Dealing with Sleep Deprivation


One of the odd things about parenting books is that there really aren’t too many on sleep deprivation and how to do all the parent things we are supposed to do – say 10 positive things for every negative one or correction, give them a multivitamin, fix healthy meals, encourage independence and impulse control, prepare them for social situations and school – when we are getting four hours of sleep for months on end. I always had big plans for what I would do with my kids at my favorite kid age – three year olds – but nothing prepared me for the fact that after four hours of sleep interrupted by the new baby that I would not have the energy to make coffee much less get everyone ready, work, and prepare an educational craft.

Yet so many families I know have two, three, four, and even five year-old children who still wake in the night. This is such a challenge. I did find Dr. Farber’s famous book Parenting Tip of the Day: Dealing with Sleep Deprivation Parenting Tip of the Day: Dealing with Sleep Deprivationquite helpful, and, along with several other books along the whole spectrum of sleep and parenting philosophies, we have used it with moderate success on our older child.

But babies are still babies, and just because the older child sleeps through the night doesn’t mean the younger one won’t keep you up and down. Parenting without much sleep, especially for months on end through the first year, is incredibly challenging. So here at EHP, we’ve prepared a short tip list for how to make it manageable!


1. Schedule help. If you can’t afford childcare, schedule a swap with a neighbor or a moms-day-out.
2. If your child is old enough for preschool and you can afford it, send him/her, even if it is just one day a week. Preschool is awesome for three and four year-olds and their development. It’s a win-win, and it is often much cheaper than other forms of childcare.
3. Take shifts. My husband and I trade night duty until one of us has a bad night. Then we switch. This way, if we have a good run where both kids sleep, we both benefit. If one of us gets hit with a rough night, we know we at least have the next night. For a while we tried to split things up into two days on/two days off or weekday and weeknights, but someone always gets the short stick. By responding to the previous night, we both stay marginally functional.
4. Do some research. There are some good books out there on sleep and sleep habits. Don’t take every book as a form of gospel, but do some reading to educate yourself and get some ideas that might apply to your particular situation.
5. Keep a food/sleep journal. By tracking what your child eats, how they behave, how they sleep, and when they sleep, you can start to see patterns that in your sleep-deprived state you might miss.
6. Invest in some gear. If you can, get one of the $50 white noise makers or room heaters. If it is hot where you live, get a window air conditioner if you don’t have one. A lot of sleep issues are comfort related.
7. Keep the faith. It does get better. Sometimes it takes months. Sometimes it take over a year. But it gets better. Drive carefully. Focus harder on anything that could be dangerous. Be aware you aren’t firing at 100 percent.

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