"Being a good dad starts with presence not presents"
I recently saw a post by a new dad (1 month in) who was feeling debilitated by the lack of sleep he was getting. It made me think of my first months as a dad and coping with the combination of little sleep and having to function as a dad and a member of society. So I thought it would be good to put down some the the things I used to help push through, and come to terms with that period of sleep deprivation.
1. Be A Team
You don't have to do it alone. If you are offered help don't try to be a hero. Usually the people offering the help have been in the same position as you and know what it feels like. If no one offers then ask for help. Taking help even for an hour can give you chance to rest and regroup. You will be surprise how much better you feel.
2. Short Naps
Don't be afraid to take power naps. When you are sleep deprived taking a 20 minute nap can feel like you slept for days. Don't be afraid to sleep wherever too. I have slept on the floor of airport terminals, in the car at lunch and in a toddlers bed. If the opportunity arises take it, you can even trade off between you and your partner to grab a short snooze. Why should you be the only one enjoying the comfy floor at gate 23, terminal 2. Lastly, try to sleep when your baby sleeps. So if they're going to bed at 7, you go too, and try to grab some catch up sleep.
3. Eat Smart
Eating is a great tool to combat sleep deprivation. A good breakfast with protein, whole grain and fruit will give you a good start. Try to stay away from to much high sugar or high caffeine food or drinks. When you'r feeling tired its easy to grab them but the short term high is followed by a long low that will make your tiredness even worse. Try eating smaller balanced meals and often. Avoiding large heavy meals will stop you getting into a food coma. We got a toasted sandwich maker. throw in bread and a filling and close it. In a couple of minutes you have a sealed snack that you can eat on the go. It was a literal life saver and to this day is one of the best parenting hack i have been given.
4. Forget The Extras
A big cause of unneeded loss of sleep is taking on too much. If you are already stretched out with a new child and lack of sleep don't take on extra tasks. Stick to what you have and whats important right now. There will be time to do lots of extras when you are more rested and sleeping more than a couple of hours a night (if you're lucky).
5. Get Out In The Sun
If you're feeling sleep deprived sunlight is great. So put you baby in a stroller get out for a walk for while. If you are at work try to eat your lunch outside or take a five minute walk. If it's winter bundle up and still take that walk you'll be glad you did.
6. Don't Use The Snooze
This is the hardest one for me for sure. If you have somewhere to be and set and alarm to wake you up DON'T USE SNOOZE. You will feel better just getting straight up, partly because and half sleep after snooze probably won't help you and mostly because there is nothing worse than being stressed because you are late when your are already low on sleep. The physical and mental stress of sleep deprivation is enough, don't add an extra layer.
7. Stay Hydrated
Just like eating, staying hydrated is important. Keep a water bottle around and drink from it often. Don't wait to feel thirsty, by then it's already a game of catch up.
8. Chunk Your Time
Time chunking is something use a lot when i'm sleep deprived. For me thinking about the end goal can be an extreme strain mentally. If I have a bigger project I try to chunk it down into task that are mentally manageable. Then after each task take a break drink eat maybe and move to the next task. This
9. Fake It Until You Make It
Sleep deprivation is miserable, but thinking about how sleep deprived you are, is even worse. Decide to accept the misery and move on. Try to stay positive and work around your tiredness the more you do it the more chance it will stick.
10. Train For It
One of the best ways to push through sleep deprivation is to be comfortable with it and to get comfortable you have to put for that situation. I can say from personal experience, if you train yourself to cope with sleep deprivation before you really need it, it is definitely not as big a shock to the system. Now, I don't mean you have to sign up for hell week at the navy seals but definitely combining some late nights with early mornings, and planning tasks for those early mornings is a great start. The more you learn to perform even simple tasks in a semi sleep deprived state the easier that third baby change will be a month in at 2am.