How to cope when you can’t get any sleep (for new mamas and others)

Baby and Parenting, Lifestyle, Self Care, wellbeing

How to cope when you can’t get any sleep (for new mamas and others)

Baby and Parenting, Lifestyle, Self Care, wellbeing

Cute finley pic

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. Just make sure you have a decent mattress and a good bed to make the most of it! Beds like these and mattresses that are comfortable and good quality can make a big difference.

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:

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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.

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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.


Get outdoors

Getting some fresh air and exposing yourself to day light will give you a lift on tired days.

Matcha latte

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?

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  1. lilylipstick

    I can’t even imagine what it’s like to have a baby but do find that I function so badly when I’m not getting enough sleep due to long working hours and then being too stressed to sleep well when I do get the chance. I’ve definitely learned over the years to avoid the sugar and to try to eat as well as possible – I limit myself to one coffee per day mid-morning and this has helped a lot too. I need to try that macha latte as a replacement! I’m lucky that 6 hours sleep is usually enough for me! x

    • Laura Agar Wilson

      I think my body has started to adapt as 6 hours is starting to become manageable! Mainstream coffee shops should start doing matcha lattes right :-)

  2. Karina

    Terrific tips, great post, Laura!

  3. Louise @louliveswell

    I used to think that I was someone who could just get and up and go no matter how much or little sleep I’ve had (I am a definite morning person). In the last few years though I have really realised how much better I feel if I turn the light out by 10.30pm. It’s amazing that impact sleep has on now you feel! Not eating sugar has also impacted my sleep in a big way – I used to wake at 4am every night but since cutting out sugar, I don’t! It’s great!

    • Laura Agar Wilson

      It’s amazing isn’t it, sugar can have such an impact, glad you sleep better without it :-)

  4. Anna @AnnaTheApple

    I think it’s going to be a huuuuge shock to me when I eventually have a baby. I’m an 8 hours sleep kinda girl. I get up ridiculously early for the gym (5am) but I got to be at like 9pm and fall asleep very quickly these days so though it feel awful when the alarm goes off, when I’m up I’m actually fine. But having a baby thrown into the mix? You mums are superwomen!

    • Laura Agar Wilson

      Haha thanks Anna, it is tough but you adapt. I’m sure something must happen to your body to help you cope!

  5. Claire Hayhurst

    Great, great tips Laura! I’ve found taking magnesium and gelatin helps ensure a good night’s sleep when I’m able to get a good whack of hours in (I appreciate new mums etc don’t always have the option of sleeping through the night!)

    • Laura Agar Wilson

      I still take my magnesium calcium before bed for what good it’s worth! You’ve actually just reminded me to go and make some more gelatin gummies :-)

  6. GiGi Eats

    I shall send this to my sister who is 6 months pregnant! ;)

  7. Pip {Cherries & Chisme}

    I seriously do not know how mamas cope, big respect.
    I haven’t been sleeping as much as I should’ve this week due to stress/business (I feel so bad saying this in comparison to you guys!!) and what’s been key for me is learning to prioritise. Like, what can I move to do at the weekend when I have more time so that I can sleep more now? Is going to CrossFit today reallyyyy going to help me or shall I go on Thursday instead? That kind of thing. Quitting the self-enforced pressure basically.
    Plus, all of what you said! It reminds me of my finals when the guy in the library coffee shop knew my order as soon as I walked in… #healthy

    • Laura Agar Wilson

      That’s a great tip, prioritising where you put sleep ahead of other things is so key. For me it’s damn emails that stops me from getting to bed that little bit earlier! Haha, if I had a coffee shop really close by it would likely be the same for me to be honest!

  8. Mary

    I am AWFUL when I’ve not gotten much sleep the night before. Really grumpy and no fun to be around at all. I can’t imagine that I would cope very well if we were to have a child. I think I would find it quite stressful to constantly be ‘on show’ for everyone that wanted to pop by after the birth as well. That’s something else that wears me out. I really don’t know how you cope!

    • Laura Agar Wilson

      Yep that’s something we didn’t have too much of thankfully. You really don’t feel like seeing people that close to the birth!

  9. Lauren

    I don’t know how you do it lady. I am a monster if I don’t get my sleep. It seems like you have lots of great things in place to help support you during this time of little sleep. Keep going and I am sure the older Fin gets, the more sleep you will get back :)

    • Laura Agar Wilson

      I really hope so! Haha I know he’ll get better in time thankfully :-)

  10. Lauren (@PoweredbyPB)

    This is a timely post for me, as I’ve really been slacking on sleep this week, I’ve had 3 nights in a row of 6 hours or less, and I really start to notice it. Unfortunately I’m having a super busy time with working and studying and sleep is the thing that has been sacrificed this week!

  11. Rachel

    This is one of the aspects of having a baby that worries me most as I can be a really bad sleeper when faced with anything important I have to do or anything that disrupts the normal routine – I got no sleep at all the night before my wedding! I have phases of sleeping really badly, it’s like my brain gets itself in a loop and I just can’t drop off. I am not even pregnant and already convinced that I will be an insane zombie with a baby! I just have to tell myself that eventually I will drop off and that i will manage somehow with a baby!

    Good tips, nice to see an article that has ideas for coping on no sleep as usually sleep articles just say how awful it is for your health and life expectancy not to sleep well and to ‘make sure you get enough sleep’ as if it’s always that easy!

    • Laura Agar Wilson

      You’ll be fine, it is hard, but with tips like that to follow they will help and I’m also sure that something changes in your body that helps you cope. That is exactly why I wrote this, I was getting so frustrated with those articles!

  12. Emma

    Hi Laura,

    This is a fab article! My daughter didn’t sleep through the night until she was 15 months! And I’m now weeks away from giving birth to my second (very much hoping for a sleepy one this time).

    This list you have put together is BRILLIANT. And I, sadly, completely agree with your point on coffee. I went through a phase of relying on it to get me through and by 5pm would be grinding my teeth and feeling slightly mad.

    I think I would also add to your list telling your nearest and dearest that sleep deprivation is taking its toll. I found lack of sleep messed with my emotions and ability to achieve ANYTHING. I spoke to a sleep researcher and she confirmed that it reduces your ability to follow a process or make a decision. In the end I told my husband and friends ‘look, I’m struggling, I’m not going to be able to remember things, make a decision and am feeling wobbly – please be kind.’ Things got a lot better from there – and at the very least they stopped saying ‘but I TOLD you YESTERDAY’ when I couldn’t even remember what day it was! So frustrating…

    Emma x


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