep, it is not the same as having 7 or 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep.
So how have I coped with sleep deprivation? I’ve learned a few tips along the way.
8 Tips for Coping with Sleep Deprivation
1. Sleep when the baby sleeps, modified. If you can swing it, sleep when the baby sleeps. But that only worked for me for a few of the early days. Because while in theory it’s good advice—take sleep when you can get it—it’s so impractical. After those first few weeks, things start getting back to normal around the house, help leaves, and there is laundry, grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning to be done. So when your baby is sleeping, if you’re like me, you take advantage of that free time and get busy. But try to catch a nap or two during the day—without guilt. Or better yet, go to bed super early at night, have the hubby take the first wake-up, and get some uninterrupted sleep. You’ll feel like a new woman.
2. Coffee. I’m not dependent on coffee to get me through the day. Just the mornings. A cup or two of java resets my thinking, gets my brain going and is a warm, reassuring reminder that today is a new day.
3. Water. After that initial cup or two of coffee, make sure you’re hydrating the rest of the day. Water does so much for making you feel good, much better than a steady IV of caffeine would. Drink up!
4. Exercise. It’s so counter-intuitive. When you’re exhausted, the last thing you want to do is get moving. I FEEL YA. But trust me, even 10 minutes of walking, stretching or a workout DVD is enough to make you feel energized. Some days it’s as good as a nap.
5. Get outside. Sunshine and fresh air can be so good for your sleep-deprived state. So unless it’s raining, make sure you step outside for at least a few minutes every day.
6. Stay busy. Whether you’re at home with the kids or working out of the home, stay busy. Sleep deprivation really hits hard when you’re in boring meetings or are zoning out in front of the computer at the office, so stay as busy as you possibly can. When all else fails, take a quick walk around the office or a run up the stairs. If you’re home, go run an errand or take a walk.
7. Have hubby take one for the team. Because my husband works out of the home and I’m lucky that I get to work from home AND I’m breastfeeding, I suck it up and get up with Avery so that he can have uninterrupted sleep and be a real human at the office. But if you and your partner both work, you must share overnight baby duty, even if you’re breastfeeding. Or if you’re like me and do the majority of the overnights, put the hubby on duty on the weekends every now and then so you can get a full night’s rest. If you’re a single mama, don’t turn down any offers for help! Friends are great for babysitting while you catch a nap.
8. Know this too shall pass. I hope.
What about you guys? Any tips for coping with a case of the chronic sleepies? —Erin