8 Tips For Sleep-Deprived Working Parents

With the uncertainties of MCO, a new baby and piling work, sleep is probably the last thing you need to worry about — but you can’t help but smack the snooze button and crawl right back into bed. Juggling a new baby with work and weariness just to keep your job is not easy, especially when you don’t have the luxury of adequate rest to fall back on.

Being sleep deprived jeopardises your safety, not to mention others on the road, and then there’s the health of your career plus your work performance to think about. Unfortunately, the timing couldn’t be “better” as most parents who are struggling to climb up the corporate ladder are also trying to juggle raising a family of their own at the same time. Here are some tips which would hopefully help you keep on top of the game at work.

Go to Sleep! And we mean You!

Sleep when your baby is asleep! Don’t be tempted to finish off all your chores or waste that precious time to be on social media. While it is great to catch up with other people, you are better off catching up on sleep. March yourself to bed as early as possible (aunty/uncle don’t care) bearing in mind that you WILL be woken up several times later in the night. If you get a head start with several continuous hours of sleep beforehand, you will find yourself more refreshed in the morning even if your sleep has been interrupted all night.

Share the Night Feeds

Whether it is night feedings or night terrors, you shouldn’t have to carry that burden alone. Instead, try doing a rotation whereby one parent is “on-call” while the other one rests. Breastfeeding mums can pump on the nights when dads take over. Or at very least have dad be in charge of diaper changes. When parents share the load, it gives your biological clock a chance to reset. If circumstances do not allow both parents to play tag-team at night, then consider asking for external help.

Soak Up Some Sun

If you are finding it extremely difficult to stay awake, then try getting some sun for about 15 minutes every morning. The idea is to use sunlight as a way to trick your body into suppressing the production of melatonin which is a hormone that helps you sleep. Use this time to go for a short walk around the neighbourhood or have a short play session outside in the backyard before dropping your child off to daycare.

Make sure your office is also well lit with natural light to keep sleep at bay. Alternatively, you can squeeze in a short one or 2-minute break outside, just to soak up some sunshine when you start to feel sleepy.

Get Active

Of course, nobody expects you to break into a Zumba dance from your cubicle, but you can go for a walk instead. If you can sneak a quick walk around the outside of the office, you’ll benefit from three good things: fresh air, sunshine, and added endorphins. Even if the office is smack right in the city, or if it is just bad weather, you can still get up from your desk and do a lap around the office or visit another floor by climbing several flights of stairs. Just those two exercises alone will get your circulation going and keep you from nodding off.

Give Yourself a Boost of Energy

You might be tempted to order in a cup of bubble tea(link to bubble tea article written long ago) as well as other carb-laden desserts and kuehs for tea when there are so many e-hailing food services to choose from. But these options usually contain a lot of sugar which will only offer you a sudden boost of energy that is temporary. 

You want to be choosing snacks that would fuel your body slowly and steadily. Foods that have a healthy combo of carbs, protein, and fat would better sustain you for a long day at work. Instead of reaching out for sugar-laden goodies that are more likely to put you into a food coma, pack a banana dipped with nut butter, or veggie sticks and guacamole. Nuts and seeds are also great options, along with a handful of dried fruit like kurma.

But most importantly, you need to stay hydrated if you are sleep deprived because one of the primary causes of fatigue is dehydration. To help you remember to drink throughout the day, try placing a large bottle of water at your workstation.

Watch Your Coffee Intake

It is only natural for sleep-deprived parents to reach out for a strong kopi-o or kopi to try and power through the morning, and lose track of how many more kopis we have after that. 

What most people do not realise is how long caffeine remains in the body. Experts say that it is best to have your last cup of joe at least six hours before bedtime so that it doesn’t interfere with your sleep cycles. Breastfeeding mums probably won’t have much of an issue since they have to limit their caffeine intake anyway. However, if you suspect your coffee is preventing you from getting an early night’s sleep, then cut out all caffeinated drinks including Milo, soft drinks, decaf coffee (yup there’s still caffeine in there!), tea and vitamin water.

Power Nap if You Can

When parents are so sleep-deprived, a 10 to 30-minute power nap can make the world’s difference and improve your work performance. If you have the luxury of using the staff pantry or staff room to take a cat nap, then make full use of that. Set the alarm and do not nap for too long because anything more than 30 minutes might put you in deeper sleep, which will only leave you feeling groggy instead of refreshed. 

If work is piling and napping seems impossible, then take short breaks in between, even if it is just to close your eyes for 5 minutes in the toilet.

Know the Warning Signs of Exhaustion

Know the warning signs when exhaustion is starting to jeopardise your work before any untoward incident should happen.  

You might feel like you cannot afford to take any leave, but using the day to rest might help you to recuperate. If you are at home, the most suitable time for a nap is between 2:00 pm and 3:00 pm because you’ve just had lunch which would cause your blood sugar and energy levels to dip naturally. It is entirely normal for you to feel a little sleepy in the middle of the afternoon. Just be careful not to nap too late or for too long so that it doesn’t interfere with your ability to fall asleep that night.

There is no immediate urgency to bring this matter up to your manager unless it is seriously affecting your work. They will only be interested in solutions rather than deal with your problems. So do your part and try out some other recourse and reassure them that you are taking steps to fix the situation at home.

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

You might be thinking, Oh my god, will this ever end? Do not stress; your little one won’t stay small forever. He or she will grow out of it before you know it. So even if it feels like forever, there IS light at the end of the tunnel. Breathe, and take it on one day at a time. All this will soon pass, and after weaning them to their rooms (link to Weaning After Weaning: From Cot to Toddler Bed to Their Own Room article), you’ll have your beauty sleep back.

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