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How to Actually Survive on Little Sleep

There are countless worries that plague new parents preparing for the arrival of their new addition. New moms spend hours reading blogs and baby preparation books that cover everything from how to pack a hospital bag to swaddling techniques and even how to introduce your baby to your pets! While these are all excellent and useful topics, the one thing that goes severely under looked is how to function with the level of sleep deprivation that only new motherhood brings. 

Sure, there is an abundance of information on how to encourage your baby to sleep for more extended periods of time. But the reality is that, as a new mom, you will be faced with days and weeks where sleeping for more than a 2-hour stretch feels like a distant memory. People may tell you, "Sleep when the baby sleeps!" That sounds good in theory but is very unrealistic in practice. Those precious periods of quiet when your baby is sleeping are usually your window of opportunity to work and do the chores you've been putting off during the day. So, how can we address the inevitable sleep deprivation that many new moms fear? There are a few practical ways to make functioning on little sleep more bearable. 

Why Should You Care About Less Sleep?

First, it's essential to understand the potential consequences of sleep deprivation. Maybe you're prepared for the grogginess and brain fog that accompanies little sleep, but many more serious problems can arise from not addressing your lack of shut-eye. Here are a few of the top reasons why you should care about sleep deprivation:

1.Increased Risk of Depression/Anxiety

It's no secret that new moms are highly susceptible to mental health struggles after giving birth. In combination with hormonal changes that go on during the postpartum period, lack of sleep is a leading contributor to increased depression and anxiety in mothers. 

2.Delayed Reaction Times

Being able to respond quickly to your baby's needs is essential for new parents, but this becomes increasingly difficult without an average amount of rest. Lack of sleep leads to low functioning of your fine motor skills as well as a decreased ability to react quickly. At the opposite end of the spectrum, lack of sleep can amount to the same level of delayed response as someone under the influence of alcohol.

3.Weakened Immune System

Sleep doesn't just make you feel refreshed; it's also your body's way of maintaining its systems. Without adequate sleep, you can begin to see a weakening in your overall health, including your immune system. This is partially why new moms catch colds more often than the average person, making caring for your baby even more of a challenge.


What Can You Do About It?

Now that you know the risks associated with sleep deprivation, you may be wondering, "well, what can I actually do about it?" If you can't sleep when the baby sleeps, and you've tried every tactic under the sun to get your little one to sleep longer to no avail, don't give up hope just yet. There are a few simple things you can do to make being sleep deprived more manageable:

1. Drink Lots of Water

When you haven't slept, it's tempting to load up on caffeine to help you get through the day. While caffeine can be useful for helping your body feel awake, it also contributes to dehydration. Sleep deprivation also causes you to become dehydrated because it disrupts your body's ability to regulate hydration. Do yourself a favor by drinking more water than you think you need. If you're drinking coffee or energy drinks during the day, be sure to alternate with a glass of water in between servings.

2.Go Outside

Getting fresh air isn't just great for the soul; it's also great for your sleep-deprived body! By getting direct sunlight, you help reset your body's natural circadian rhythm, which is disrupted by lack of sleep. This helps your body know that it's daytime and can prevent you from becoming overly sleepy during the day. Additionally, a quick walk outside helps to get your blood flowing and can provide you with a much-needed boost of energy.

3.Eat Small Meals

This may seem counterintuitive since we often associate a big meal with additional energy, but eating smaller meals and snacks throughout the day can provide you with the fuel you need without bogging you down. When we're digesting a big meal, our body naturally releases hormones that make us feel sleepy. Eating small, more frequent meals can boost your metabolism and prevent you from crashing in the middle of the day.

4.Simplify Tasks

Being a new parent is overwhelming, but being sleep deprived can make this feel even worse. If you're staring at a lengthy to-do list and already feeling exhausted, try breaking down your tasks into smaller pieces. Rather than trying to do everything all at once, shift your focus to doing the little things when you can. This will help to keep your stress in-check and will give you a sense of accomplishment. When you're a new mom, even small things can feel like big wins!

5.If All Else Fails, Nap

These tips can help you get by on less sleep, but if you ever have an opportunity to rest, take it. Even a mere 5 minutes of resting your eyes can provide you with relief from the worst of your sleep deprivation symptoms. When possible, work with your partner (or other family members, to schedule a time for both of you to get an extra dose of rest during the day. 

These are just a few tips that you can utilize to make getting through those sleep-deprived days just a little bit easier. But the most critical takeaway is to be gentle and kind to yourself during this period. Remember that taking care of your own needs only allows you to better care for your baby. After all, you can't pour from an empty (or sleepy) cup!