Monday, December 05, 2005

Coping With Sleep Deprivation

One of the toughest things about having young children in the house is the sleep deprivation. Adults were meant to sleep for long, uninterrupted periods each and every night. The older we get, the more important this becomes. However, put a baby into the household, and watch the sleep time unravel.

Babies are on a whole different time table all together. Their physical immaturity means that at first they need to be fed and changed every two to four hours. That means that SOMEONE has to get up out of bed to take care of those tasks. We parents hold up fairly well at first. We love the little bundles, and we want what's best for them. We gladly get up in the middle of the night to tend to their needs.

But after a few weeks, and usually before baby has grown enough to learn to sleep through the night, our stamina begins to break down. We start to feel tired and cranky, and it becomes really difficult to keep up with day to day tasks that need to be accomplished. Here are some tips that may help at your house.

First of all, sleep when baby sleeps. Make sleep your priority. When the baby lays down for one of those nap periods that are scattered through the day, resist the temptation to do the laundry or try to catch up on the dishes. The chores will wait! Sleep! You will find that you will become quite proficient at taking short cat naps, and they really do help. When my girls were little, I developed the habit of napping during the day, and found that these naps were full of dreams. Sleep scientists know that we sleep in many cycles and that the dreaming phase of sleep is really important to feeling rested. Don't be surprised if your naps are loaded with dreams.

Take chances to rest, too. I mean really rest. Put your feet up or lie down when your baby is happily cooing in the baby seat or somewhere else that is safe. This lessens the physical strain on your body and makes those quiet moments count for more rest.

If you have a reliable sitter or spouse who is up to the job, let them do the baby care one or two nights per week. You'll find that even a few uninterrupted nights of rest will work wonders for your body. My husband and I arranged that I would do the nighttime care during the week, when he had to be up at a certain time for work. On Friday and Saturday nights, he got up with the little ones and I rolled over and went back to sleep. This arrangement worked very well for our family. If you are on your own, or if your spouse cannot help out in this way, you may want to consider grandparents, your siblings, or even hiring a babysitter. And if nighttime isn't workable, see if you can get help for a few hours during the day a few times each week and use that time to catch up on your sleep.

By now, I'm sure you've figured out just how important all this sleep can be. Without proper rest, it becomes very difficult to do your job as a parent. Not only do you get short-tempered with your family, you also start to make mistakes and miss things that are important because your thinking skills suffer when you are sleep deprived. Find a way to fix the problem. Don't allow your baby to suffer because you aren't getting enough sleep. You have options! Use them!

No comments: