There’s no getting around the fact that parents don’t get as much sleep as any functioning human needs on a daily basis. And that’s not me talking – there have been countless studies on the physical and psychological benefits of a restful night.
From the time you bring home a newborn, though, your ability to sleep when and for as long as you’d like goes right out the window. Even once your kids are technically sleeping through the night, there will be times when they don’t, when they’re sick, or when they decide the crack of dawn is their new “good morning” time – which means that it’s yours, too.
If you’re looking for ways to cope – or just to function – one Navy SEAL is here to share his tips on how he managed sleep deprivation in conditions that are almost as harrowing as the first weeks home with your first baby.
Former Navy SEAL John McGuire has experiences with both kinds of hell, as he’s not only survived the 5 days with 4 hours of sleep Navy SEAL test, but he’s also the father of 5 kids.
This guy is a pro and he’s an in-demand motivational speaker who helps people who are facing down any sort of sleep-deprivation test in the near future.
Step One: Get Your Head Right
John says that, first and foremost, you’ve got to keep your wits about you.
“You can’t lose your focus or discipline. Self-doubt destroys more dreams than failure ever has.”
Step Two: Teamwork Makes the Dream Work
You can’t do anything as hard as being an elite military member or raising children without a good team around you, and communication is key. Talk about how you’re feeling, when you need a break, or what is about to make you lose your ever-loving mind if it doesn’t change immediately.
McGuire says to remind yourself that you’re likely not responding at your best because you’re sleep-deprived, and hopefully your partner will keep that in mind the next time you bite his or her head off, too.
Step Three: Secure Your Own Oxygen Mask First
Like on an airplane, you need to remember to take care of yourself – especially making time to exercise.
“Exercise helps reduce stress, helps you sleep better, and get the endorphins pumping. You can hold your baby and do squats if you want. It’s not as much about the squats as making sure you exercise and clear the mind.”
This one is particularly hard for me, so I appreciate the reminder!
Step Four: Don’t Try to Be the Hero
Sleep when you can, for as long as you can – don’t try to act like you don’t need it when you do.
“Sleep is like water; you need it when you need it.”
Step Five: Know Your Limits
When you’re not getting enough sleep, many things suffer – your patience, your eating habits, and your ability to think on your feet.
“A good leader makes decisions to improve things, not make them worse. If you’re in bad shape, you could fall asleep at the wheel, you can harm your child. You’ve got to take care of yourself.”
Final Tip: Embrace the Insanity
Remember that everything in life is a season, and with kids, those seasons are typically very short.
“You learn a lot about people and yourself through your children. Have lots of adventures. Take lots of pictures and give lots of hugs. It won’t last forever – and you’ll have plenty of time to sleep when it’s over.”
So, there you go. Having brought home two newborns, neither of whom thought sleep was a necessary thing, I can confirm that you definitely need a strategy and that all of this is very good advice.
Good luck out there, folks. You’re gonna need all the help you can get.
And yeah, you’re probably going to need a shoulder to cry on when it’s over, and you can sleep as much as you want.