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5 ways to stay sane while sleep-deprived

Sleep deprived womanIt’s 3am… and there it is again.

I’ve been here many times before – the middle of the night wake-up cry… the sixth since I crawled into bed tonight.

I knew when I was pregnant that this was going to happen, but I had somehow successfully wiped any memory of this exhausted feeling from my brain.

Now I’ll be honest, I spent a large proportion of my 20s in a slightly sleep-deprived state. Usually self-inflicted… I simply had a tendency to be the last one to leave a party.  So surviving on the snippets of sleep that a newborn allows should be easy to me.

But frankly, as I stagger towards the bassinette yet again, with my bedraggled dressing gown grasped around my shoulders, I’m really starting to lose my sanity a little.

My first child didn’t sleep for more than a two-hour stretch for over a year. He was a reflux baby with terrible sleep patterns and an inbuilt sensor where the moment you put him down, his eyes would open and his lungs swiftly followed. We tried every sleep method out there – from Elizabeth Pantley to the regimented Gina Ford. We tried singing, white noise, no noise, controlled crying, endless crying (mine!) – and by the time he was 10 months old, I really had lost my mind.

So how do I limit the collateral damage on my mental health, second time around?

Unfortunately every baby is different and you cannot predict in utero whether they will be a contented sleeper from day dot. If you do find yourself struggling with a more unsettled baby, you’ll need a plan of support in place to ensure that you don’t lose your sanity through the sleep deprivation.

Sleep when they sleep

Yep, you’ve heard it before, but how many times has nap time slipped away whilst you were catching up on email, or sorting the laundry? When the sleep deprivation hits, the laptop and Omo can wait – an hour of shut-eye is far more important.

Get all the help you can

Try and express the evening feed so that the witching hour settling and 10pm feed can be done by your partner, then you can get some unbroken sleep from when your partner comes home until they head to bed. If you are bottle feeding, there is no excuse for them not to take a couple of the feeds! If there are local relatives that are eager and willing, call them in to help out too… a fresh and calm pair of hands is often all a baby needs to settle (as much as it pains us frazzled mums to witness!).

Talk to your Childhood Nurse

If you are struggling with feed/sleep patterns and settling, the Early Childhood Nurse is a great place for advice and tips. If you are still struggling, they can also refer you to a local sleep school where they can work hands-on with you with settling and sleep patterns.

Look after yourself

If the sleep deprivation is starting to make you feel resentful or angry towards the baby, get yourself to the GP. Post-natal depression can often stem from constant sleep-deprivation, so get help and support as soon as symptoms appear.

Remember it will end

As much as we all need our sleep, remember that this will be only be happening for a tiny fraction of their lives, so try and enjoy those late night cuddles and newborn moments as much as you can – because before too long, they will be over.


So as I sit here at dawn-break after a luxurious 3 hours broken sleep, rocking the pram with my foot, I’ll simply adjust and defer to exhausted haze I’m currently existing in, because in the bigger picture, it is all worthwhile.

And in the meantime… more coffee anyone?!

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3 comments so far -

  1. I have a 3.5 year old at home, and a 10 week old baby girl. Our first baby was a reflux,colic and rota virus baby so sleep was a myth. My husband and I nearly killed ourselves trying to get her into the sleeep patterns recommended by the top three selling books, until we received the best advice from the baby clinic. Throw the books out – you will kill trying to turn your baby into something else ie if you have a cat you cant teach it to bark.
    Some of my survival tips – keep your vitamins up, if your getting depressed boost your vitamin C and Zinc. I did notice this time around, if your baby is in the middle of a screaming colic session, walk outside. For some reason a change of scenery seem to break their mental cycle of colic. Rescue remedy for you, and one drop on your finger for baby works wonders. Hot water bottle on baby tummy, and a hot cup of tea/coffee whatever for you.
    I put the tv on for the 3 year old when breastfeeding the new bub, and prep 1 activity for the 3 yo during bubs morning sleep. Then lunch for 3yo and me at 11-11:30, 3 yo in bed first, then me and bub to bed. Feed and sleep. I always play relaxation music in the background (this is for me), and i find if i drop off to sleep, so does bub.
    I am still breastfeeding, and bub doesn’t take the bottle but will sip formula from a spoon (can you believe it?) So i still breastfeed, but when I am stressed the milk drops off. I have now realised that milk comes and milk goes. When it drops off – Dont Panic! I kept putting bub on the breast, and supplemented after the breast with spoons/bottle of water or formula. My milk came back in the first time after one day, the second time after 2 dys, the third time after 12 hours….. So my lessons – milk comes back, so dont panic or bub will panic, and we all turn into fire breathing dragons!

    When your having a really bad day, go outside! sit somewhere in a garden, any garden….and breath!

    • Thank you Racquel. Great tips. I can relate to the milk dropping off and just need to relax. As a new mum I get so much conflicting advice about everything but now I just relax and work things out for myself. each bub is an individual and there is no one way that fits all

  2. Love this post. Second time around for me started off soooo much better but she hit four months and has never sleep a full night since. The difference this time is that I’m not trying to “fix” her sleep. I know now that they do grow out of it and even though it feels like a lifetime when your in the middle of a bad night (or week!) that it really does go by quickly. I tried many things to get my first baby to sleep better but it was an endless cycle of stress, expectation and disappointment.

    This time, even though I’m still super tired and waking a few times each night, I’m no longer insane (or at least no more so than before this all started :))

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