Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Top Ten Tips: On how to cope with sleep deprivation

Anyone who has a baby knows that sleep quickly becomes an essential but rare commodity.

The usual sleeping tips like "have a hot shower, hot drink and exercise regularly" mean nothing when you have a baby. The trouble with parents is not that they CAN'T sleep, but rather that their little darlings have other plans! So, if we can't get our beauty sleep, how do we cope?

Here are my top ten tips for resting (not sleeping - forget about that!)

1. Lie down or do something restful whenever you can. I'm not talking about sleeping. If you have a baby who sleeps a lot and you can sleep during the day, lucky you! But if, like many mums, you have a baby who sleeps 40 minutes at a time, don't even bother trying to sleep! But even just lying back and putting your feet up with a book (or whatever else relaxes you) is good for your body. Stop equating rest with sleeping.

2. Do restful things while spending time with bub. Lie on your bed and sing to her. Read her a story in the quiet of her room. Go outside and lie together on a picnic blanket and talk about what you see.

3. Rest while bottle or breastfeeding. Put on a movie, or get a book. Do something you enjoy. Reframe feeding time as a time for you. A time you can look forward to.

4. If you are breastfeeding, learn to feed your baby while lying down. That way you can nap too. Please please please do make sure you are aware of SIDS recommendations though.

5. Simplify your life. Trying to stay on top of laundry, dishes, mopping, sweeping, dinner AND looking after your new baby can be very overwhelming. Pick a few tasks that are important to you and let go of the rest.

6. Accept offers of help. You don't have to do everything. Saying yes to offers of help does not mean you are not coping. It means you value yourself enough to take some time out. Isn't that the example you want to set for your children?

7. Take a break from your baby. Go out on your own but also with your partner. Don't underestimate how relaxing even half an hour at your favorite coffee shop can be. 

8. Look after yourself. Soak your feet for 10 minutes in a foot spa. And if you don't have one, use a bucket! Lather your body with some moisturizer. Burn some essential oils. All these little actions will help you relax and feel better about yourself. And you can even do them while your baby is awake. Maybe massage him with some baby moisturiser while you are at it.

9. Avoid any stimulants like coffee, coke or energy drinks, which will stimulate you and stop you from relaxing and sleeping when your baby does give you a break. If you have to have stimulants, limit its use.

10. Change your attitude to your lack of sleep. Telling yourself over and over again that you NEED to sleep will not make you feel any better. Try telling yourself that even though you could really do with some sleep, you WILL cope.

As a final note, remember that this too shall pass. It may take a few years but hey, who has ever heard of an 18 year old not sleeping throught the night? ;-)

Photo source: Stuart Miles.


  1. This is fantastic.

    My best friend has a 10 day old.

    I've just printed this out & plan to give it to her :) xx

  2. Glad you found it useful. But 10??? Please tell me there is hope!?!

  3. Ab-so-bloody-lutely Anna! I am a big advocate of breastfeeding as rest time! For the first few weeks after bringing the twins home, I used to set myself up on the couch, with my legs up, twin feeding pillow in front of me and Roo on her fold out couch at the foot of the couch, and we'd watch a movie together, or I would download an Audio book onto my iPod and listen (seriously THE best thing I ever did!)

  4. Totally use breastfeeding time as you time!! With my son I watched TV series on DVD, this time I a Kindle and a smartphone!

  5. This is such fantastic advise Anna. I have had almost 3 and a half years of chronic sleep deprivation and my advise would be to go slow. If I get 3 hours sleep in a row now I am amazed at how clear and calm my mind is!

  6. Great post Anna! My friend has a 6 week old that likes to have her crying time between 2 and 6am each morning, obviously my friend is completely exhausted. She is also a frantic breastfeeder.
    I will be sharing this with her and hopefully it will give her some peace of mind x

  7. Oh Erin! It's so hard when bubs have their witching hour in the early hours of the morning. I hope your friend can use some of these tips.

  8. You do get used to the sleep deprivation too. Full nights of sleep are rare in this house (Mr almost 4 still regularly wakes at night - moreso than Mr 1). But, I am so used to the broken sleep, that I am actually more exhausted when I do get the odd night of 8 hours sleep!!!

  9. That is so true Erin. I was recently telling hubby how when I do get a good night sleep I cope less well the next day! I feel more tired.

  10. I missed this post when you originally posted it Anna (hence the late comment) I believe that the also important to sleep is trying to maintain good posture through out the day. I find that I round my shoulders when feeding (whatever it takes to maintain the attachment) I wish I could have more time for a massage- but until then I focus on keeping my shoulders back :)

  11. Very true Sara. I used to getvsuch bad back pain with my first one!


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