Parenting: 20 Ways to Cope With Sleep Deprivation

Three-week-old Lily

Sleep deprivation is one area of parenting where I have a lot of experience. Nobody would call my kids “good” sleepers, and having three in under three and a half years probably doesn’t help. Advice for dealing with sleep deprivation is probably my most-asked-in-real-life question – mainly because everybody knows my kids don’t sleep! I asked the ladies of the Kid Blogger Network for their advice, and compiled the twenty most popular tips. Here they are – and if you’re looking for tips on getting your child to sleep at night, try this post at B-InspiredMama.com!

  • Remember that it won’t last forever. Even my kids start sleeping through the night eventually, my first after their fourth birthday and the others much sooner… Many kids start sleeping through the night well before their first birthday.
  • See the humor in your sleep-deprived behavior – I LOVE these Confessions of a Sleep Deprived Mommy from Mommy With Selective Memory.
  • Consider safe co-sleeping.
  • Have someone else watch the kids so you can sleep.
  • Swap off who gets up with the kids on the weekends with your spouse.
  • Teach kids to have quiet time, even if they aren’t napping, so you can nap. When Emma was a very-much-not-sleeping-through-the-night toddler and I was pregnant with Johnny I used to go with her into her (very child-proofed) room, close the door, and sleep while she played. Don’t underestimate the value of power naps.
  • Embrace the benefits. I’ve learned to use these quiet hours in the middle of the night to bond with the child who is awake. It can also be a great time for reflection, prayer, or meditation if you don’t let yourself get upset about being awake.
  • Don’t try to be supermom. Leave the dishes/laundry/cleaning for another day. Families need rested mothers!
  • Take vitamins! Vitamin D and Fish Oil/Omega 3 may be especially helpful (check with your doctor, first). I switched over to a vitamin that included DHA when Emma was a few months old and felt much better.
  • Realize that your body will adjust over time.
  • Write everything down – your tired mind needs all the help it can get! To quote Caz at A Little Learning For Two: “Our youngest has a sleep onset disorder and hasn’t slept well from day dot. My only suggestions are to keep a notepad and pen in your bag because your memory will never be the same, be as organized as possible, learn to enjoy sleeping on carpet and make sure you eat as healthily as possible!” I use Google calendar, a white board, AND write everything down on a paper calendar. And still forget things, sometimes.
  • Have activities planned to help make it through the day after a rough night. I try to have something quiet the kids can do first thing in the morning so that I have time to wake up slowly without resolving sibling conflicts or listening to complaints.
  • Go to bed early. Many kids sleep best during the first few hours of the night. Mike and I were going to bed at 8pm for a while, when we had all THREE kids waking up nearly every night…
  • Make sure you drink water during the day.
  • Exercise.
  • Apologize and Forgive. As Rebekah at The Golden Gleam says, “Forgive yourself and apologize to others when you are not a very nice person to be around because of sleep deprivation. It was so easy to be gentle and kind to my baby daughter, but it wasn’t as easy for me to deal with other adults because I was giving everything I had to give to my daughter because of her intense sleep needs. My husband put up with a lot, but it doesn’t last forever and now that she is older I have more to give to the other people in my life.”
  • Sometimes you just need to cry. Teething babies, sick kids, and night terrors tend to break me down.
  • Give yourself some downtime, in the morning or evening. Or both!
  • Make the most of little luxuries. Time out with friends, a bath, or something as simple as a food you love can make it easier to cope.
  • Don’t blame yourself. I love this advice from Allie at No Time For Flashcards: “Do not think you are doing something wrong. Once I accepted my kids’ temperaments, the way they nurse my commitment to nursing and to addressing their needs at any time of day or middle of the night it was way way easier.”

Updating this post with an important addition from commenter Jen:

I’d like to add one more tip: If none of the above are working, if you just cannot cope with life, please see your doctor. It could be postpartum depression, and you could be on your way to feeling much better with support and counseling and medication. It’s not you, it’s your brain.

