How to Survive When Your Baby Won’t Sleep
Your baby won’t sleep? I’ve been there. I’m still there. If you’re like me, you’re busy. You have to juggle all the things life throws at you, including work, children, spouse, housework (click here for time saving tips for cleaning), and other things. When your baby won’t sleep it throws your whole life off and out of balance. It’s expected that newborns won’t sleep through the night, but after months of not sleeping it can be so stressful!
I remember my first few weeks back at work after I had Carter I was a zombie. Being up with him half of the night and then having to wake up at the crack of dawn to make myself somewhat presentable for the world and working all day was not what I called fun. I remember looking at the clock at work after being there only and hour and thinking, “How am I going to make it another 7 hours?” I was a therapist at that time. My clients would be talking and I felt like I wasn’t giving my all because I was so tired and I would zone out while they were talking. I felt so guilty!
When we don’t sleep, many things happen to our body. We lose focus, we lose the ability to reason, our immune system gets out of whack, and we get CRANKY. Sometimes we get so desperate for sleep that we’re willing to try anything. I’ve heard of parents trying the conventional things such as sleep training and routines, and I’ve heard of unconventional things being done such as visiting a psychic and having the house spiritually cleansed.
So when we’re given the situation of little to no sleep and your baby won’t sleep, but we don’t have the option to stay at home and sleep all day, what do we do? How do we cope with the lack of sleep so that we can maintain a somewhat normal life when your baby won’t sleep? My son has started to sleep longer stretches and is slowly getting better at sleeping through the night, but I’m still exhausted every day. My body hates interrupted sleep.
Here are some tips that have worked for me and other moms I know. I’m not saying you’re not going to be tired, but these tricks will help make it a little easier.
Survival Tip #1 – Go to bed early.
It is so important that as soon as your baby falls asleep you get to bed! I know, I know. You’re thinking about all that needs to be done and that show that needs to be watched. I’ve been there, but I found such relief when I went to bed shortly after my son did. If he went to sleep at 8:00 I was in bed and sleeping by 8:30. It makes such a difference to get a couple of extra hours of sleep a night. That way, when your baby wakes up at 10 or 11, you will have already have had a couple of hours of sleep under your belt for the night instead of nothing or being woken up only after a half hour of sleep. The housework can wait. The show can wait. Painting your nails can wait. You need this, trust me. You will feel a significant difference the next day at work and may even be able to pay attention in your morning meeting (or clients).
Survival Tip # 2 – Drink caffeine.
Do I really need to go into detail on this one? Caffeine works wonders! Even one cup of coffee will help you tremendously. If you don’t drink coffee there are delicious teas and other beverages that will do the trick. Just make sure to watch the calories, fat and sugar as they can cause weight gain and even a crash later on in the day, intensifying the exhaustion. Also, avoid caffeine later on the in the day because it might keep you from falling asleep at night.
Survival Tip #3 – Wake up the same time each day.
Even if your baby won’t sleep, no matter what your night was like, make sure you wake up, and actually get up the same time each day. When you hit that snooze button it will make you feel more tired and probably will make you late. Waking up the same time each day helps keep our body in rhythm, and our bodies love rhythm. You’ll feel better throughout the day if you keep a consistent schedule. I know it’s hard when you just fell back asleep an hour before your alarm but it will help you feel more energized.
Survival Tip #4 – Eat healthy and smart.
Having a breakfast that is loaded with carbs and grains could cause you to have a mid morning crash. Instead, opt for more protein which can keep you energized. Have some eggs and some yogurt instead of pancakes or toast. You will definitely notice a difference. During the day, snack on foods that will increase your energy, such as almonds, fresh fruits and vegetables and hummus.
Survival Tip #5 – Exercise.
On days that were particularly tough for me, I’d grab my co-worker at break time and take a brisk walk around the building, preferably outside if we could. The fresh air and sunshine will help to wake you up and the exercise will get blood and oxygen pumping through your body which will give you natural energy. Again, try not to exercise too late in the day though, as that could keep you from falling asleep easily.
Survival Tip #6 – Try a B complex supplement.
Vitamin B helps supply energy to our bodies and it can be depleted due to many sources, such as stress, birth control and alcohol. When I started to take the B complex supplement I noticed a huge difference in how I felt throughout the day.
Survival Tip #7 – Take turns.
If you’re able to and have a spouse or a partner at home with you, try taking turns. My husband and I would take turns each night and when we started to do that we both felt so much better throughout the day. Even on the nights when we had baby duty, we noticed we weren’t so tired, and I think it’s because we were both getting more sleep than we were before. Just not having to get out of bed or wake up for that longer stretch of time seemed to help us.
Survival Tip #8 – Stay busy.
I know it’s hard to do when you can’t focus and you are exhausted because your baby won’t sleep, but try to stay busy throughout the day. The minute you sit down with nothing to do, I promise you the clock will move slower and you will start to melt. Make a list of things you want to get done at work or around the house and do them. Use this time to your advantage.
Survival Tip #9 – Drink cold water.
When you’re dehydrated, everything slows down in your body. The heart sends oxygen and nutrients slower to your heart which will make you feel fatigued. By drinking water, you will feel refreshed and more alert. Buy a cute water bottle and carry it with you wherever you go. If you need to, sweeten and flavor it with fresh fruit or mint.
Survival Tip # 10 – Take a few minutes for yourself.
If you have a break at work throughout the day, take a few minutes for yourself. Sit down somewhere quiet and close your eyes for a few minutes. Even a 15 minute nap will make you feel so refreshed. If you need to, set an alarm to reduce anxiety about sleeping and not waking up in time to get back to work. If you don’t want to sleep, try meditation. There are plenty of guided meditations on YouTube that are short enough for a break. It will help clear your mind of the fog so you can power through your day. This helped me tons! Try this one.
I will also say that I never stopped trying things for the baby as well. We tried lavender oil in his room, a bedtime routine, different types of sleep training, music, night lights, ect. I keep trying to introduce new ideas every now and then and we finally found out that the routine worked best for us. It has reduced his night waking greatly and made it easier for all of us.
Whatever you do, just remember this isn’t forever, this is temporary. I know it can be so physically and emotionally draining when your baby won’t sleep, but HANG IN THERE!!! You are not alone!