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Tips for Coping With Long Term Sleep Deprivation

If you’re riding in the sleep deprivation wagon, I’m so sorry, but also: welcome! Feel free to try any of these tips to help you make it through.
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By: Mary McBride

While we were in Ethiopia with Elvie, my husband and I took turns taking the night shift, but once we got home, it became clear that it would be best if I would just do the night feedings every night. Not only did Jarod have to get out of bed at a reasonable hour and have his mind functioning clearly at work, but I tend to hear Elvie before Jarod wakes. As much as I’d love to still be taking turns, it simply makes more sense for me to take the night shift every night.

For awhile, Elvie was waking every hour, sometimes even after just 45 minutes, simply because she was hungry, and her teeny, tiny stomach couldn’t take in enough nutrition to hold her over for very long. Now that she has grown and gained plenty of weight, she doesn’t wake as often, but still needs to eat more frequently than most babies her age due to her birth defect and history of malnutrition. Teaching her to sleep through the night just isn’t an option right now, so I’ve figured out some ways to help make the days go more smoothly and ensure that I’m not a grump to my family 100% of the time. If you’re riding in the sleep deprivation wagon, I’m so sorry, but also: welcome! Feel free to try any of these tips to help you make it through.

Generous Amounts of Coffee

No one wants to get jittery, so I wouldn’t say more is always better, but starting the day with a gigantic cup of hot, delicious coffee not only gives me a little caffeine kick, but also provides a regular starting point for my day. Some days I need a second large cup, and that’s okay.

Make Time for Slow Mornings

If at all possible, I schedule appointments and activities for the afternoon so that we can just ease into our day. We usually just hang out on the big bed until Elvie is ready for her first nap. There’s plenty of space for all of us to read and/or play. I set my coffee on the nightstand, and it’s perfect.

Embrace Unconventional Breakfasts

Normally, I like to make something hot for breakfast, but right now I just need mornings to be simple. Most of the time I’ve got muffins or granola bars and fruit handy, but sometimes I break all the rules and we eat cookies. These pictured have oats and nut butter, so I figure they’re no worse than a chocolate dipped granola bar, and with much better ingredients.

Eliminate or Procrastinate Unnecessary Chores

The bed really doesn’t need to be made if you don’t have the time or energy, and sometimes the laundry can serve as a very comfortable cat bed for an extra day. While I don’t want to live in a trash heap, sometimes it’s worth it to conserve my energy for nurturing and teaching my children as opposed to using it up dusting.

"Make" an Easy Dinner

We can’t eat out every night, but there are a lot of affordable options for the days I am the most tired. I count ordering enchiladas and bringing them home as making dinner. If I didn’t order it, my family wouldn’t be able to eat it, right?

Have a Sleep In Morning Once a Week

If you’re the only one who gets up with the baby in the night, it’s perfectly reasonable to expect the other half of your parenting team to wake early on his or her day off so that you can get a few uninterrupted hours of sleep. Getting a solid two or three hours of sleep on Saturdays does wonders for my energy level. When I’m getting discouraged during the week, I can always look forward to Saturday and know that I can make it until then.

Feel Free to Just Stay Home Sometimes

As a stay at home parent, I often feel guilty that we don’t get out and do more some days. But it is good for me to have a day that I don’t have to pack everyone up and get them out the door, and it is good for my kids to have a day to relax and just play at home. Committing to at least one play-at-home day per week has made a significant difference in how smoothly our week goes.

Remember That It Won't Be Like This Forever

Babies eventually learn how to sleep through the night, and while the length of time between now and then is uncertain, I know that it will happen. I also know that Elvie will only be little once. So as much as I don’t enjoy the frequent night wakings, I do enjoy have a tiny baby in my life, and I will take the difficult with the wonderful any and every day of the week.

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