If there is one thing that we as a human race should invent, it has to be a system to store sleep. We live in a world filled with technological geniuses who create new inventions almost daily and yet no one has been able to find a scientific solution to the very common problem of sleep deprivation, except, of course, to tell us to sleep more. But as every parent knows, sleep is one luxury that is in very low supply.
This weekend, for example, we went on a much-anticipated date night. When we got home, tired and ready for bed, Bean was wide awake. With difficulty, he finally fell asleep around 2 am, only to wake up again at 6 am. Now, how absolutely amazing would it have been if we could have simply tapped into a supply of stored sleep, instead of getting through our day like a pair of zombies?
Seeing as our scientific community has, however, let us down in this department, I have put together a list of 5 tips to help every parent deal with the continuous lack of sleep.
Stop feeling sorry for yourself
I get it, you are tired. Being a parent means that you probably didn’t get enough sleep last night, or the night before, or even the night before that, but wallowing in a sea of self-pity will only make the situation worse and bring unnecessary negativity into your life and home.
These sleep-deprived days are exhausting, but you need to ‘man up’ as they say, make the best of the day ahead and trust that one day you will sleep again.
Share the load
Take the night and early morning shifts in turns, ask someone to watch your child while you have an afternoon nap (even a 15-minute power nap can work wonders) or indulge in a sneaky snooze while your child naps (the dishes can wait).
If you have no one to share the sleep-deprivation-load with, take a couple of minutes out of every day to simply be. Sit down somewhere alone and just breathe, centre yourself. I often have an extra-long shower in the morning and most of this time is spent simply standing still, letting the water wash over me. It is the only time I have to just be and I relish it.
Ditch the Caffeine & Eat Healthily
Yes, I know, ditching caffeine sounds counterintuitive – coffee is what makes me get through most mornings as well. The good news is that you do not have to give it up altogether, simply in the afternoons and evenings. Believe it or not, sleep is the best cure for sleep deprivation (insert sarcastic wink here) and the best way to guarantee enough sleep is to sleep when your child is sleeping. And that means going to bed early. Having too much caffeine during the day will prevent you from doing this.
Our body gives back what we put into it and the best way to refuel those tired old bones is to eat good food. I can feel the negative effects on my body when I have over-indulged in the bad stuff (specifically food high in preservatives, trans fats, colourants and sugars). I therefore try and stick to a healthy, natural diet, including as many super foods as possible, and it has had a huge impact on my daily energy levels.
The benefits of exercise have been well-documented so I am not going to list them all here (you are all aware of them), but I will note that exercise will make any tired body and mind feel refreshed and awake. I often go for early morning walks with Bean (even when I am really tired) and although it feels like a drag in the beginning, those endorphins soon kick in, making me feel fantastic, refreshed and ready for the day ahead.
If you do not have the means or the time to go to the gym or for a long walk, create your own 15-minute exercise circuit at home. You do not need a lot of space or time for this and best of all, your littles can join in on the fun.
Limit screen time before bed
A while ago, I got into the habit of checking my phone, scrolling through all my social media feeds, before going to bed. Not only did this prevent me from going to sleep at a decent time, it often woke me up more when I saw something interesting. I soon realised that this ‘always-on’ mentality is encroaching on my much-needed sleep time, so I stopped it. Now, I read a book: it allows me to escape, to switch off from my daily troubles and to fall asleep peacefully.
A bedroom is supposed to be a sanctity for rest, so remove all screens from your room and invest in an alarm clock. Allow our mind to switch off properly before going to bed.
Maybe one day, we really will have a way in which we can store sleep. For now, the good news is that as our bodies get accustomed to less sleep, we have the opportunity to experience more of our daily lives and our kids in the limited time we have.