Solutions for Parental Sleep Deprivation

Heather Chaet

Are you reading this with a cup of java in hand? Are you yawning? Working on, oh, maybe four hours of sleep? Yeah, welcome to the numero-uno thing you have to get used to as a parent: sleep deprivation.

When you were pregnant, how many times did you hear the advice to "sleep when the baby sleeps"? Parents love giving advice on when to get sleep, chatting about the lack of sleep they have had, talking about how their kids slept (or didn't sleep) through the night. Sleep. Parents are obsessed with it ... mainly because none of us are getting enough.

As a new parent, you have to figure out what works for you in dealing with this new lack of sleep phenomena. The whole way you function will change, especially in the first weeks and months of entering The World of Parenthood. Conquering sleep deprivation. How do you do it?

When Kiddo was first born, my husband and I switched off mornings, who would wake up early, who got to catch even a few more precious minutes in Dreamland. We had friends who had Dad always take the night shifts, while Mom would get up in the morning. Other friends swore by the whole "squeeze in naps where you can" philosophy.

I have to say, it kind of never ends, this lack of sleep. I do believe I have been sleep deprived for about four years now ... yeah, Kiddo is 4. I've learned to function on about five hours of sleep per night, sometimes it's a lump of five hours, others it's two hours here, two hours there, and then an hour somewhere else. When she was small, we were up for feedings. When she was a bit older, she'd have bad dreams or cry or lose her binky or be sick or something. Now, she wakes up to go to the bathroom. I'm sure in the years to come, my lack of sleep will be due to waiting up for her to come home from a date or to hear news about midterms or who knows what.

So you have to figure out how you can function now as a mom, right? Some of my mommy friends diligently grab a nap when the kids nap. Others say they changed their diets so as not to eat heavy foods, which made the lack of sleep worse. Many drink much more caffeine than they did in college, while there are a few who have sworn off any stimulants. All say getting exercise helps battle the effects of lack of sleep, which you would think would be the opposite, that exercise would tire you out more, but I guess not. Me? I've tried them all, including sipping coffee while I exercised right after I had a nap. Hate to say it, but I'm still tired. 

How do you deal with the lack of sleep?


Image via smemon87/Flickr

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