8 Simple Ways to Find Energy after a Sleepless Night
You went to sleep rather early, at around 9.30–10pm, as you are exhausted. The baby wakes you up for a feed at 11pm, then again at 1am. For some unidentified reason, he will also wake up at 3am full of energy and ready to play, and won’t go back to sleep until 4am. You finally return to bed, your body is getting comfy under the blanket, your eyes are closing, your mind drifting off to sleep, and that’ when he starts crying again, pulling you out of that soft limbo like an ice bucket poured onto your sleepy head.
It can be torture, and 95% of mothers will go through that; the lucky one will have to deal with it for a night or two, the rest of us have to put up with it for three years or more.
And then you wake up the next day, and it’s groundhog day.
It has been estimated that 20–30% of the general population may experience poor sleep, hence missing out on vital rest time (Fernandez Mendoza & Vgontzas 2013). This lack of sleep can result in feeling lethargic, grumpy and tired, and it’s recommended to aim for around 7 hours of sleep per night, but what to do when there is a loud creature living under the same roof?
A sleepless night (s) doesn’t equal giving up on life; yes, it is normal to feel tired, and get stuck in a loop of dark thoughts, where we question everything from being a good parent to being able to sleep ever again. And it’s understandable that you would love to wrap yourself in a wool blanket and disappear from the world, but you have a baby. And it ain’t gonna happen, as the next day you have to start from scratch again.
Experience made me really insightful and I have found some ways to feel more of a (productive) person and less of a zombie, also if my average sleep hours range anywhere between 3 and 6 hours per night.
Have a cold shower
Start by having a shower; if you don’ have the time to relax as you have a screaming baby to attend to, skip the warm water altogether. Cold showers are not for everyone, and it’ something you have to work toward to. I struggled with having cold showers (especially during winter time), but I loved how alert they made me feel; without having to exercise or properly wake up, a cold shower gave me enough (momentarily) adrenaline to take over the world. Also, my skin felt much tighter and my body felt overall more alive. If you aren’t sold on the idea of having a cold shower, don’t give up, as there are so many other changes you can put in place.
Let’s talk about food, baby!
It is important to start by having the breakfast of a champion, and I’m not talking about Frosties or Fruit Loops. Lack of sleep can mess up with our hormones, microbiome and mental sanity, which is why we need to take care of our body as much as we can by giving it a good variety of whole foods and high-quality supplements. Start by having a good sized portion of carbohydrates, high-quality fats, and protein in order to stabilize your mood and feed your starving belly; note that the less a person sleeps, the higher the level of the hormone Ghrelin will be released in the system, which increases appetite (Taheri et al. 2004). If your breakfast is on point, you will feel less tempted by sweets and chocolate when mid-morning (and the first baby meltdown) comes around.
You can find some breakfast tips in this post, but to give you an idea, the humble porridge (better if made with buckwheat or quinoa flakes), cooked with ghee and topped up with Greek yogurt or an egg and sprinkled with cinnamon and grated apple certainly does the trick. Or eggs and avocado on whole grain toast.
Avoid sugar and cut down the coffee
When you are tired, reaching out for an extra coffee seems like a wonderful idea. Not quite. Too much caffeine in a depleted body can have the opposite effect, causing hypervigilance, frequent mood swings, anxiety, dehydration, and plain stomachache. Moreover, caffeine interferes with the absorption of vitamins and minerals that are necessary for the proper functioning of a fatigued/breastfeeding postpartum mamas, such as vitamin C, vitamin Bs, Calcium, and Iron.
Sugar, instead, leads to a glycemic rollercoaster which is really destabilizing for someone that is already going through enough ups and downs. Sugar is also inflammatory when consumed in large amounts, and it normally doesn’t pack important nutrients that are essential for our bodies.
Instead of grabbing a cinnamon swirl on the go, make yourself a sandwich with peanut butter and add some cacao or cinnamon on top. Bingo (and delicious)!
Hydrate like a champion
Lack of sleep, breastfeeding, tiredness, and extra coffees are all reasons why you should increase your water intake. Not drinking enough water causes your brain cells to shrink in size, which literally makes you less clever (due to the brain fog and lack of mental clarity). So don’t be afraid to gulp down at least 2–3 L of filtered water, and add some ginger and lemon to it for the taste, and a quick immune boost.
The day after a sleep-deprived night is tough, and I know it very well as I slept only 2 hours last night. But I also have the clarity of mind to know that sleep will come back someday, and my child won’t spend all her nights awake from now onwards.
When you are feeling so depleted and sensitive, it’s very easy to allow our enemy anxiety to creep back in; see if you can prevent it by putting some mind-shift in place. The child doesn’t eat? It’s fine, she will ask me when she is really hungry. There is washing to do? I’m sure it can wait until tomorrow. The kid is napping? Let me relax for a second. As soon as you will allow the space to take care of yourself, life will be so much easier.
When I’m (mentally) tired, I exercise. This is me, I love sweating the tiredness out. I’m not talking about a 40 minutes strength training or HIIT session, as lack of sleep is linked to an increased chance of muscles injuries. But what I do enjoy is putting the music on and dance, even for a mere 10 minutes. As soon as fresh blood pumps through my veins, I feel completely revitalized.
On the contrary, if I haven’t slept for a few nights in a row, I tend to prefer a much slower yoga and stretching session, to calm my mind and exhale my worries.
Find what makes your soul tick, and give it a swirl!
Book a fun activity. As I said in the very beginning, lack of sleep doesn’t equal giving up on life. Instead of staying home, ruminating over your thoughts, and resenting the untouched pillow, go out and have fun. Seeing people and getting some fresh air is a fabulous mood booster. Moreover, if you catch up with other mothers, you will instantly feel understood, as we have all been there, Megan Markle included.
Whenever I’m tired I don’t want to dwell on what dress to wear, I just want to put on something easy and quick. Understandable. Having said that, a touch of color, and feeling pretty, is a very quick mood booster. If flowery dresses aren’t your thing, you can also opt for a touch of lipstick, or a trendy hair band to dress up your (probably unwashed) hairs.
As mothers, we will face lots of sleep-deprived nights; coughs, sickness, teething, gastro, growth spurts, nightmares, hunger, clinginess are just a few of the reasons cause a baby wakes up and cries in the middle of the night. Don’t let this upset you and keep living your life, especially because lack of sleep is part of the motherhood journey. Easier said than done, but try to enjoy that extra time you get to spend with your little one.
Fernandez Mendoza & Vgontzas 2013, Insomnia and its impact on physical and mental health,https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24189774
Taheri, S., Lin, L., Austin, D., Young, T., & Mignot, E. (2004). Short sleep duration is associated with reduced leptin, elevated ghrelin, and increased body mass index. PLoS medicine, 1(3), e62. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0010062