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15 Helpful Hacks For Sleep-Deprived Parents

Published: 01/23/2022

You made all the necessary plans and preparations for your little one’s entrance–but absolutely nothing can prepare you or your body for the sudden lack of sleep and constant exhaustion that comes with a new baby. What’s a new parent to do? While there’s no good substitute for a full night of sleep, there are things a tired parent can do to make it through this phase (and it IS a phase–just a relentlessly cruel one!). 

Here are 15 tips and helpful hacks for sleep-deprived parents. 

#1 Call For Reinforcements.

Invite a trusted friend or family member to care for your baby while you head to snoozeville, but set expectations ahead of time: 

  • Being chronically sleep-deprived, you may or may not be in the mood for chit chat. Be sure your sitter understands that you’ll be disappearing for (hopefully!) 2-3 hours to get caught up on your zzzs. 
  • Schedule their visit for a time of day when you are most likely to get quality sleep–whether that’s 6am, right after one of your baby’s feedings, or even overnight. 
  • Set your sitter up for success by having your baby’s supplies ready to go (bottles, baby food, pacifiers, clothes, diapers, a cheat sheet of your baby’s schedule, etc.). 

#2 Get Sleep Support.

While new moms and dads are seriously exhausted, they’re also full of adrenaline, anxiety, and looping thoughts. If you find it nearly impossible to conk out when you need to, try a sleep-promoting supplement. Look for a brand that contains melatonin and other calming botanicals for natural R&R. Bonus points if it tastes good! 

#3 Routine, Routine, Routine. 

You’ve done anything and everything to set up your baby for sleep success, now it’s time to focus on your own sleep hygiene. Follow a consistent nightly routine to help your body wind down and get ready to snooze. A simple routine could include drinking some non-caffeinated tea, brushing your teeth, changing into your PJs, and reading a book in bed. 

#3 Use Nap Time Wisely.

If you’re really running on empty, then follow the old rule of sleeping while the baby sleeps. According to the National Sleep Foundation, even a 20 minute power nap can benefit your mood and alertness. If you really, truly need sleep, then forget the chores, Netflix, and scrolling through baby photos on your phone (that’s a tough habit to break, we know!). Bottom line? Sleep during nap time if you need to. 

#4 Face The Facts.

In the early days especially, don’t torture yourself with a comparison mindset and midnight Google search consultations. Yes, some newborns sleep through the night, but it’s rare. Accept that this phase is hella difficult but will not last forever. Remember that most (but not all) babies are able to sleep longer stretches by 6 months, so let go of any expectations that you’ll get a full night’s rest until your baby’s circadian rhythm has matured. 

#5 Wind Down Well. 

As part of your nighttime routine (see #3), keep some of these best practices in mind:

  • Turn off your electronics a couple hours before bedtime (aka: no scrolling in bed because the bright light will only stimulate your brain making it harder to prep for sleep). 
  • Avoid having stressful conversations or doing difficult tasks at night, especially if you’re prone to spinning thoughts at night.
  • Once the afternoon hits, don’t load up on sugar and caffeine, even if it doesn’t seem to affect your sleep at night. You don’t want to take any chances! 
  • Don’t exercise 2-3 hours before bedtime as it could give you a boost of energy–something you don’t want too much of as sleepy time nears! 
  • After dinner, keep the lights dim throughout the house to signal to your body that it’s getting time to snooze. You may be doing this anyway as part of your baby’s bedtime routine. 
  • Consider a meditation, gratitude, or mindfulness activity to help put any anxious thoughts to rest (journaling, stretching, and adult coloring books FTW!).
  • Tweak and optimize your sleep environment: use blackout curtains, turn on a fan or sound machine, cover any bright lights, and make sure the temperature is just right (you know, ALL the things you’ve already implemented in the nursery!)

#6 Fill Your Lungs.

