Ahh sleep deprivation! Something all parents know far too well. My first experience was in pregnancy, especially during my last trimester. I was SO uncomfortable, with a mixture of heartburn and restless leg syndrome making it almost impossible to get sleep, not to mention it taking hours just to get comfortable. Of course I still had silly comments like… “Get the most of sleep, it’ll be gone before you know it” – incorrect! At 35 weeks pregnant I felt like I had already said farewell to sleep.
After my beautiful boy was born, I thought I had hit the jackpot. Oliver slept through, that’s right… SLEPT THROUGH! He would maybe wake for a breastfeed at around 5am, but would sleep back through until around 9am, and boy did I brag about it. Obviously karma got the better of me because at around 4 weeks old his colic kicked in and it was “Adios, sleep!” and “Hola, sleep deprivation”. To put it bluntly: The. Child. Would. Not. Sleep. Yet, still I had people making stupid comments like “You look tired, you should sleep when baby sleeps” – assuming that said baby even slept? I remember thinking to myself “f*****g idiots”
Now at 2.5 years Oliver is slightly better with his sleep, I say slightly because last Sunday he had me up at 4am (ON MY ONE DAY OFF). I think all parents have experienced sleep deprivation at some point, and it’s a whole new level of tired because, although you’re exhausted, you still have this little human to care for (and I’m convinced Oliver has this way of sensing when I am shattered).
So here are some of my tips for surviving sleep deprivation with a little one:
- Forget the house work, if you have had a bad night with your little bundle of joy IF they nap, you nap too.
- Lazy days are a MUST. If both you and baby have had a rough night, a day with blankets, snacks and films are essential.
- know your limits, say no to people ” popping round ” Unless of course it’s a close friend or relative who is prepared to help said sleep deprivation
- IGNORE any comments on how tired you look. There is categorically no such thing as a perfect-looking sleep deprived parent – they’re a myth.
- Caffeine (unless you’re breastfeeding) – I have had and still have many a day where I can be seen clutching onto a coffee first thing in the morning, followed by an energy drink at lunch time to stop me crashing. A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do, and a 7 hour shift with 3.5 hours sleep is no walk in the park, let me tell you!
- Accept any help. I’m fortunate that my sister is studying to be a SEN teacher, so she often offers to watch Oliver for an hour if I have had a bad night so that I can get some much needed shut eye (especially if I am having an endometriosis flare up/PCOS flare up)!
My final piece of advice is remember that sleep deprivation isn’t permanent. It does get better, and although you may feel like a complete Zombie right now, it will pass, and to put it bluntly (because I never have and never will sugar-coat parenting), you are not the only parent going through this. Anyone who says their child has always slept through the night is lying, all children go through a phase of not sleeping!