Sleep Deprived Caregivers
You are at a point where you have a new baby or an older child, you have tried sleep coaching, are in the middle of sleep coaching, or have not done sleep coaching, your little one is sick or teething, or because you are a parent juggling a thousand things at once and you are EXHAUSTED!!
Exhaustion happens to if not all, most, parents in in their lifetime of raising young children. It seems that most emphasis is on getting kids to sleep well and not a lot of information for the parents who are also suffering from the lack of sleep. It has probably been a long time, even longer than you think, since you have had a full, uninterrupted, blissful, sleep. So, you are exhausted and sleep deprived, now what?!?
Exhaustion or Post-Partum Fatigue can affect every aspect of your life from your health all the way to your work, your post baby recovery if your little one is a newborn, and how you can function overall in your day. With frequent night wakings parents are unable to enter restorative sleep cycles throughout the night because of interruptions. Some common symptoms or results of sleep deprivation include:
Easily frustrated by daily tasks
Negative thoughts about yourself, your baby, or in general
All of the above symptoms can really impact your life and make it difficult to get through the day. These symptoms can be accentuated when more than one little one or other life events are taking place that the same time.
** If you are having a hard time or are frequently experiencing saddened moods, hallucinations, or negative thoughts please speak with your public health nurse, physician, or counsellor to get guidance and resources on how to more effectively work on your situation. This is very common and you are not alone.
“Momsomnia” is a term that was developed by Marcie & Sandy Jones that describes when you finally get a chance to sleep you can’t because you “just know” that the baby, or the doorbell or the phone, is going to wake you up again as soon as you fall asleep or get comfortable. I know I have been here before and it is a very frustrating feeling and can make sleep deprivation even worse! This anxiety about how much sleep you are not getting can actually make it even harder to fall asleep.
Tips for helping you fall asleep as well as improving sleep
1. The number one thing that I can’t stress enough is SUPPORT! You know all of those neighbors, family, friends, co-workers or babysitter who told you that if you needed anything to just ask…now is the time to ask! It is manageable to deal day to day with minor sleep deprivation and so it is key to let those around you hang out with your little one so you can catch a nap every once in a while. Being able to nap, sleep in, or go to bed early on occasion can help you get some of that sleep you have been needing.
As you may have heard before “sleep when baby sleeps!” This is so true but as a mother myself I also understand how this time is magical because you have a quiet moment in your day and you don’t want to just sleep it away. If you can even once a week try and nap when your child does. It really will help you in the long run. If you can’t nap at this time because you have many other things to get done around the house then again..USE YOUR SUPPORT! Having somebody bring you dinner, help you with laundry, or pick up some groceries when they go can help take some of the load off of your plate.
2. When you do have a chance to be off duty then actually be off duty. More often than not when somebody is finally there to help with your child instead of going and having some you time and relaxing you may tend to stick around to make sure everything is ok. This is the time you need to rest and take a moment for yourself.
3. On days you decide to nap when you can, turn off all phones! You can check your messages when you wake up.
4. Avoid Caffeine. Caffeine is famous for causing “momsomnia.” You drink your coffee/tea/hot chocolate/coke etc. and you will still feel physically tired but you will not be able to fall asleep. This only adds to your frustration of already being so tired. Depending on different factors caffeine can stay in your body anywhere from 2-6 hours with some reports stating even longer amounts of time!
5. Avoid sedatives. Sedatives can help you fall asleep but they will make you feel even more tired if you have to wake up, let’s say when baby needs a feed or your little one needs a glass of water, before they have worn off.
6. Just as I stress having our children’s room dark, dark, dark this is also true for adults! Light affects our hormones just as it does infants and children. Put up some blackout shades in your room to allow for an environment that will be conductive to sleep. Try introducing white noise in your room as well to see if this will help drown out external noises that may be keeping you awake.
7. Introduce exercise into your day. Many studies have shown that moderate, regular exercise reduces insomnia and improves the quality of sleep. Maintaining a regular pattern of exercise such as 30-40 minutes three to four times a week can help your body improve sleep. If you do exercise or plan to introduce this try and finish your exercise routine at least 3 hours before you plan to go to bed to give your body time to wind down.
8. Eat to sleep. Avoid eating foods at dinner that cause stomach upset so stick with easy to digest foods. Also try and refrain from eating after 8 o’clock at night to prevent an indigestion from occurring.
9. Have a constant and predictable bedtime routine for yourself. 30 minutes before you plan to go to bed begin introducing a bedtime routine for yourself. This could include a cup of warm water/milk/tea (caffeine free) followed by a warm bath, followed by a comforting lotion and pajamas.
10. Encourage relaxation by trying a relaxation technique such as “progressive relaxation technique.” Once you are in bed and it is dark and you feel comfortable you can begin this technique. Beginning at your feet, feel the weight of your feet and then think about them going limp and becoming relaxed. Imagine that they have fallen asleep themselves and allow all tension to leave them. Then move up your right leg, then left leg all the way up to your head.
When you are sleep deprived and exhausted you feel alone and like you are the only person who is not getting any sleep! Just remember that there are caregivers all over the world who are up when you are up and often times for the same reason. It does get better and with using the above tips and applying them to your daily routine now you can be on your way to more positive sleep very soon.