Looking and Feeling Awake

"I'm so exhausted I could cry."

Those are the words that take over my mind when I've woken up with a stuffy-nosed, teeth-breaking baby every hour or two throughout the night. Those words could also be followed up with, "I'm so exhausted, I can't cry." It's a very frustrating and pointless cycle I find myself in when I'm on consecutive days of sleepless nights.

The good thing about being on Baby Three is I've learned a thing or two about dealing with sleeplessness. I still get tired and we still have pizza too often. But I feel more aware of life happening all around me and less overcome by exhaustion. There are ways to sneak in some faux rest, or at least look a little more rested. There are also ways to help maintain, or even restore, sanity.

Ideas for a Season of Sleeplessness

Whether you're sleeplessness is infant-induced or some other life-happening, here is my round-up of ideas to make the most of those missing ZZZzzzzs.

1 | Suck it up, princess.

There's an ecard that reads: "Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance... The five stages of waking up." It's funny because, when we're missing sleep, it's true. The longer we spend in one of those first four stages (pushing snooze over and over, being grumpy, pleading with husband to take a sick day, sulking), the harder it is to recover from our lack of sleep. Getting to the last stage, acceptance, as quickly as we can will give us the best shot at making the most of our groggy day. Suck it up princess, morning comes whether or not we got sleep.

2 | Brighten your eyes, and look the part.

I've read tips like putting two spoons in the freezer at night, then holding them under your eyes (where those pesky bags are likely to show up). Ain't nobody got time for that. Splashing my face with cold water may not do much for those bags, but it sure helps me wake up. I follow that up with a light liquid concealer and apply generously around the eyes. It's my "mom war paint." Brightening the eyes with concealer, and a little light eye shadow helps make me look a lot more alert. There are other ways to look put-together, which can make us feel put-together.

3 | Eat good food. Drink water. Stay healthy.

We can be more energized by fueling ourselves with good foods: Whole grains, low sugar (particularly when not eating the whole fruit), unprocessed, greens, etc. Life fuels life: Food that was once alive is a natural source for energizing human life. Water is cleansing, hydrating, and another necessary part of staying healthy.

This is all important because when we're lacking on sleep our immunity is down and we're more prone to illness, which will of course only lead to more sleeplessness. We need to stay healthy, especially when we're lacking on sleep.

4 | Drink coffee or other caffeine sparingly.

I've never been much of a coffee drinker, and certainly not a coffee-promoter. I acquired a diluted taste for it in college (read: must be sweetened and milked down), and only in the last couple months started making it myself and drinking it most days. Caffeine is addictive, can be damaging to our health, and generally comes in equally unhealthy forms (i.e., lots of sugar). That's the disclaimer. The reason I bring it up: It's currently part of my solution for surviving.

I can't sit around the house all day like I did with our last sleepless baby and his 3-year-old sister. I now have to be up before 7, getting our big girl out the door for school, and running errands with the younger two. Caffeine on those days helps me get it all done. I'm sure I'll visit this topic again to re-address that addictive and damaging side when I'm getting more sleep at night. Until then, I'll be drinking a cup most mornings.

5 | Drink an Emergen-C. Or take vitamins.

Vitamin Bs, Vitamin C, and Vitamin D are all energy-inducing and mood-boosting. Emergen-C powder is high in these and can be healthier and more lasting than caffeine. If you're not up for the "magical powder," then do your own reading or ask a professional to find out which vitamins to take and how much to supplement daily.

6 | Take a mid-day break. Get your blood moving.

Naps aren't always an option, and not everyone finds the same value in taking a nap. There are even different types of naps and results from each. I used to do the napping thing, but quit because interrupted naps were more frustrating to me than sleepless nights. Now, I try to work in a few minutes of rest. This can be a short stretching session, a little eyes closed meditating, or a few minutes with my legs up against a wall. That last one is something done in yoga and talked about on Oprah years ago (so it must be true), that roughly 8 minutes with your legs up against the wall can rejuvenate you the same as getting a full sleep cycle. Whether or not that's true, I've done it many times in my sleepiest and have left the session feeling a little more rested and a little more ready to finish the day well. Concentrated slow, deep breaths, eyes closed, and body in a relaxed position seem to be key.

Getting your blood moving is likely part of the success of putting your legs up against the wall. You're taking a break and you're encouraging blood to cycle throughout your body. You might also try a 4-minute tabata workout, or just do some jumping jacks or go for a quick walk.

7 | Stop whining.

It's clear, this is what I preach to myself, right? I'm harder on myself than I would be on you. As mentioned above, "I'm so exhausted I could cry" are the words that consume my thoughts when I'm not getting sleep. Obviously, that's not really helpful. When I notice myself thinking this, I try to replace it with something more positive or energizing. Basically recreating what I'm choosing to believe. Even something as simple and un-profound as repeating "I am awake" can do the trick. If nothing else, it at least stops the self-defeating thought cycle. Reading something life-giving (like my morning devotional time) does the same.

8 | Incorporate the senses.

When I'm really trying to feel awake, alert, energized, I make that happen with all of my senses. Sniffing something like peppermint, citrus, or cloves through diffusing essential oil or a candle; and turning on some peppy or upbeat music (like New Shoes by Paolo Nutini or Happy by Pherrell Williams).

It works for the opposite purpose, too. When ready for a mid-day break or winding down at the end of the day, use lavendar or other calming scents, and play some soothing music.

9 | Be safe. Make good choices.

I have read about sleeplessness inhibiting thought-process in a similar way that consuming alcohol inhibits it. It can slow reactions and cause things like driving to be dangerous. Drunks stumble over a line thinking they're fine, and sleepless people everywhere commute to work and school without thinking of the safety issue. We should be brave enough to ask for help or, when we can, waiting until we've gotten some rest. We can incorporate the help of that caffeine when necessary. We should avoid important decisions and discussions when we're exhausted--we're less likely to be irritable and irrational that way. Let's not be naive about the dangers of going without sleep, and make good choices with that in mind.

10 | Address the issue. Embrace the season.

If possible, and when sleeplessness is ongoing, we need to address the issue. Are we drinking caffeine too late in the day, or does our babe need help learning to sleep more than two hours at a time? (Babies need sleep as much as we do, and their ongoing sleep-disruption can cause problems for their growth and development.) If there's something we can do, then we should address the sleep issue.

Whether it's temporary or ongoing, let's wake up and embrace the season. We may not exactly "enjoy" it (like so many people tell us to do), but we can certainly slow down to notice life happening all around us. To find the little things to appreciate. Sure, acknowledging the challenges, but not being overcome by them.

Bonus | Sleep when baby sleeps. Clean when baby cleans.

Ha ha. Just kidding :) That's another meme I saw: If I should sleep when baby sleeps, should I clean when baby cleans, and cook when baby cooks? If all else fails, at least we can find a little humor in the situation.

Sleeplessness will not keep us from living.


also read:
10 minute beauty
breakfast smoothie
momcations + mommy breaks