How To Function After a Sleepless Night
Scientists have recently told of the effects sleep deprivation can have on the mind and body, and as expected, they are not good. Sleep deprivation is unavoidable once you become a parent, but you can take steps to improve your mood and health even running on little rest. Sleep consultant, Mandy Gurney, looks at the best ways to function and refresh after a sleepless night.
For many of us, parenthood is our first encounter with true sleep deprivation. Your sleep deprivation may lead to a predictable doziness in the late morning, which you treat with a chocolate biscuit, an afternoon slump in physical energy and concentration, or irritability that brings you close to tears in the evening.
Tiredness may also affect your mind as well as your body. Almost all parents find it impairs their judgement and makes them impatient. When deprived of REM sleep, mothers’ symptoms can often be confused with postnatal depression. Unfortunately most of our REM sleep occurs in the second half of the night at the time your baby’s wakes more frequently and takes the longest to return to sleep.
As a new parent your focus will be on your baby, but you matter too. If you are exhausted and worn out who will look after your little one? Don’t feel guilty, if you go down so will the whole family!
Ask for support
The first thing to do is talk to your partner and family, let them know how you’re feeling. You may be putting on a brave face and giving the impression you’re on top of things.
Accept all offers of help from family and friends.
Consider arranging a night-shift with your partner so you take it in turns to settle your baby back to sleep. And if you have an older child arrange for them to be picked up from nursery or school some days. Now is the time to get help where you can.
Try to take a 20 minute nap or have a 20 minute rest when your baby is sleeping. Don’t worry if you if you feel you haven’t slept. If you are lying down with our eyes closed you may well be asleep without realising it. Numerous sleep studies have shown, subjects awakened from the first stage of sleep often denied having slept at all. A nap of very light first stage sleep will make you feel less tired. Even 3 minutes of deeper sleep can have recuperative effects.
Keeping your energy levels up and reducing tension.
Remember to eat. It is important to keep up your energy levels. Having small amounts of protein with every meal and as snacks will keep your blood sugars more constant. Try to avoid sugary foods and caffeine as they might give you a boost at that the time but your blood sugar levels will drop quickly and leave you feeling more tired. Make sure you drink plenty of water throughout the day so you are well hydrated.
If you are feeling the tension of real fatigue and the day’s demands are getting on top of you, structured relaxation such as meditation or yoga will help with longer lasting relief.
Go out for a brisk walk in the morning light
Take your baby out for a walk in the morning as soon as you can. Exposure to light for about 30 minutes will re-energise you, reset you and your baby’s body clocks and improve your mood. Even on a cloudy day it will be brighter outdoors than in a well-lit room. If it’s hard for you to get out, try turning on electric lights and sitting near a bright window instead.
Even though the last thing you really want to do is exercise, walking briskly will improve your blood circulation and in turn increase your level of alertness.
Do the hardest jobs first
Research shows you will be at your best in the first couple of hours of the day so this is the time to take on your biggest challenges whether that’s putting on a load of washing or taking your baby to see the grandparents.
Try and find a local support group for new parents, where you can meet regularly to share tips and find empathetic ears. And if you feel you are not coping don’t hesitate to contact your GP or health visitor for some help; it could make all the difference.
This article was written by Mandy Gurney-RGN, RM, Dip HV, in collaboration with My Baba and MORI. Mandy is the founder of Millpond Sleep Clinic and can provide more help on with sleep deprivation on her website or with a call 020 84440040.