As a new parent, you won't need telling that you need more sleep. You may be so tired that you can't remember your own name, let alone where you’ve put your car keys.
Though a good night’s sleep is the obvious remedy, this is unlikely to be possible when you've got a newborn to look after. Here's how to get through the days that follow those sleepless nights.How will I know if I’m sleep deprived?Recognising the signs of sleep deprivation will help you to cope with it in the short term. These signs are far worse than simply feeling tired. If you have four or five nights of broken sleep, you'll feel sleep deprived. And with a newborn, you can expect to have months when you don’t get more than four hours of continuous sleep.
If you are sleep deprived you will have slower response times and find concentrating difficult. You will probably give up on tasks before they're complete. Or you may struggle on even though whatever you're doing won't turn out well.
You know you are sleep deprived if you’re:
Keep a glass of water next to the bed and have a few sips to help you to wake up. Jump straight into the shower and choose an invigorating shower gel. Then slather on some body lotion, as the stroking action will get your circulation going.
It’s tempting to rely on caffeine for an immediate boost. But while the first coffee may kick-start your day, too much caffeine throughout the day may keep you awake at night.
If you’re breastfeeding and avoiding caffeine, or just want to cut down, a glass of sparkling water or a caffeine-free herbal tea may perk you up.How can I stay alert and focused?At home
Even if vigorous exercise is the last thing you feel like, it will get your blood flowing and energise your body.
Try a few star jumps, or run around the garden or up the stairs a few times. Or turn up your favourite music, dance, and shake out that tiredness.
Prioritise tasks so you get the most important ones done first. Write a list of things that need doing every day, but be realistic. Even if it's just one thing, such as vacuuming, it will add new focus and help you to prioritise. But if you don't achieve that one thing, don't be too hard on yourself. Sometimes just functioning is enough of an achievement.
Try putting your feet up for 10 minutes, and take some deep breaths. Make life easier for yourself. Shop online for food and accept or ask for help. Take turns with your partner for a lie in, and try to stick to a regular bedtime, even if your sleep usually ends up being interrupted.
If you've just gone back to work after maternity leave, you could have a lunchtime nap somewhere quiet. Set your phone alarm, though, so you don't nap for too long. A short sleep can recharge your batteries, but do keep it short. And don't nap late in the day, as this may make you wakeful that night.
If you're feeling drowsy at your desk, open a window, if nobody minds. Or take a five-minute break and run up and down the stairs a few times to wake yourself up before going into the meeting room.
Try to plan your day so the toughest jobs or meetings are tackled in the morning, when you are most alert. Save that mid-afternoon sleepy period for the more straightforward, routine tasks.
Organise your diary and set up automated reminders. Try to prioritise work before you go home so you can get straight on with tasks in the morning when you will be most productive.
Whether you're at home or at work, aim to eat a healthy diet. Snack on energy-giving foods such as a handful of nuts, a banana, or wholemeal toast and baked beans. Many parents find that what they eat affects how they feel at the end of a sleep-deprived day. High-sugar, high-fat options will probably leave you feeling more lethargic.
You may be short of iron after having your baby. This may make you feel even more lacking in energy, which is the last thing you need. Eat foods rich in iron such as leafy green vegetables and fortified breakfast cereals. Ask your GP for advice if you think you are anaemic.
What happens if I'm drowsy while driving?If you feel drowsy while you're driving, open the window immediately and get a blast of cold air. Pull over at a safe place and have a short nap of about 15 minutes with the doors locked, or get out for some fresh air. Driving while you're sleepy reduces your reaction time, makes you less vigilant, and affects your ability to make decisions.
You could step out the car and stretch, or have a cold drink or a coffee to give you a boost. But remember that these are temporary measures. If you feel very tired before you set off, consider leaving the journey until you've had some rest and are more alert.
How can I be less grumpy with everyone?Don't be too proud to apologise for your sharp tongue. Tell your partner, and your children, that you’re just really tired. They'll understand. Try to steer clear of emotionally draining situations when you're already feeling drained.
When your partner is driving you mad, take a couple of deep breaths and think, then speak. Remind yourself not to let petty irritations turn into huge rows. As annoying as that damp towel on the bedroom floor is, it's probably not worth having a row about it.Why can't I do even simple things?When even basic tasks are a struggle to complete, try extra hard to concentrate and take extra care. Maybe you've knocked over the milk and splashed yourself with boiling water while making a cup of tea. Or perhaps you've dropped yet another glass while trying to get some water.
Try to slow down. Even the smallest task needs your concentration when you’re sleep deprived. Focus on what you're doing.
Accept that some things won’t get done. Clothes in the laundry basket don’t all have to be ironed. You don’t have to vacuum as often as you used to.
How can I get back to sleep after feeding my baby?Try having a milky drink, or dot your pillow with lavender oil, to soothe yourself to sleep. Try not to turn things over in your head and become stressed. Relaxation exercises which include deep, rhythmic breathing, may be worth a try if you really struggle to nod off.
Be reassured that even though this exhausting time feels as though it will never end, it is only temporary. Your baby will soon begin to sleep through the night, which means you will, too.
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