What are your best tips?

Special thanks to the moms who blog at A Little Learning For Two, at home with Ali, B-InspiredMama.com, Busy Kids = Happy Mom, Creative Family Fun, Creekside Learning, Curly Birds, Glittering Muffins, Growing a Jeweled Rose, hands on: as we grow, JDaniel4’s Mom, make, do & friend, Mom to 2 Posh Lil Divas, Mommy With Selective Memory, No Time For Flashcards, Playawayonline, Rainy Day Mum, Red Ted Art, Sense of Wonder, Teach Preschool, The Educators’ Spin On It, The Golden Gleam, The Good Long Road, The Iowa Farmer’s Wife, and Toddler Approved for their help with this post!

a book full of baby play ideas that will help you enjoy parenting a baby and bond with your baby.

Comments

  1. Laura says

    Cosleeping never appealed to me. When my son was 14 weeks old and only taking 20 min naps during the day, and it took him over an hour or more of coaxing to fall asleep at night (oh, and several night wakings to nurse) AND his 2 year old brother ALSO refused to nap (screamed the whole two hours) while taking 2 hours of screaming to fall asleep at night, there was no other option that CIO. I had nothing left to give my children. I had severe PPD (undiagnosed) and being around them when they were crying was heartbreaking and maddening at the same time. After 2 weeks of CIO the newborn went from crying for 45 min, to whining for a minute or less at naptime, and for less than 5 minutes at bedtime, with only 2 night wakings. The toddler was just going through a phase and after a few weeks, went back to normal sleep patterns. But mama was a wreck!

    Moral of the story: Do what you have to do, to get your kids to sleep. And see your doctor if you don’t want to be around your kids (how my PPD manifested)

  2. Krista says

    I couldn’t have found this at a better time! My almost 2 year old has hit a horrible sleeping phase and I feel more sleep deprived than I did when he was a newborn! He’s always been a horrible napper but slept 14-15 a night so I’ve been spoiled lol. I guess I just have to remember it doesn’t last forever!!

  3. says

    God is a God of order and babies benefit from a FLEXIBLE routine that includes predictable nap times. All babies can learn to put themselves to sleep with appropriate training from their parents. The crying that naturally happens during this training is short term – if done effectively you will not have a baby that cries for long periods every nap time – they learn to go to sleep very quickly. Mothers need to get good rest so that they can be good Mothers. It was sad to read a comment above about not having more children because of the sleep deprivation that results. I have 6 blessings from God who have all slept through the night before 3 months (the twins slept though at 5 months but 3 months adjusted age.) Always feed a hungry baby, change a wet one, burp a windy one but when there is nothing wrong with them, they just need to sleep. Take a Preparation for Parenting class and learn how to help your baby truly become a blessing to your family.

  4. Julia says

    I just have to say how beautiful this post is! There are so many factors when it comes to sleep! For us, it took 2.5 years. My son has dealt with horribly itchy eczema that would keep him awake, and if he was not in our bed, he would itch himself raw and bloody. Around the age of 2, he moved out of our bed, but I would nurse him to sleep in his own bed. Soon after, his little brother was born, and within a few months, our oldest started sleeping through the night with a fan blowing (that was key). Now, he’ll only get up if he has to use the potty. Our infant is not sleeping through the night, but I haven’t felt like putting in much effort since he naps beautifully in the crib and why go through the trouble if hubby and I don’t mind having him with us, especially while teething etc? God Bless!!!!!!!!!

  5. Jennifer Kitterman says

    If you’re trying to get your child to sleep more, you have to try the sleep sense program! I finally found this program when my daughter was 5 months old, she was sleeping only 3 hours at a time at night, the day I found this program and read through it she slept 10 hours! I’ve since used it with my two boys and they have been sleeping for 12 hours at night since they were 6 weeks old! I can’t say enough about this program! It works! Check it out :) http://www.sleepsense.net/share.html?w=buynow&p=jensleeps

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