Sleep. The Final Frontier. It’s this land of peace, quiet, happiness … and for new parents, unexplored riches.
For new dads, sleep is this forbidden fruit that teases you with its sweet, succulent juices; the carrot being dangled in front of you that drives you to insanity as you chase it unsuccessfully.
This is a battle that you will not win. You were never going to win it. So, just let that sink in and deal with that new reality first.
A few weeks into the fatherhood journey and this is my new normal.
Hey this is what I signed up for, so I get it. Doesn’t mean I have to like it, though. And for the record: No, there is nothing awesome about sleeping for two hours only to be jarred awake by the scream of a baby at 2:30 in the morning and having to pop up, lurch from your land of slumber, stumble into the kitchen to prepare sustenance for the child and then spend the next 20-30 minutes in a half-alert state while you feed the little munchkin hoping that you may be able to steal another 90 minutes of rest before you hit repeat.
Once is cute. Twice is endearing. Three times or more of the late night feedings and the claws come out. Now fast forward for a few weeks and enter the land of Groundhog Day as your mind melts into the official zombie state of repetition.
Which is funny because right at about this time that other parents – who seemingly never went through this before – want to come at you with the age old icebreaker question, “So … how is she doing … is she sleeping through the night?”
My daughter is only six weeks old … she is most definitely not sleeping through the damn night. Do I look like a dude who is getting his solid eight hours of nightly rest? No? Exactly. So back up off me.
Hugs and snuggles, kids. I ain’t really that mad at ya.
Look, I often joke about the lack of sleep that I experience now that I am officially a parent. But I get it, that’s all part of the journey that I signed up for when we first made this commitment. After a few months, the newborn will settle into more of a routine and some sleep will finally become more of a reality.
There is light at the end of this long and winding and almost never ending tunnel. I promise.
Real sleep deprivation, though, is no laughing matter. It can cause some pretty serious side effects and impact our performance at work, at play, in the gym and even in the bedroom. Poor sleep is linked to heart disease, type 2 diabetes and depression. It is also one of the strongest risk factors for obesity. It can hamper your ability to get amped up for your next sexy time performance with baby mama.
Humans are sleeping much less than they did in the past. But that’s not the end of it, unfortunately. The quality of our sleep has suffered, as well. Especially for parents.
If it isn’t the newborn that is keeping you up at night, it’s the teething toddler. Or the exuberant grade-schooler jumping on the bed for no damn reason other than because it’s fun. Or the teenager skipping curfew. Or the college kid leaving the nest for the first time.
It never ends, as summed up emphatically by Louis C.K.
But the truth of the matter is that even after the babies are sleeping through the night and the worries are cast aside about our toddlers, teens and tweens, we just typically just do not get enough sleep anyway.
We talk so much about how to earn that victory of getting a child to sleep through the night. But in order for us fathers to truly practice the art of the DaddyMindTricks principles to being awesome at fatherhood, we need to function properly. And optimal function does not exist without a proper night’s sleep.
Here are some methods to sleep like your baby once that baby is finally sleeping like a boss.
1. TURN DOWN THE HEAT.
Lower temperatures equal better sleep. For men, this can mean dropping that thermostat to somewhere in the ballpark of 60-68 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s a pretty decent variance, so it will be up to you to figure out the sweet spot. But, use those lower temps from the A/C as an excuse to cuddle up with that significant other under the covers and turn the heat up in other ways.
2. TURN DOWN THE VOLUME.
This is a pretty obvious solution, but perhaps overlooked. Loud noises are going to interrupt sleep. So, aim to keep things as quiet as possible or looking into something that generates some white noise (like a fan or an app that plays the sound of ocean waves) to help drown out the sounds of things like traffic or the neighbors getting it on in the apartment next door. If all else fails, you can always try ear plugs.
3. TURN OFF THE LIGHTS – EMBRACE THE DARKNESS.
Keep your circadian rhythm in check by keeping things dark when you go to sleep. Light is for the day. The night time is the right time for darkness. Even small amounts of light can screw up your melatonin and totally mess your evening of shuteye.
