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Sleep deprivation: What to do when your baby keeps you up ALL night

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We’ve all heard about how sleep deprivation can impact new mothers. But when you experience it for yourself, you finally realise just how debilitating it can be. Paediatric Gentle Sleep Consultant, Cheryl Fingleson from The Sleep Coach, shares her advice for surviving.

Do you feel exhausted from waking up throughout the night just to replace your little one’s dummy? Is your child unable to self-settle and needs your assistance and comfort? Do you allow your child to sleep in your bed? These scenarios may sound familiar to you. In fact, they’re so common that many people believe having a new baby goes hand-in-hand with disrupted nights and think that broken sleep is just one of the many parts of motherhood. But in reality, it is almost impossible to function at our best when we have had little sleep, broken sleep, or no sleep at all. Too often, mums underestimate the importance of adequate rest and the kinds of overwhelming feelings that lack of sleep can bring.

The importance of sleep

Lack of sleep can be linked to health issues such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease and poor work function. It can also affect the safety of those around us. Some studies suggest that exhaustion can be compared to drunk driving. Whilst all of us wouldn’t dream of driving after a few glasses of wine, we still manage to get behind the wheel exhausted which can have devastating consequences. Imagine forgetting to strap your baby in their car seat or almost falling asleep at the wheel.

We can easily agree that many of us just don’t sleep enough. For mums, the quality of your sleep or lack of sleep begins even before your baby is born…a full bladder, trying to turn over, indigestion from lying horizontal and the list goes on…nights can be tough. Sleep deprivation becomes a dreaded part of motherhood that very few can bypass. This can affect parents of newborns, pre-schoolers or even teenagers. But as parents we must realise that it’s not just us that suffers when we’re are constantly exhausted, the entire family feel it. Getting enough sleep will make you a better, more patient mother – minus the frayed fuse.

Some tips for the sleep deprived mothers:

  • When you have young kids, keep going to bed late at a minimum, you want to avoid the build up of sleep debt. Go to bed early as often as you can
  • Nap when you can, better still if your kids are sleeping, sleep when they do
  • If it proves too difficult to sleep during the week due to endless home responsibilities, try and swap with your partner should he be around on weekends, alternatively ask a friend or relative if they can help out
  • Just like the rituals for your children before bed, find some that work for yourself, perhaps you can dim the lights and read or mediate and try and refrain from using any electronic devices before you go to bed.
  • Remember that diet and exercise is on par with the need for sleep
  • If your child has a consistent problem sleeping through the night, seek help if you need to from a sleep consultant before the problem worsens – if it is something that can be resolved
  • Put aside the long list of things to do and rather get the extra sleep, wake up refreshed and function at an optimum

Cheryl Fingleson is a paediatric sleep consultant. As a mother of two, she very well knows the feelings of agony and desperation when you have a child that struggles to settle and sleep. She doesn’t believe in leaving babies or children to cry it out, nor in the practices of controlled crying. Her approach is to empower parents with the right tools and techniques to teach their babies and children to go to sleep calmly, happily and independently. Cheryl is available for in home and Skype consultations at The Sleep Coach.

Was your child a troubled sleeper? How did you handle sleep deprivation?

More on new motherhood…

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