If you’re a parent of a child on the spectrum or with special needs, you know that wakeful nights are not just for babies. You know that there will be seasons (sometimes much too frequent or much too long) when your kiddo will wake overnight, sometimes several times.
In other words, your days of dealing with sleep deprivation may not yet be behind you (says this mama whose 5.5 year old woke three times last night). So, here are a few suggestions to help you on those mornings when you wish you could sleep for eight more hours but it’s time to get moving (even if that movement is extremely slow-going).
Caffeine is your friend
Research shows that caffeine improves reaction time and logical response in those who get less-than-optimal sleep time (can you say parenthood?). It can help improve energy levels and perhaps get you over that hump from bleary-eyed, foggy-brained zombie to (minimally) functioning parent.
It’s not a long-term solution, but the eternal optimist in me also chooses to believe that this circumstance will be short-lived and my sweet girl will be sleeping through the night again soon.
Partner with God
Even on my good days I try to start my day with God to help set my rudder for the day. But on the days when I’ve slept in two-hour bursts and been awakened two or more times, I find it absolutely essential to pray as soon as my brain stirs into a semi-awake state.
For me, it’s not just about starting the day with Him, it’s about spending the day with Him: praying ceaselessly, reading encouraging devotionals, planting His Word, and therefore planting His Hope, His Truth and His Peace in my heart.
Assign Positive Intent
Unlike pouring a cup of coffee for a caffeine infusion, this idea takes a bit more effort, but it will make a big difference if you do it. For me, it’s far too easy to want to blame my sweet kiddo for my mood because “it’s her fault I didn’t get any sleep.” But the danger in this fault-finding way of thinking is that it sets you against your kiddo rather than putting you on the same side of this difficult circumstance.
Remember, your kiddo isn’t doing this to spite you or to manipulate you. For reasons she may not be able to express, she isn’t sleeping well. She needs you to love her unconditionally through this. She’s feeling the effects of little sleep, too, but, unlike you, she doesn’t have the brain development or life experience to process this in a reasonable way.
Engage Survival Mode
You have permission to do the bare minimum. Everybody gets fed, everybody gets plenty of water, everybody takes necessary bathroom breaks and everybody gets good doses of downtime. Anything else is the gravy on this bare-bones meal of success.
(p.s. Protein is your friend; make sure snacks and meals include plenty of it, starting with breakfast.)
Start the Day with Protein
This is a smart choice no matter how you’re sleeping, but when you’re operating on little sleep, protein is a must. Protein will help get your brain firing at its best and boost your alertness. So, skip the cereal and go for the protein (for you and the kiddos).
Let’s face it. These ideas aren’t foolproof and don’t guarantee 100% success. Will they help? Absolutely. But will they also fall short of what you need at some point during the day(s) when you’re exhausted from little sleep.
Be generous in doling out grace, not just for your family, but for you, too.
Remember, parenting isn’t about perfection, it’s about relationships. It’s about love. Because even on the worst days, love covers a multitude of mess ups.