14 tips to recover from a sleepless night

14 December, 2011

Last night, our two-year old woke up and screamed.  Sounds familiar?

He is normally a very reliable sleeper, so my wife and I both assumed that it was time to get up and take his older brothers and sister to school.

It was only when we were reaching for our toothbrushes, that we glanced at the clock.

It read 1.30am!

We crept back to bed, taking our toddler with us, feeling rather foolish.

But the little one is not very good at sharing a bed. He tossed and turned, kicked and pushed. He lay across the bed so there was no room for his parents: he swept aside the covers and left us exposed to the freezing cold winter air in our bedroom.  Needless to say, sleep pretty much eluded us.

Eventually, he announced that he was ready for breakfast and wanted his cereal – not in half an hour, mind, but right now! How do you argue with a two-year old who wants his breakfast? Answer: you don’t!

But there was another bombshell to come: not only had we hardly slept, but the alarm clock still hadn’t advanced beyond 4.30am. Junior got his cereal, but Mum and Dad were exhausted. What a way to start the day.

So how do you recover from such a bad start to the day? We’d probably lost at least five hours of sleep, looked terrible, had a cranky two-year old on our hands and wondered how we were going to make it through our busy schedule.

Well, here is a quick checklist of things you can do that may help all those parents out there whose precious sleep is interrupted:

  1. Stay positive.  Try to remember that these sleepless nights aren’t going to last for ever.
  2. Also remember that sleep deprivation is experienced by many parents and is not life-threatening or even harmful to your health provided it doesn’t become too frequent.
  3. Try not to expect too much of yourself the day after a sleepless night. You can’t do everything, and being over-tough on yourself will only increase the stress that you are feeling.
  4. If she wakes up in the middle of the night, try to persuade the litte one to go back to her own bed, rather than invading yours.
  5. Try to share the load both during the night and the following day with your partner or friends. It is OK to need help.
  6. Do some relaxing exercise – take a walk or do some yoga. You will find it refreshing and revitalizing.
  7. Get outside and soak up some sunlight – this will help to reset your body clock, and dispel the feelings of disorientation and grogginess.
  8. Make sure that you don’t skip meals – eat light, healthy food.
  9. Try to avoid drinking coffee or energy drinks. They may seem the obvious answer to keep you awake during your day, but are actually likely to make it harder to sleep when you finally get back to bed.
  10. Instead, try fresh fruit or vegetable juices, to give you an (almost) instant boost without putting strain on your digestive system.
  11. Drink lots of water.
  12. Take a power nap during the day, if you can. Restrict it to 20 minutes maximum so that you don’t enter deep sleep.
  13. Keep to your regular sleep schedule (if there still is such a thing). Avoid going to bed earlier after a sleepless night or lying in at weekends as this will upset the natural rhythms of your body clock.
  14. Find some time to relax during the day. I can hear you saying, “are you kidding? With a toddler in the house?” But even taking 5 minutes to do a breathing exercise will help.

Most of these tips will work after any sleepless night.  So, if you have been out partying, revising for exams, preparing a report for your boss, or just couldn’t sleep for some other reason, follow these same, simple principles and you will soon be back to normal, full of energy and vitality.

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