I’ve always been evangelical about the importance of sleep, so what was I suppose to do when sleep became a non option? Yes I am talking about the little sleep thief that arrived and turned me into a walking zombie! Sometimes you find yourself in a situation where you are just not going to be able to achieve that magic 8 hours of uninterrupted shut eye, but still need to be able to function. Considering most nights my sleep averages 5-6 hours if I’m lucky, 2-3 if I’m not, I’ve had to develop ways to cope better on that amount of sleep.
Before I get into my coping tips, it goes without saying that you should do whatever you practically can to get sleep. Lack of sleep has been linked to obesity, diabetes and hormonal imbalance, so it really is very important. For me, when I am seriously tired, I can turn into a totally different person. I start feeling negative and depressed. I will often cry and I always find that I want to eat more. Most new mamas (unless you are extremely lucky!) will face some major sleep distribution, but there are a few ways you can maximise what you can get:
It’s not for everyone but if you are breastfeeding I would totally recommend that you co sleep. Our side car crib arrangement was a game changer in terms of how much sleep I manage to get. I swear I sometimes feed Finley and can’t actually remember it because I hardly wake.
Learn how to breast feed lying down from both breasts if you can (it is possible!)
Go to bed early – I’m not going to lie, spending almost 12 hours in bed is not as fun as it sounds, but getting to bed early means you are more likely to maximise the sleep you can get over the course of the night.
All the other usual tips such as keeping the room dark, not using smart phones and tablets etc are worth doing as well.
Try taking a day time nap. I really struggle with this, but if you can take a nap with the baby during the day that could give you a bit of an energy boost.
Get support. There’s nothing wrong with letting someone else take a few wake ups or even the whole night. If you breast feed, after a few weeks you should be able to express so the baby can have a bottle. If you end up having to use formula a couple of times so you can sleep then so be it. Looking at the bigger picture, sleep is really important.
Even with those things in place, the most sleep I tend to get is 6 hours with several wake ups. When Finley was very young and we were in and out of hospital I was lucky to be getting 2 hours a night, it was chronic. Sleeping in a hospital with a poorly baby is no fun I can tell you that! I quickly learned that to improve my day time functioning I needed to focus on a few lifestyle areas, here are my tips:
Avoid refined sugar + get a good breakfast
We all know that we should eat well but when you are dealing with tiredness the temptation is to prop yourself up on biscuits and cakes or other sugary foods. This is one of the worst things you can do (something I discovered after eating a muffin and a Costa’s Christmas coffee one day) as believe me you’ll feel even worse after half an hour. Instead try and eat naturally sweet foods like fruit and make sure you always have a good protein rich breakfast. I created my Egg and Veggie Muffins specifically for that purpose as they are easy to grab and eat they are perfect for busy mornings with a baby or otherwise.
This is SO important! If you aren’t getting enough sleep the knock on effects on your body will be huge. Make sure at the least you are taking a multivitamin. A B vitamin complex could also be useful for supporting energy levels. I’m currently taking Inner Me’s Energise Me supplement. I am also using an effervescent wheatgrass and multivitamin drink (this will be featured on the blog soon) to help keep illnesses at bay.
Hydrate don’t caffeinate
I am so sorry about this one, but that double expresso might not be the greatest thing for helping you cope with the tiredness! Much like the sugar, you’ll go from caffeine hit to caffeine hit which will disrupt your energy levels and mess with your hormones. After that first coffee of the day it’s best to switch to decaf. It’s also important to stay hydrated (even more so if you are breast feeding) so keep a bottle of water with you at all times. Coconut water is nice for a treat too.
Exercise, but not too much
The idea of working out after a bad nights sleep may sound crazy but it will help energise you and mean that any sleep you do manage to get is better quality. Just don’t over do it, short and sweet workouts are probably best, or if going for longer, gentler exercise like walking is good. The only time you shouldn’t do this is when you could otherwise spend the time you would be exercising sleeping. Opt for the extra sleep if that is the case! But if you would be awake anyway, being active will help. The endorphins can also support your mood.
Getting some fresh air and exposing yourself to day light will give you a lift on tired days.
Give yourself an added boost with superfoods
Personally I’ve found matcha green tea and maca powder to be beneficial. Try adding them to a smoothie in the morning or creating a matcha latte instead of a coffee to benefit from them.
How much sleep do you need to function at your best? How do you manage when you get no sleep? What would be your tips for coping?