It’s Not Just the Kids’ Fault You’re Tired, Mom!


how to deal with sleep deprivation

It’s no secret—parenthood makes getting adequate shuteye a challenge. How to deal with sleep deprivation is an ever-evolving art. Precious post-bedtime hours are “my time” and it’s tempting to extend them farther than I know is wise. But when I start the day with inadequate sleep, I find that my emotional bandwidth is much shorter, leading to mood swings and less patience.

Research suggests that overall, moms who are rested have more positive views of their relationships with their children and of themselves. My kids deserve the best version of me, so it’s crucial to take responsibility for getting adequate rest. Knowing how to deal with sleep deprivation starts with identifying secret sleep-robbers. Here are three.

Screen Time

Our screens are public enemy number one. Research shows that blue light emitted by our devices suppresses our brain’s production of melatonin, the hormone that controls our sleep-wake cycles. Not only does this make it harder to fall asleep, but it also makes it harder to stay asleep. Set an alarm an hour before bedtime to go screen-free. Get creative with off-screen ways of relaxing: bubble baths, reading books, drawing, or calling a friend. It’s tempting to keep scrolling or to squeeze in another episode of The Crown, but gifting yourself and your children a better version of you the following day is worth it.

Secret Caffeine

If you’re like me, your hand doesn’t feel complete unless it’s holding a warm cup of coffee. Each person’s capacity for caffeine is different, and people who are sensitive to it should be aware that it’s found in surprising places. Chocolate, tea, headache medicine, ice cream, hot chocolate, and even decaffeinated coffee (yes, the name is misleading!) can contain varying amounts of caffeine. I need to stop drinking coffee at 3 p.m., but someone else’s cutoff may be noon. If you go to bed at a decent hour but have trouble falling asleep, it pays to consider your personal caffeine capacity and what time you should stop consuming it.

Overcommitment

Options for filling up our time with good things are endless. School or church fundraisers, extracurriculars, birthday parties, and just keeping on top of emails can keep us up late into the night, contributing to fatigue and burnout. The first way to discern what to keep is to prioritize your family activities with your spouse. What contributes to your family mission and what distracts? How much time do you realistically have? In my head, I’m superwoman, but in reality, only God can be productive 24 hours a day. Second, become skilled at kindly saying no and at simplifying. Hold off before you commit to a new project. The project might sound rewarding, but when a deadline stares you in the face in six months, will you want to put in the work? Build adequate time for rest into your schedule and treat it as importantly as dinnertime.

Each day, say aloud: “God, this is your day, not my day.” God entrusted you with your children and he wants you to be sane and rested. One of the greatest obstacles I put in the way of my own wellbeing is my expectation of how a day should go. Learning to be flexible, accept my limits, and try to make God’s will my priority help me find peace when I’m tired. You don’t have to be everything to everyone all the time, and with discipline, you can stay sane and rested.

What’s your favorite way to find rest?

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