How do you start a blog post about sleep deprivation, when you’re a little sleep deprived? Much like you start or don’t ever finish anything: poorly and slowly!
Are you reading this at 3am while someone very small is a) eating b) crying or c) pooping? Or is it nice and sunny outside but you’re a little disgruntled because you did not really get as much sleep as you’d wanted out of the nighttime hours?
I know how you feel! As a new mom, sleep deprivation is unavoidable. It’s probably one of the first pieces of advice you received when you revealed that you’d be adding a child to your family: “well, get your sleep now!”. Such a cheerful piece of advice, always coming from someone who probably just slept 8 hours straight.
For me, the sleep deprivation started in 2008. My body decided to get me ready for night wakings by waking me on its own multiple times a night starting at around the 7th month of pregnancy. Then, of course, came the newborn phase…which lasted until my son was 10 months old. By then I was 4 months pregnant with my daughter. My body went back to waking me up all night, right up until the day I gave birth the second time (on about 4 hours sleep over a 24 hour period). Then another newborn period, and a baby who is now one year old and still not “technically” sleeping through the night. And yet, I’d like to think that I have not yet fully lost my mind.
What can I say to encourage you other moms out there? One thing I will not say is: “Oh, it only lasts the first few weeks/months and then they start sleeping through the night”. Raise your hand if you’ve proven that one wrong? Thank you. At least I know I’m not alone.
Don’t overestimate how much you can get done when you’re sleep deprived. A wise woman once explained to me when I was a brand-new mom that sometimes one or two planned outings per week is going to be all I can do, and that’s fine. For me, sometimes that outing is the grocery store and the park. What I’m saying is: don’t plan to go to the store, meet a friend for lunch, and then go to the park all in one day. Certainly do not plan every single day of your week with back-to-back activities. You’re going to run out of energy at some point and it’s all going to go south from there.
If you can avoid making major decisions until you get a handle on your sleep, postpone! A group of friends advised us to put off buying a new house for the first 6 months of my daughter’s life. At first I was disappointed because the house we were in was small and I wanted more space, but it was great advice. There was no way I could have participated in intelligent negotiations and savvy renovations without a clear(er) head.
Now is not the time to diet. I’m not saying that you should over-indulge your every whim, but don’t start on your juice fast or your Master Cleanse until you’re getting at least 5 hours of consecutive sleep (and longer if you’re breastfeeding). What you want to do is get plenty of fruits, vegetables, water and grains. You might notice that your body craves carbs when sleep deprived. Or is that just me? Either way, if you can make them whole grains, that will help keep you from feeling bloated and uncomfortable. And, er, it will keep you more regular.
Get dressed, wear makeup! Make it a priority to take a shower first thing in the morning. Occasionally even shave your legs and dry your hair. You will be amazed how much more awake and energetic you will feel for the rest of the day. I like to dump my children on my husband in the morning before he is fully awake while I shower. He’s a great sport about it! As for makeup, here is a tip that makes you look more awake: highlighter cream. I swear by it. Rub some in the corners of your eyes and across your cheekbones. I’ve had people remark that I look like my baby is sleeping through the night already. Oh, if only they knew…
Finally, sleep is not actually the goal. I’m told we’ll have plenty of time for sleep when our kids are older. I can’t vouch for that, but it sounds hopeful. My biggest revelation came when I realized that how much sleep I got last night (or last week, or last month) does not determine how I will live my life today. What my kids need is a mom who is present in the moment and loves them unconditionally. They don’t care if I have trouble finishing sentences, or if I sometimes fall asleep while reading stories! I take it one moment at a time, and try to keep it in perspective.
I’d love to share more tips but I predict one of my children waking up within the next few hours. Do you have any tips to share with other new moms?