Wednesday, 3 June 2015

No Rest for the Wicked- Surviving Sleep Deprivation

I consider myself an expert in sleep deprivation- not an expert in curing it, but in existing with it- I have a vast amount of experience in this area. 

I am one of those people who needs a solid eight hours of sleep to function optimally. Without sleep, I am grumpy, lethargic and my brain feels like it is stuffed with cottonwool. For the past five or so years, I have been averaging three or four hours of sleep a day, so anybody who has not known me for a while probably thinks that grumpy and dull-minded is my normal state of existence.

When did I stop sleeping? Like many mothers, my first pregnancy hailed the end of slumber- with the first half spent waking up to puke my guts out and the second spent hot, bothered and uncomfortable. All this is apparently nature's way of preparing one for the torture to come.

Once baby comes, sleep is non-existent for the first couple of months, which I must admit, passed in a bit of a blur both times round. So, you find yourself up all night with a restless newborn. Feed, burp, change nappy, repeat. Then baby decides to sleep during the day and all those wise people tell you to sleep when the baby is sleeping. The problem is, this is when everyone decides to visit the baby (and some even have the audacity to wake the baby up!). This is also when you find yourself actually having to do things like bath, cook, clean or see to other children.

Some babies start sleeping through after a few months. These are other peoples kids, not mine. The sand man skips my house completely on his nightly sojourn and my  children avoid  sleep at all costs.

My desperate sleep training attempts with Noodle were an epic failure so I did not even go down this path with Squish. Result- I now have a toddler who still sometimes nurses around the clock. I also have a four year old with an overactive imagination, who wakes up at 2 am frightened by a shadow or pondering solutions to poverty and world peace. To make things worse, they often wake one another up.

I have read every sleep manual out there and have tried all the calming bath salts, lotions, potions, supplements and magical sleepy drinks out there without success. So, somehow, I (together with dear hubby) have come to live without sleep. I cannot offer advice on how to get little ones to sleep more (there is plenty of that out there), but I can offer advice on how to get by without much of it.

These are my tips for getting by on virtually no sleep:

1. While instincts may tell you to chug down copious amounts of coffee, resist the temptation to do so. It will leave you wires when you actually do get a chance to sleep and make you feel more run down in the long run. Keep that caffeine boost for desperate situations only. Keep hydrated with lots of water and try to stick to a healthy diet for an energy boost.

2. Sneak in those naps where you can. I sometimes close my eyes and catch a quick nap during any car ride longer than five minutes where I am not the driver.

3. Learn to sleep upright/ while breastfeeding.

4. Cut out television completely. This is a good tip for freeing up time for anything, sleep included.

5. Get help. Enlist the help of someone to look after the little ones while you nap.

6. Invest in a good under-eye concealer so you do not scare any little kids away with your zomboid appearance.

7. Learn to accept and embrace your sleep deprived state. When you are bitter about the fact that you are getting no sleep, it is far tougher to handle than when you make peace with it. Or maybe that's the sleep deprivation talking.


  1. on point 3. I learned to breastfeed lying down and often fell asleep with baby still latched

    1. I do that too but I am a light sleeper so don't actually fall asleep, lie with my eyes closed.

  2. Ahh, sleep. I've forgotten what that's like.

  3. Love this post. And especially that last comment. I find when I am in an accepting stage that I won't get sleep, that's when he falls asleep. So good point.

    1. True. Maybe they need us to be calm to wind down properly...

  4. Oh love this! So great to know I'm not alone. I haven't slept well since the 2nd trimester 3.5 years ago. You learn to survive and thrive. No choice but to.

  5. I feel your pain. Sigh. We do what we have to do.


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