4. BACK AWAY FROM THE TECHNOLOGY – CELL PHONES INCLUDED.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and especially your damn email can all wait until the morning, especially if you’re checking in from your phone. Stop it. This can seriously damage your sleep cycle and turn you into a cranky asshole who isn’t getting quality sleep. Don’t be that guy.
5. BAN THE BLUE LIGHT SPECIAL.
You’re likely reading this off of a computer screen right now – um, if not, I’m not really sure how you managed to find the site – and that screen is radiating a blue light. The light waves emanating from the screen stimulates the brain similar to the midday sunshine. In other words, it tricks the mind into thinking it’s still wakey wakey time. No bueno. Block the blue lights by using programs like F.lux (it softens the light from your computer screens) or even looking into things like Blue-blocking glasses (seriously this is a thing).
6. GET MORE VITAMIN D.
Wake up and go outside. Like, not immediately … put on some pants, at least. But upping your intake of natural sunlight and getting some good ol’ vitamin D from that that big bright orb in the sky will do wonders to reset your circadian rhythm to its optimal pattern. Essentially, you want to be much more alert and awake during the day and tired at night. Stepping out and getting some sun is a great way to accomplish this feat. Another pro tip: if you are supplementing with vitamin D, try taking it in the morning … but you should still get outside and see the sun, you freakin’ vampire.
7. ESTABLISH A DAILY ROUTINE.
Humans are creatures of habit. Yet it is funny how few people form healthy habits. We seem to be getting better about eating and working out and creating a routine on that front. The next step is daily routine around your sleep patterns. Wake up at the same time each and every day (yes, even on the weekends). Stay up late on a Friday night bender? Make up for it by going to bed a little earlier the following night … but do not alter your wake up time. Stick with this pattern for a few weeks before make slight tweaks and adjustments.
8. STICK TO A SLEEP RITUAL.
Sleep training for a newborn includes developing a nightly routine to help the baby understand when it is time for bed. Dads: this is the same thing you should be doing each and every night, as well – minus the bath time rubber duckies, I guess. Lower the lights, sing yourself a song, say a prayer, write down some notes in a journal. Whatever it is that you can do to let your mind know that it’s time to end the day … do it. And then keep doing it every night.
9. READ A BOOK.
Alright, we’ve talked before about the importance for all fathers to be well-read. So this is a chance to practice that principle and earn some better sleep in the process. Take the last 20-30 minutes before you wind down by catching up on some nice works of fiction, non-fiction or anything in between. For some ideas on good books to read … click here for our suggestions.
10. INVEST IN A GREAT MATTRESS.
While you should be aiming for 7-8 hours of shuteye per night, it’s also the quality that is important here. If you are sleeping a mattress that you’ve had since your high school Prom days, you’re doing it wrong. Invest in a great mattress that works best for you. Look, you’ll be spending almost a third of your life on this thing (think about that), so you should more than happy dropping as much cash on your bed as you did on your man-cave.
11. (BONUS) SLEEP LIKE A CAT.
This one is for the new dads looking to figure out a way to function between all of the feedings and diaper changes. Look into the benefits and practice of polyphasic sleep. By training your body to control the Rapid Eye Movement sleep cycle (REM Sleep), you can be fairly well-rested off of minimal sleep.
Steve Pavlina spent a year practicing this method and discussed his journey on his blog. He shared some really interesting insights into the benefits and drawbacks and how to break into this if you are looking to join the movement.
Does this mean we all need to jump in bed and sleep the night away for a solid 10 hours a night? I wish. And I know that’s not feasible for all of us with work demands and kids and just everyday life going on.
In fact, you could still sleep for 7, 8, even 10 hours or more and still wake up feeling tired and worn out. That’s a result of a screwed up sleep cycle. While some of the above pieces of advice may seem like common sense and old news and totally obvious … the fact of the matter is, not even peeps are actually practicing these techniques.
So, I’m here to tell you that in order to be a total badass dad, you need rest. And if your sleep cycle is jacked up, you need to get to work in order to finally get some meaningful rest. Try the steps above and see what happens.
How are you doing with your sleep? Have you started practicing any of the tips and tricks above? Let us know in the comments and share any other advice you may have learned or picked up along the way.
Cover Image courtesy of oksix / Fotolia