For some folks, all it takes is a couple nights of broken sleep to start to feel sleep deprived. So what’s a new parent to do when your baby has to wake up every 2 to 3 hours to feed, causing what can essentially add up to months of broken sleep?
The first thing to remember is that this is just a phase, and by the time your little one is 3 months old, she’ll start sleeping for longer stretches at night. And by the time she reaches 6 months, she’s capable of sleeping all night long.
There are also things you can do to help you get back to sleep faster after the late-night 3am feed. We hope they help you get a few more quality zzzz’s, because the only real cure for sleep deprivation is to get more sleep.
Until that glorious night comes when you can get 7 to 8 hours of uninterrupted time in Dreamland (it will come, we promise), there are simple actions you can take to help cope with sleep deprivation in the short term.
Scenario #1: You hit snooze on your alarm again and again
If you find yourself routinely hitting the snooze button on your alarm clock and rolling over to fall back asleep when you should be getting out of bed, try this simple tip: Turn the volume up and move your alarm to the other side of your bedroom. That way you’ll be forced to get out of bed to turn it off. And don’t set your alarm for way earlier than you need to get up just so you can hit the snooze button a bunch of times. Doing that just interrupts your sleep even more.
Scenario #2: You feel lethargic all day
Can’t shake that groggy feeling even after you’ve woken up, showered, and had breakfast? This may sound obvious, but a caffeine boost could be just what you need. Just stick to the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendation of less than 3 cups of coffee a day if you’re breastfeeding, and try not to drink it in the afternoon as it could keep you up at bedtime. Besides caffeine (or in addition to it), you can eat energy-boosting foods like peanuts, apples, and yogurt to help stay alert throughout the day.
Scenario #3: You have a hard time concentrating at work
Maybe you’re catching yourself nodding off during meetings or find it extra difficult to complete tasks and make decisions. If this is sounding familiar, try rearranging your work schedule so that easier projects are on your plate after a particularly tough night, and leave the more demanding work for another day. If that’s not possible, consider tackling the challenging work in the morning when you’re likely to be most alert, and do the simpler stuff later in the day after your caffeine kick has worn off.
You can also open a window or step outside for some fresh air, splash cool water in your face, and have a cold drink on hand to help keep you awake and more alert at work. And if you can swing it, grab a 15-minute power nap during your lunch break, which can work wonders to keep you charged up for the rest of the day.
Scenario #4: You nod off after you eat
What you eat during a sleep-deprived day can have a big impact on how you feel. If you find yourself reaching for a pillow an hour after lunch, it’s probably a good idea to reassess what’s on the menu. Instead of going for heavy foods like burgers, pizza, and fries, put energy-boosting foods on your plate. Eggs, oatmeal, apples, salmon, trail mix, yogurt, and hummus are all great examples of food that will perk you up rather than put you down.
Scenario #5: Simple chores are anything but simple
When you’re sleep deprived, even the most basic and routine tasks can become difficult to complete. Getting all the laundry done was a cinch a year ago, but right now it feels like running a marathon while doing rocket science at the same time. If this is happening to you and you’re starting to feel overwhelmed, take a deep breath and try to see the big picture: This is only happening because you’re sleep deprived, and you’re sleep deprived because you’re doing an amazing job looking after your baby. Then cut yourself some slack and simplify your to-do list. Try to tackle just one small task a day, and don’t sweat it if that doesn’t get done. Taking care of your kiddo is your number 1 job right now, and you’re employee of the month.
Being a sleep-deprived new parent is temporary, and the day will come when you wake up feeling fully refreshed again. Until then, we sincerely hope these tips help you cope on your worst sleep-deprived days.