Sleep deprivation in working parents

Sleep deprivation in working parents

I remember it clearly.  Actually, it wasn’t ‘clearly’, it was more like ‘hazey’ when I first had a baby.  I can’t quite remember how and when I emerged from this foggy existence, but somehow I did.

Particularly hard-hit by sleep deprivation can be those new dads who are straight back to work after 2 weeks paternity leave;  or those newly back- to-work mums, still facing sleep deprivation after spending hours in the night pacing the floor with a wide-awake baby.  Even as babies become toddlers, they seem to sense that you have an important presentation the next day.

Dr Thomas Roth from the National Sleep Foundation ( says:
‘Most people don’t know how harmful a lack of sleep can be, and the harm we can cause to those around us.’

Tips for Sleep deprivation in Working Parents

So for all those who are still suffering, here are our top tips:

  1. Take comfort in the fact that this really is just a phase, and it WILL get better
  1. Give yourself a break. You will not be able to achieve as much and as well when you are sleep-deprived so lower your expectations, delegate some chores and let the housework slip
  1. Negotiate with your partner well ahead of when it starts to get dark who will get up during the night. Take it in turns if you are not breastfeeding 100%.  If one of you has an important meeting the next day, let the other one get up in the night.  If you are the one who is sleeping, get some ear plugs – it’s really hard to sleep through a baby feed and/or change
  1. If you are the one getting up for the feed, don’t put the light on as it will affect all of your sleep and make it harder for you and the baby to get back off
  1. Take turns having a lie-in at the weekends
  1. Eat a healthy diet. No one can resist a strong coffee or a chocolate bar for a quick fix, but bear in mind that if you want to have sustained energy levels, quick fixes make you feel more lethargic later.  Try high energy foods like nuts, bananas, dried fruit, wholemeal toast and baked beans and porridge
  1. Stick to a regular bed-time
  2. Make up for lost sleep during the day where possible. A power nap for 20 minutes will work wonders on your state of mind and on your energy levels, but it does take practice, so try it each day if you can
  1. For a quick energy boost, even if you really don’t feel like it, do a quick burst of exercise. If you are at work, go outside and walk as fast as you can for at least 10 minutes, or walk up a few flights of stairs.  If you are at home, do the same or jog on the spot for 30 seconds
  1. If you are at work, plan your day carefully so that the toughest meetings and jobs are tackled first thing in the morning, or at a time when you know you personally have the highest energy levels
  1. Prepare your to-do list the night before so you can get straight to work when you arrive. The thought that you may be able to leave early will motivate you through a tired day
  1. Speak to other sleep-deprived parents – it will make you feel better that you are not suffering alone. Don’t know any?  See if your company has got a Parent’s Network.  If you are at home, take some time to meet up with others going through the same thing as you
  1. Low iron levels can sometimes make you feel lethargic, so take vitamins or eat more leafy green vegetables or fortified breakfast cereals
  1. Recognise that when you are tired you will have a shorter fuse. On bad days, avoid difficult discussions or difficult people.  Take a breath before you reply to a colleague or manager who is frustrating you, or tell them you will talk about it later
  1. If you do snap, apologise and explain it’s because you are exhausted. People are more understanding than you might think when they realise it’s not personal – you’re just tired

By Helen Letchfield

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