This last week has been a killer for sleep – I reckon I’ve had an average of about 4 hours a night since Tuesday. I don’t cope well with sleep deprivation, but since becoming a mum, I’ve had to find ways to just plough on. Once we got past the 6 month mark and she didn’t magically start sleeping throughout the night (damn you babycentre/health visitor/baby books, DAMN YOUR LIES!), I had to accept that she might not sleep throughout he night until sometime in the distant future. Yes, it took me that long to realise, but once I did, life got better. In fact, I think my whole parenting ethos changed too and for the better.
Some of these are general good tips you’ll probably find anywhere, but others are things that I found work for me and help me get through the day. Or sometimes, get through the hour. It’s a work in progress. I still get overwhelmed, irrationally angry, tearful. Some days I don’t manage to do any of these things, and I feel tied to the sofa all day, but some days I surprise myself with how well I cope and how much I manage to do. So, in no particular order:
1. Get some fresh air. Okay, I guess this comes with exercise. Not only will it make you feel energised while you are in it, it will help you feel more relaxed when you do get some downtime, and hopefully aid sleep. Exercise and fresh air will also improve your sense of wellbeing, staving off some of the dark feelings that can come with sleep deprivation. There is good evidence now that exercise is beneficial to people suffering with mental health problems, including post-natal depression. You don’t need to go far or fast. Just go.
2.Try not to OD on caffeine. Temping as it is. I am a big tea drinker, and lately I enjoy an instant coffee at around 4pm to get me through the ‘last push’ to bedtime (it’s really not that much of a battle, but when you’re tired, you need all the help you can get, no?) I try to keep a track on my own intake, and space them out. I’m sure there are some fancy pants research about how much you should have, but I know what works for me, and I use it. Ditto alcohol. I don’t drink every night of the week, but I do enjoy a glass of wine or a bottle of beer to help me unwind. It’s about balance. I’ve tried to be a health freak martyr drinking only water and herbal teas, but I simply love the comfort and ceremony of tea, so it’s here to stay.
3. Rest – even if it’s not sleep. The little chicken goes through phases of great sleep/naps and terrible ones. When its terrible, I sometimes avoid the nap time battle altogether because I simply can’t cope with it. Instead, I pop some toys and books in her cot, gently sit her down in there, and retreat to my room where I close the curtains and my eyes for 10 minutes, 15 if I’m lucky. It’s just enough to avoid a meltdown (me not her!)
4. Give yourself a break. Really. Just breathe. You are doing fine. The housework can wait, and you can have oven chips for tea again.
5. Ask for help. I’m no good at this, but I’m 100% certain that if I had a person that I felt comfortable to ask, I would have a greater level of week-to-week sanity (thereby avoiding the weekend meltdown that tends to happen). If you have a willing family member, ask them if they’d like to take the baba for a walk in the pram for an hour. But I absolutely insist that you go immediately to bed and don’t even start checking your social media accounts, okay?!
6. Early nights. Some days, this is impossible – seriously, I don’t don’t know what happens, but it gets to 10pm and I’m only just going into relax mode. Other times, I have to bow out of couple-time a bit early, otherwise I become resentful of the time ‘demanded’ of me (clearly, it’s my own choice, but sleep-deprived brain cells become a bit irrational)
7. Treats. Whatever works for you. Mine are mainly sweet treats. Yes it’s ‘unhealthy’, but it’s good for the soul. Like the lack of sleep – it’s not forever, I can walk it off, plus I’m still breastfeeding, and it’s a mood elevator.
8. Positive self-talk. See number 4. You need to tell yourself you are doing okay, and not beat yourself up. You need to remind yourself almost constantly that it will end, that the next day, week, hour, whatever – its going to be better.
9. Music. This makes such a huge difference. We don’t have a television set, so Radio 4 and 6Music are the stations of choice. A good song coming on the radio can make or break a moment, and spur me on for another hour. Even better, I stick the iPod on and have a sing or a boogie. It’s a definite mood lifter either way. Current favourites are Daft Punk and Led Zeppelin.
10. Laughter. This kind of goes hand in hand with letting go and giving yourself, and your partner a break. Sometimes you have to hold your tongue, see the funny side. Recognise that you are both tired. You are both working hard. Don’t hang onto your feeling of crapness like a trophy, let it go, and have a laugh. It will keep you close and it will release stress.
It’s about acceptance, and being kind to yourself. What have you found to help you overcome or manage tiredness or sleep deprivation?