Are you often tired, grumpy, stressed, clumsy, or disoriented? Are you struggling to get and stay focused? Perhaps you’re having trouble communicating or completing tasks that you would normally breeze through? If so, you — and thirty percent of Americans — are sleep-deprived. In fact, you’re probably nodding off right now as you read this.
Well, get more sleep. That’s a given, right? But since catching more ZZZs is not always possible — especially for new parents with babies that don’t understand clocks — here are ten other ways to cope with sleep deprivation.
1. Drink coffee
It’s smart to drink coffee, Cokes, tea, or anything with caffeine because it jump starts your day and energy levels. However, watch when and how often you imbibe (fortunately, there’s an app for that!). Drinking too late in the day can keep you up all night and drinking too much can make you jittery, jumpy, and give you headaches when you try to wean yourself off of it. And if you’re breastfeeding, it’s especially important to monitor your intake so caffeine doesn’t accumulate in your baby’s system.
2. Don't hit the snooze button
I know, I know, this one is almost impossible for any person to follow. But waking up on time allows you to gather your thoughts and get ready for the day. When your alarm goes off, sit up, stretch, and get your blood pumping. Those few extra minutes can help you get and stay focused for the day and tasks ahead.
If you’re especially stubborn, consider buying an alarm clock that makes you work for the extra minutes of sleep: Clocky wheels around the room and makes you catch it to snooze, while Dumbbell Clock requires thirty reps before quieting down.
3. Take a nap
Easier said than done, huh? But, seriously, don’t feel guilty about catching some extra ZZZs. Naps — especially twenty to thirty minute ones — can help refresh you and keep you focused and productive for the rest of the day. And if you’re a big fan of napping at work — naps pods, anyone? — consider a career with Uber, Google, or Zappos.
4. Have a bedtime
And stick to your bedtime. No more Jimmy Fallon, no more binge-watching House of Cards, and no more answering work emails. The later you stay up, the later you’ll sleep in. And the later you sleep in, the more guilty you’ll feel about having a less productive day.
5. Do the most challenging tasks first
Because you’re your freshest, most alert, and best possible self after a good night’s rest, tackling annoying, mundane, and downright difficult work first thing in the morning makes the most sense. You’ll be energized, focused, and less likely to procrastinate at the task at hand. What’s more, when 3 P.M. rolls around and you’re nodding off, completing easier, more fun tasks won’t be as daunting.
6. Ask for help with the kids
Be a team player, and always be there to help your partner. If it’s your first baby, you want to do it all. You don’t want to miss a burb, blink, or smile. But being all and doing all is not only impossible, it’s unhealthy. You need (and deserve) sleep so it’s important to ask for help. Whether it’s a partner, friend, neighbor, or coworker, ask someone to come over and help out so you can get some rest. There is no shame in needing a break. What’s more, your loved one can bond with your baby while you sleep.
If you’re a stay-at-home parent, don’t be a martyr. Just don’t because you don’t have to go to work every day doesn’t mean you’re not contributing and that you don’t need sleep. Talk to your partner about taking turns with the baby and trading off nightly feedings so you can get some rest. You’re not on vacation. You’re at home with a crying, needy newborn, and you need to be healthy and get sleep, too. And if you’re breastfeeding, pump during the day so your baby can still eat while you sleep.
7. Stay active
While you don’t have to run a marathon or weight lift, you do need to get exercise and get moving. Do jumping jacks, dance around in your underwear, or walk around the block. Exercising keeps you fit, alert, and gets your blood pumping.
8. Eat well
Eating healthy, clean, green meals is not only great for your weight, skin, and hair, it’s incredible for your energy levels. Heavy, fried foods - especially ones with high sugar and high fat content - can make you feel groggy and uncomfortable. If you’re on the go, grab healthy snacks like nuts, fruit, or yogurt to keep your calories down and your energy up. And to prevent insomnia, try your best to avoid eating late at night before bed, no matter how healthy the snack.
9. Turn your bedroom into a sanctuary
You already don’t get enough sleep so when you do, at least make it worthwhile. Turn off all the lights, put away your cell phone and laptop, and make sure your room is dark, quiet, and distraction-free. Buy a sound machine or sleep mask to really set the mood and enjoy a hot date with your pillow.
10. Track sleep with an app
Are you still tired in the morning even after getting your full eight hours? You may not be sleeping as well as you think. Consider a sleep tracking app or gadget to learn more about your sleeping behaviors.
If you have time to sleep, but just can’t — no matter how much you try or how much advice you take - you should go to the doctor. You may have some form of sleep disorder like sleep apnea or insomnia, and your doctor will be able to help you combat it.
And if all you have is two minutes to feel better throughout the day and wake yourself up, drink some water or a warm glass of milk, open the window, or walk outside. Having a moment to yourself to simply take a deep breath and clear your head can work wonders.
Image: Kyle Meck