I sometimes cannot feel my face. No, really. I had so much caffeine yesterday that the resulting heart palpitations made me nearly pass out at my desk.
My wife goes with even less sleep. She seems to be better at handling it, though. Call me what you will.
I want to be able to say that sleep loss is not that bad—but most days all I try to do is survive.
The short of it is that my wife and I have a baby.
Sure, some weeks are better than others, but all I know is that a weekend alone with a bottle of Benadryl is about the only thing I fantasize about anymore.
What can be done to survive that time when a baby refuses sleep or gets up every few hours? Here are a few tips that stem from my current state of delirium.
1. Make sure the cause is not something ridiculous.
Run through everything. Have you fed your baby? Most of the time this will take care of it. Does your baby need a clean diaper? I wouldn’t want to sit in that, either. Will a ten-minute hug in the rocking chair be good enough to lull them back to sleep? I know it would work for me. Is it too hot or too cold in the house? You have a baby now—what is comfortable for you might not be comfortable for them. Don’t be selfish. Have you checked their temperature? An ear infection or teething is a high probability if their temperature is too high. Get ready for that co-pay. In reality you just need to keep it basic. You are looking for something obvious—which it usually is.
2. Take turns staying up.
I have found that splitting your time 50/50 works best. Say, for instance, you are going to bed at ten and getting up at six. That’s a good eight hours of shut-eye. Split that time with your spouse. What can be more equitable than that? You deal with any baby issues 10-2. And let your spouse deal with whatever comes up 2-6. In my experience, however, this plan never works in an equitable way. To my advantage, my wife jumps at every murmur and I can sleep through a tornado. Fine by me.
3. Nap anywhere you can.
You are in survival mode. Nodding your head at breakfast—do it. Napping in the conference room 5 minutes before a meeting—this room is reserved, kind sir. Passing out it your car during your lunch hour—just remember to set your alarm. Sleeping at a party—no problem. Shame? What is that?
4. Caffeine is your friend.
My plan after a restless night is this: At 7:00 AM, I start with half a pot of coffee (brewed while still asleep, of course), followed up with 20 ounces of water. I switch to drinking Coke at about 10:00 – 11:00 AM and chase that with another bottle of water. Finally, I brew a large cup of green tea around 2:00 PM and hope you make it to 8:00 when I (attempt to) pour everybody in bed in less than 60 seconds. Sometimes my wife pours me.
5. Work out during the day.
At this point you are so grumpy and caffeine soaked, hitting the gym is worth a try. Plus, endorphins make you happy. Be careful though. You are sleep-deprived, jacked up on caffeine, and pushing your physical limits. For heaven’s sake, don’t have a stroke or heart attack.
B-12 shots. Not alcohol. You are trying to stay awake, not pass out—don’t be ridiculous. I hear intravenous vitamin therapy is a thing now, too; maybe I’ll try that. Or what about those spas where you can get cryogenically frozen for three minutes?
7. Talk about it.
You made promises to your spouse. You love your spouse. They are your best friend. So talk through your pain together. Encourage each other. You are on the same team fighting the common enemy of sleep deprivation. Just make sure they agree to be quiet when it’s their turn to get up.
8. Shut it.
Finally, be quiet about it to everyone else. You can complain to your spouse—and maybe your mom—but nobody else wants to hear it. Other people have also had children; you are not the first. And yes, your problem is sleep—but other people have problems, too. Your “but I’m so tired” issue pales in comparison to the loss of a family member or friend, marital issues, losing a job, flunking out of school, etc. Try a little empathy and grow up.