Moms and Sleep Deprivation
Tips for Sleep-Deprived Mothers
What can a sleep-deprived mother do? Here's some advice.
- Be prepared. When you've got small kids, getting woken up in the
middle of the night can be more the rule than the exception. Don't routinely go
to bed at midnight, gambling on your two-year-old sleeping soundly. You're
going to lose. In the long-run, you'll just keep piling on to your sleep
"Moms should really expect that they will be woken up every night and plan
accordingly," says Mindell. "They need to get to bed early enough to
accommodate it." If you're not woken up on a given night, you got some bonus
sleep. And if you were, at least you were prepared.
- Take naps. Although sleep experts advise against naps for most
people with insomnia, they say sleep-deprived mothers should ignore that
"It definitely doesn't apply to parents who were woken up six times in the
night by their kids and today are falling asleep in their soup," says Roth.
"For people like that, 'Don't take a nap' is stupid advice."
If your kids are still young enough to nap themselves, follow the advice you
got on the maternity ward: Nap when your baby naps.
- Catch up on sleep during the weekend. Many sleep-deprived mothers --
stuck between their responsibilities as worker, parent, and home-runner -- feel
like there's simply no way to get enough sleep during the week. If so, you have
to use the weekends to atone, Roth says.
He recommends that you swap time with their spouse on weekends so that you can
both sleep in one day. Or try to make a standing appointment with a relative or
sitter to get a couple of hours of nap time during the weekend.
- Help your child sleep more soundly. Obviously, there's nothing
abnormal about a newborn who wakes you up six times a night. It takes at least
three to six months before babies adopt a sleep schedule that's even remotely
civilized, says Kramer.
But if your older children have a consistent problem sleeping through the
night, you might want to talk to your pediatrician. Occasionally, children can
develop sleep disorders themselves. More often, making little changes -- like
adopting a more consistent bedtime or putting up room-darkening shades -- can
make a big difference. "If you can solve your child's sleep problem, you could
also be solving your own," Mindell tells WebMD.
- Relax before bed. You might have elaborate bedtime rituals for your
kids: a bath, story time, songs, hugs, a sip of water, one more song, a pat on
the back, one more sip of water, and one last song. But you might have nothing
for yourself, the sleep-deprived mother. That's a mistake, says Mindell.
"Bedtime rituals are important for everybody, not just toddlers," says Mindell.
So don't try to go straight from washing dishes or checking email to bed.
Instead, dim the lights and read for a while. Building in a little time
to unwind before getting into bed will help you sleep more soundly.
Take Sleep Seriously
Of course, even if you are a sleep-deprived mother, it's hard to follow any
of this advice in the moment. At 11:15 p.m. on a Tuesday, staying up for that
last load of laundry to finish can seem much more important than the
abstract benefits of an extra 45 minutes of sleep.
And there's the more general problem: many sleep-deprived mothers just don't
feel like they have the eight hours to spare each day. If you don't stay up
late washing the dishes and packing the lunches and sorting through the stacks
of school artwork, how will it ever get done?
Think hard about what your sleep loss is costing you. Sure, you could spend
more hours awake by shaving time off your sleep. But if you're a chronically
sleep-deprived mother, just how enjoyable and productive will your time awake
be? What's the benefit of reducing your sleep just so you can drift
through the next day feeling like a zombie?
"What mothers need to remember is that if they want to be productive for
those 16 hours a day, they need to sleep the other eight," says Kramer. "That's
just how it is."