How to cope with parental sleep deprivation

parental sleep deprivation

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Everyone knows that babies put their parents through the sleep wringer in the early days. Unsurprisingly, having spent nine months sleeping much of the time their mum is active (ie. the daytime) and partying when she rests (ie. night time), they have very little respect for our generally accepted waking and sleeping behaviours. And that’s when parental sleep deprivation kicks in. 

But what if the sleepless nights last longer? What if you’ve barely slept for two, three or four years? How do you manage? Well, here’s a practical guide on how to cope with sleep deprivation for parents of toddlers.

We all know parents who thought they had it bad because their babies were up twice a night when they were four-weeks-old. Those parents returned to full nights of glorious kip soon thereafter and don’t realise how lucky they are.

You might still talk to those parents, but you probably move the conversation on if they mention anything nocturnal. No one wants to hear that smugness. 

The fact is that many parents have toddlers who can’t seem to put in a full night’s shift just yet, and it’s bloody difficult. Parental sleep deprivation is tough. You expect it when they are babies, but when it continues into toddlerhood, it starts to feel never-ending. It can also lead to burnout, exhaustion, anxiety and even depression.

Here are some tips to help you cope.


parental sleep deprivation


Parental sleep deprivation – hints and tips

1) Drink caffeine

Yes, it’s not a long-term solution and you don’t want to overdo it, but caffeine can help. It’s a stimulant and it blocks the sleep-promoting adenosine receptors in your brain, so drinking it in the morning will certainly help you feel more awake after a night of broken sleep. Just be careful not to drink caffeinated drinks too close to bedtime, as it can affect your sleep if you do manage to get a run of a few hours. 

2) Exercise

Exercise is the last thing you want to do when you feel exhausted, but it’s worth persevering. Running is free and you don’t have to travel anywhere to do it. This makes it easier to fit in around your busy schedule. 

The worst bit is getting started, but you soon get into your stride. The buzz you earn afterwards helps you battle some of the pain of parental sleep deprivation

3) Eat well

When you are dealing with parental sleep deprivation, you want all the sugar and carbs. The problem there is that they might make you feel good for a bit, but you are never far from a massive crash. 

This tip to help you cope with lack of sleep is actually less about eating well and more about not eating badly. If you can substitute the crisps and chocolate for nuts, fresh fruit and the like, it does take away an element of sluggishness.


parental sleep deprivation


4) Drink more water

Drinking water also takes the edge off your hunger and is good for your skin too, which has probably taken a pounding from the broken sleep. In addition, your body can feel more tired and weak when we are dehydrated.

It is also one of those activities that you can easily forget about whilst you are rushing around and trying to carry out all the various tasks that bridge your home and work life. Take a refillable water bottle with you wherever you go and make sure you sip regularly. 

5) Get out of the house

It’s often tempting to stay inside the house, counting down the hours until nap time when you might be able to catch a few Zs, but natural daylight is fantastic for waking you up. It tells your body that it’s daytime and that you need to be alert. Fresh air on your skin is another way to liven up.


How do you deal with parental sleep deprivation? Leave your tips in the Comments below


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