So much sleep advice out there is about how to fall asleep, how to get to sleep, or how to stay asleep. That advice is valid, but if you’re parenting a young one, it’s probably for a different time in life. (Although it's never too early for the soothing support of the Ingenuity Baby Dream Machine.)
I went from occasional sleepless nights– tossing and turning in anxiety before I had my son – to going into an immediate unconscious stupor at every possible chance after I had him. Those chances, however, were few and far between in the first six months.
It’s one thing to have the time to sleep but be lacking in the ability to harness it, and completely another to be dead tired, nearly asleep on your feet, and responsible for a tiny screaming creature that sleeps in only two-hour spurts.
For most of us, thankfully, this period is brief. I’ve heard it referred to as: “Baby bootcamp," “one long day-night,” “the best of times and the worst of times,” and ever since Stranger Things came out, “the upside down." It can be extremely painful, and even dangerous. I left our gas stove burner on so many times in the first year of our son’s life that my husband bought an electric tea kettle and hid the old one. I’m still on a self-imposed oven-use ban unless there is another adult in the house. After a nice long stretch of our son sleeping through the night, he recently started waking up again, randomly. While I know it’s a phase, it inspired me to get some expert advice for when you know you won’t be getting the hours of shut-eye your body and brain are craving.
If you’re expecting, or your child is starting to hit a rough patch in the sleep department, go out and recruit family and friends for help right now, says Lesley Yadon, Life Coach with a Masters in Counseling, who specializes in supporting first-time mothers. “Ask them if they are willing to take up responsibility for things such as cooking, cleaning, and meals in the early days so that you can rest and care for your baby,” says Yadon.
It might sound awkward, but when you put yourself in the shoes of those who love you, it’s not at all. “Remember that asking for support gives the gift of giving to someone else,” she says. If you get cold feet, “Think of a time you were able to help someone else. Remember how good it feels to be of service to someone? You are blessing another person by asking for support.” It can’t hurt to line up the contact information of professionals, either. “You may need extra help from a sleep coach or mental health professional if you find yourself so worried and anxious you can't function, feel disconnected from your baby, don't feel emotion, or you're feeling uncontrollable emotions,” she says.
Ask your family and friends to be on the lookout for these warning signs too. “If you are repeatedly doing things that are a bit wacky or strange or accidental, that's a red flag you are not getting enough sleep,” she says. Maybe, like, leaving the burner on so many times that you’re banned from household stove use?
“Couples have their worst fights when they are either sleep deprived, or intoxicated,” says Erika Boissiere, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, and Founder of The Relationship Institute of San Francisco. “The truth that many of us don’t talk about is that sleep deprivation can be extremely hard on your relationship.” The problem, she says, is that when you are sleep deprived, you are also less able to recognize the signs of sleep deprivation in yourself. “Symptoms include: Irritability, impulsivity, being reactionary, making uninformed decisions, being moody, angry, and/or depressed, weight gain, acting unpredictably, sadness, and anxiety.”
Signs can show up after as few as three nights of bad sleep. “During the first six months of your baby’s life, if you and your partner get into a fight, I want you to first ask yourself this question, before figuring out the fight: “Are either of us sleep deprived?” says Boissiere. Once you know you’re sleep deprived, you’ve taken a break from your regular household duties, and you’ve gotten the support you need, it’s time to mitigate the damage. Boissiere has provided these six quick tips for finding the sleep you need: