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Are You In Sleep Survival Mode?

Written by Hadley Seward

Photography by Mary Elizabeth Ford, Photographed by Belathée Photography

100% survival mode—that’s how most mamas are living the first few months of their babies’ lives. They’re just trying to put one foot in front of the other, one day at a time. And, it makes sense. Your baby isn’t sleeping and your body is healing because you just birthed a tiny human. There’s no way a new mama is not going to be exhausted. After a few months, this way of living is no longer sustainable. We come to the realization that we’re stupid tired. We forget things and make silly mistakes that make us feel like #momfails. For most of us, there comes a time when we realize we can’t do this anymore.

Even Wonder Woman Needs Sleep
You’ve probably seen images of picture-perfect moms on Instagram who stay up all night making organic food or knitting adorable beanies for their kids. If these Insta-mamas can do it, shouldn’t you be able to? Don’t your children also deserve the very best? This isn’t the narrative mothers need to be telling themselves. Sleep isn’t for the weak; it’s for the smart. It’s for the realistic. It’s for the exhausted. If you want to #slay, then you need to #sleep. It’s time to get out of sleep survival mode.

The long-term solution is to fix the root cause of your exhaustion: your baby’s sleep. But, sometimes that’s not possible, at least not right away. So, what can you do right now? Here are a few mama sleep hacks, each of which can be implemented independently of how well your child is or isn’t sleeping:

  • If you struggle to fall asleep at night, try 20 minutes of stretching or restorative yoga before bedtime. Not only will it physically help you to settle to sleep, but it’ll give you a moment to pause and unwind from a busy day.
  • If you wake up overnight and can’t fall back asleep, check out the My Sleep Button app. A soothing voice lists random objects (“apple”… “horse”… “tea kettle”) that you visualize in your mind until you fall back asleep. It’s just enough to focus on without being overstimulating.
  • Whatever you do, don’t check your email or browse your social media feed in the middle of the night. After lights out, your smartphone is your enemy. Keep it far away from you.
  • Look at how you can improve the quality of your sleep, even if you can’t improve the quantity. Consider essential oils like lavender or doTerra’s Serenity blend, both of which promote deeper sleep. If you’re nursing, consult with your doctor first, though.
  • Schedule pleasure breaks during the day. Yes, it sounds dirty, but it’s really just a 30 or 60-minute block of time where you do something for you. Sometimes that means taking a nap. Other times, it means watching The Real Housewives of Orange County, or reading a dishy novel. You do you.

The Light At The End Of The Tunnel
When we’re in survival mode, it’s hard to see that things could be different. Our minds assume that life will go on like this forever. But, it doesn’t have to. Once you start thinking this way, it’s time to change things up. 
If you haven’t slept for more than two-hour stretches in the past six months or if you’re losing your mind or if you just can’t f*cking take it anymore, then it’s time to find a new way of doing things. Your current sleep situation is no longer sustainable if it’s driving you crazy, or landing you and your partner in couples’ therapy.

The good news: All babies and toddlers are capable of sleeping well. We just have to help them learn how. We have to replace the bad sleep habits with healthy ones. It could be more sleep cues at bedtime, or an adjusted nap schedule. It could be sleep training, so they can fall asleep independently, or finally ditching the pacifier.

If you need help troubleshooting, don’t feel shy about reaching out to a sleep expert for help. There’s something to be said for customized advice for your child and your situation versus information in books meant for the masses. We’re doing the best we can for our little ones. But, sometimes when it comes to sleep deprivation, we’ve given too much. However you get it done, make better sleep a priority for you and your baby. You deserve it, mama.

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