New parents are constantly told how important sleep is for their own mental and physical health, but most of the time you can’t control how much sleep you get.
And rarely is that followed up with advice on how to achieve more sleep when your baby is waking through the night.
Shevonne Hunt, host of The Promise of Sleep podcast, says she has learnt many ways to fight sleep deprivation safely so you don’t end up with mum-brain too often.
“You don’t need to tell parents sleep is important, we know. We know how awful lack of sleep feels,” Shevonne tells Be.
“The trick is in managing expectations and putting strategies in place to both optimise the sleep we do get, and feel better when we don’t get enough.”
To celebrate Kinderling’s Week of Sleep, Shevonne has collated some of the many expert tips she has received on getting through sleep deprivation.
Lana Sussman, from The Parents Village, suggests napping during the day, whenever your child naps is something you could start practicing while you’re pregnant.
Lana also says it’s important to reframe how you look at sleep. Look at the day as 24 hours, rather than focusing on one eight-hour period overnight.
Planning things during the day that will energise you – like connecting with friends, going for a walk – will also help to keep you going.
But one of the most important things is to watch what you eat.
“When you’re a new parent, you’re so tired you do whatever you can to feel better,” Shevonne tells us.
“You drink coffee – lots of it. You eat chocolate. You binge watch Netflix in the evenings. Turns out all of these things only make you feel worse.”
Heidi Sze, a nutritionist, says we should focus on eating the colours of the rainbow with your veggies, and make sure you’re getting protein.
“Focussing on how to eat well, how to get moving, how to connect with the things that light you up – this is where we can really turn around the impacts of sleep deprivation,” Shevonne shares.
Not getting enough sleep can impact your relationships and it’s important to remember to be kind to yourself and understand that it does have a real physical impact.
“When we don’t get enough sleep, it can really affect our relationship with our partner,” Shevonne says. “But they’re also our most important support. Learning how to navigate challenging times together, support each other and love each other when we’re sleep deprived is also really important.”
Ultimately one of the most important things sleep deprived parents can do is be kind to themselves.
“I know that sounds corny, and maybe a bit obvious, but most of us expect that we can keep going as we did pre-baby. We think because we’re at home we need to do the washing, make dinner, keep the house clean,” Shevonne says.
“Or if we’re back at work that we should be able to do everything at the same capacity as we did before. Parents need to accept that this is a really challenging time, and take a few things of their ‘to do’ list.”
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