If you have had a newborn in your home, it is a safe bet that you have experienced sleep deprivation. WebMD defines sleep deprivation as, “a general lack of the amount and quality of sleep needed for a person to feel alert and awake.” To me, this means that sleep deprivation may very well extend far past the newborn phase. If you have a child who deals with nightmares, nighttime incontinence, or just can’t get themselves back to sleep in the middle of the night, your own sleep will be interrupted. Regular interruptions in your sleep will lead to sleep deprivation.
When Sleep Deprivation’s Got You Down
Sure, sleep deprivation makes you super tired during the day and has you doing things like putting the dirty laundry in the trash can. But sleep deprivation also has several serious side effects. Sleep deprivation can lead to stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, low or no sex drive, along with a a slew of other negative consequences on your health. Sleep deprivation has been strongly linked to depression and a lack of sleep reduces your ability to focus and reason.
How the heck are you supposed to be a good parent, spouse, employee, whatever, while dealing with sleep deprivation? The paradox is obvious. Parenting a newborn is a gigantic responsibility. The stakes have never been higher, no more has ever been asked of you (or at least it feels that way) than the day you bring your baby home from the hospital. And of course, once the sleep deprivation sets it, you most likely have never been more unfit to make decisions, more unfocused, or more overwhelmed.
While there are loads of resources to help everyone in your family get more sleep, I understand that sometimes it just isn’t in the cards. Sometimes sleeping when the baby sleeps doesn’t work out. Sometimes the wakes up every two hours and you take twenty minutes to fall back asleep. It’s hard. Finding a balance between taking care of yourself and managing all of your many responsibilities feels like an impossible task.
How to Manage Your Life
If you find yourself in this place- the place where you, despite your best efforts, cannot seem to catch up on sleep and your world is suffering because of it – there are some things you can do to help make your life more manageable.
When you are a sleep deprived parent, you never know how much sleep you are going to get the night before. You can’t count on your ability to be productive or clear headed, so leaving yourself with as few decisions as possible is ideal. Plan ahead. Plan your meals, schedule your days, and make backup plans for when things go awry. When you are sleep deprived, your brain is NOT working at its full function. The state of overwhelm is always just a few minutes away, so do all you can to keep it at bay.
Whenever you have a spare moment, take a few minutes to sit down with your planner. Try to front load your week, giving yourself some grace in case you need an extra day or four to tackle your weekly tasks. Plan your meals and prep them if you have time.
Plan your meals and keep it simple.
Find 5-10 recipes that your family likes, that are simple to prepare and keep well for leftovers. Rotate them during this period of sleep deprivation. This will simplify your grocery shopping and your daily routine. Crock pot meals and casseroles are lifesavers for dinners. Big batch breakfasts, leftovers for lunch, and raw fruits and veggies for snacks will all give you one less thing to worry about on a daily basis.
Do a little at a time.
It may seem like more work, but it’s easier to clean a small mess more often than it is to tackle a large mess once a week. What does this mean? Don’t let the dishes and laundry pile up. I try to do laundry whenever I know I have at least one load. I can wash, dry, fold, and put away all in one day. If I let it pile up, the mountain of laundry will take me days to tackle…and there comes that feeling of overwhelm.
Get together a list of the tasks that need to be done each week – dusting, sweeping and mopping floors, – and give yourself just one or two to do each day. Keep it manageable.
Take care of yourself.
You are sleep deprived, Mama. Apart from being tough on your ability to focus and think clearly, it is actually rough on your body. So, don’t skimp on your nutrition and water intake. Don’t start training for a marathon, but DO make sure you are moving your body.
If you are already feeling overextended, for the love of Frank, don’t make it worse by agreeing to dinner with friends, doing favors for your mom, or volunteering for a church fundraiser. Your day is coming, but it ain’t today. For today, focus on taking care of yourself and your family.
This might sound like a no brainer, but, undoubtedly, someone still needs to hear it. When the kids go to bed, it is so tempting to just turn on Netflix, pop open some wine, and get yourself some alone time. I get it. You are burned out and the opportunity to mentally unwind seems glorious. But you need all the sleep you can get and if your sleep is interrupted, going to bed early will help. Go to bed at 7:00 P.M. with the baby if you have to. Just sleep when you can.
“It’s a season.”
This is how I get through all the difficult parenting days (and nights). I repeat to myself over and over, “It’s a season. It’s a season. It’s a season.” The good and the bad are both fleeting. None of this will last forever and you will one day have your life back. In the meantime, do whatever you can to make it easier on yourself, so that you can enjoy those sweet moments with your young family.
Remember to have grace with yourself. Nobody gets it all right all the time. I can almost guarantee that your kids think you are a superhero, no matter how much you think you are a hot mess. Try – do try – to enjoy this beautiful mess of motherhood, and take heart. One day you will sleep again.