If the sound of your baby crying at night (or any time of day!) makes your blood boil, that’s natural and normal. Next time your little one starts wailing, pause and take five slow, DEEP breaths. Conscious breathing helps regulate your body’s stress response and sends oxygen to your brain to help you think clearly about your next step. 

#7 Work With Your Work.

If you’re a working parent and sleep-deprivation is affecting your professional life (how can it not?!), set up an appointment with your supervisor or HR rep right away. Ask if there is an option for any kind of flexibility in your schedule. For example, can you extend your lunch break by ½ hour so you can go home and take a cat nap before heading back into the office? Is there room for a late start option so you can get some zzzs in after dropping your baby off at daycare? Imagine your ideal scenario and ask for the help you need! 

#8 Choose The Best Nighttime Noms. 

To improve the quality of your sleep, try eating or drinking some of these common sleep-promoting foods a few hours before you hit the hay: Tart cherry juice, chamomile tea, warm milk, figs, salmon, turkey, pineapple, kiwi, and nuts (almonds, cashews, pistachios). Things to avoid? Tomato-based sauces, fried food, and anything too salty.

#9 Refresh Yourself In Other Ways.  

Aim to do at least ONE thing for yourself every day. Something that makes you feel like the vibrant, amazing human that you are! Take a bath after the baby goes down, go for a walk while your partner’s on baby duty, sing in the shower, blow your hair dry, read a chapter of your book. Believe it or not, ending the day with a little less FOMO could help you go to sleep feeling more like yourself. 

#10 Don’t Be Extra.

A sleep-deprived parent should, under no circumstances, be expected to take on too much responsibility. Host the next family gathering, coach your oldest's soccer team, pet sit for your neighbor? Just say (a guilt-free) “no.” There will be plenty of time to lend a hand as your kiddo grows and your family starts getting proper sleep again. Until then, press pause on any extracurriculars.  

#11 Pay For Peace Of Mind.

If it’s in your budget, and it would ease your anxiety, then invest in some of those genius gadgets like a video baby monitor, top-of-the-line crib mattress, bottle sterilizer, or automatic vacuum. These items are popular with fellow parents for a reason! On the less expensive side, there are other small steps you can take for some peace of mind. Try overnight diapers and extra diaper rash cream so you won’t wonder if your baby needs to be changed at 3am. Use products formulated without common skin irritants so you can feel good about the ingredients being absorbed into your baby’s skin. 

#12 Work As A Team. 

When your baby won’t sleep, it’s all hands on deck. Here’s how partners can work together to support each others sleep needs:

  • Team up with your significant other to take it in shifts on particularly rough nights. Just make sure you’ve set expectations beforehand so you aren’t arguing about whose turn it is to tend to the baby at 1am. 
  • Sleep in separate rooms. Yep, some sleep-deprived parents resort to this. Know that it’s temporary, so you each can get as much undisturbed rest as possible. 
  • Mamas, the mental load of motherhood is so real. Find ways to ask for help. Even if your partner can’t give you the gift of sleep, maybe they can offload dinner or laundry duty. 

#13 Have a Midnight Munchie.

Nursing mamas, this one’s for you! Hungry babies who feed several times in the night can leave you feeling famished, too. Make sure you are replenishing with water and healthy snacks after those feeding sessions. 

#14 Prioritize YOU.

When it’s time to tend to your baby at 2 am, it’s OK to care for yourself before heading into the nursery. Go to the bathroom, get a drink of water, take a deep breath. It won’t make you feel any less tired, but putting yourself first (even in the smallest of ways) is a powerful way to practice self-care during these relentless days and nights. 

#15 Use Your Sense Of Smell.

Certain scents can help promote sleep and relaxation. Before heading to bed, sniff, spray, or diffuse essential oil blends that contain lavender, chamomile, bergamot, jasmine, or lemon balm to help everyone chill out. PS: It’s totally appropriate to use your baby’s sleep-promoting products on yourself, too. 

How do you prioritize sleep when all else fails? Share your hacks with us in the comments below!