Coping with sleep deprivation as a new parent

sleep deprived
Expecting and New Parents / Infant Sleep

Coping with sleep deprivation as a new parent

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Coping with sleep deprivation as a new parent is hard. You’ll have been sick of hearing the phrase “get some sleep now, while you can” when expecting, but it’s true. Once your little one comes along, any semblance of a decent sleep cycle is straight out of the window. At first you may find yourself operating on pure adrenaline. But once this wears off and the impacts of sleep deprivation kick in, it can quickly feel pretty draining.

Any parent who has a toddler who still doesn’t sleep through the night (yes – they exist!) will tell you that it feels as though everyone else’s child sleeps more than theirs. Yet somehow you do get used to a different sleep schedule and coping with sleep deprivation. It needn’t wipe you out completely. Follow these top tips to grab some kip when you can… and some caffeine when you can’t.

1: That age old saying…

“Sleep when the baby sleeps” is never quite as easy as it sounds because it forever seems as though your new arrival only chooses to sleep when you’re pushing them in the pram, when you’re stuck at a relative’s house or when you’re facing a mountain of washing up head-on. But, if you can manage to grab some zzz’s when your baby does, do so. Even if it’s in the middle of the day, a few minutes rest is better than none… and they’ll soon wake you up when they need you!

2: Ask for help

In the early days of parenthood, everyone will tell you that they’re on-hand to help if you need anything – so take advantage. Don’t be afraid to ask for someone else to watch your little one while you grab an hour’s nap or even just a lie down. If you’re anxious about leaving your child with someone else for the first time, ask them to do it in your own home: after all, who’s going to turn down the chance to sit on your sofa, eat your snacks, watch your telly and cuddle your cute baby? If you can’t settle, don’t panic – just lie back and at least let your body rest, even if your mind can’t quite switch off.

3: Pre-plan where possible

Anything you can do to make your life easier once your baby arrives is worth spending time on; whether or not you manage it while pregnant or afterward. Mornings in particular can feel rough when you’re coping with sleep deprivation, so easing yourself into it by doing your future self a favour can be really helpful. Fill the coffee pot up the evening before, make overnight oats to grab and go the next day or prep your steriliser ahead of time. If you’re breast feeding or pumping, station snacks in grabbing distance from wherever you sit to do so, and make sure that you’ve got plenty of water and muslin clothes nearby!

4: White noise

Lots of baby sleep advice includes directions to play your little one white noise to help them drift off; either through soft toys stuffed with music players or apps on a phone or other device. But have you thought about trying white noise to help you get to sleep? It may be the help you need if you find it difficult to switch off as your mind runs away with all of the concerns a newborn brings.

5: Take your time

Wellbeing websites and well-meaning advice dispensed from others will tell you to relax, meditate and take time out – but this is often far from a realistic option when you have a tiny person relying on you for survival. Sure, you do need to unwind for both your physical and mental health, but don’t assume this means you need to find the time in your day for a yoga class or journaling session. If a few deep breaths over a reheated cup of coffee is all you manage, embrace it: it still counts, and you can try for more later.

6: Find your tribe

The early days of parenthood can feel lonely and finding a social circle of others going through the same thing can be hugely beneficial. Seek out online groups for chat and support (you may be surprised just how many other parents are up for a chat in the middle of the night!) and investigate into local meet-ups. Baby groups needn’t be daunting: nine times out of ten they’re usually a coven of sleep deprived mothers functioning purely on caffeine and mascara, who need a good moan and cry while their babies wriggle around. Socialising with those in the same stage of life as you can feel like a huge relief and ensures you’re in the thick of others who also want to hear about birth stories, nappy accidents, and funny baby moments.

If you really struggle with sleep deprivation, know it’s normal. The NHS offers a range of support services for new parents and The Lullaby Trust have advice for coping with a lack of sleep alongside their safe sleep guidelines.

Written by the Parent Cloud Team