How To Sleep Better When You’re An Anxious Parent

Anxiety and sleep deprivation can be a vicious circle, but there is a way out

Tired mother

by Claire Davis |
Updated on

If you suffer with anxiety and your nervous system is already exhausted, having a child and throwing sleep deprivation into the mix can make things seem impossible to cope with. And it can be a catch-22 situation: sleep deprivation can worsen anxiety and anxiety can worsen your sleep.

Often, it isn't resettling or feeding your little one during the night that is the culprit for such extreme lack of sleep - but the time it takes you to get back to sleep afterwards. Or the time it takes you to fall asleep in the first place due to worrying about when they'll wake up.

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Here are some of my tips for managing sleep deprivation with anxiety:

1. Start training your body to relax on cue. Listen to guided meditations whenever you have the chance and at bedtime/after your child wakes during the night. This will help train your body and brain to relax and fall asleep more quickly and easily as soon as you play it.

2. Try to remember that your child's sleep and your ability to cope seem much worse due to anxiety making you over sensitised. Don't believe everything you think when you are exhausted.

3. Worrying about sleep unfortunately makes it more likely that you'll struggle to sleep. You WILL sleep well again soon. This is a short period of time in your life - it's not permanent.

4. If you can enlist a partner or family member to support you with night times - do it. If you're suffering with severe anxiety, this is imperative so that you can rest and sleep as much as possible while you recover. Doulas or night nannies can also help, although that's not affordable for everyone.

5. Sleep where and however gets you all the most rest - as long as it's safe - while you are working on healing the root causes of your anxiety.

6. Try to connect with like-minded people during the day (even if only over the phone), move your body and, where possible, spend time in nature every day.

7. Check your own sleep hygiene – do you have a consistent bedtime every night? Can you avoid artificial blue light and drinks or snacks that inhibit sleep in the hours before bed?

8. Try to accept where you are - don't fight it. This is a short period in your child's life. Optimise everyone's sleep as much as you can, and trust that it will pass.

We were never supposed to do this parenting gig alone, but here we are. Many of us without our villages. So we need to learn to nurture ourselves and seek the support we need. This is especially important when we have mental health struggles that can be exacerbated by lack of sleep, and visa versa.

Claire Davis is the founder of Gentle Sleep Family

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