Sleep deprivation is one of the most common and long term challenges we face as mums. The loss of sleep comes from broken sleep, getting less sleep than usual, lack of deep sleep (often from anxiety or worry about our children) or a combination of all of these!
It can only take a couple of bad nights for sleep deprivation to really take its toll on our overall wellbeing. Nutrition unfortunately can be the first thing to go out the window. You crave an instant energy hit, have little time to spend on food preparation and your mood can also really take a dive, making good food choices seem impossible.
I have a lot of mums come to work with me who say “if only I had more will power”.
Trust me when I say it is not a lack of will power. We are incredibly strong, carrying our babies for nine long months, bringing them into this world and operating on low levels of sleep, sometimes for many years. Poor sleep has a huge impact on our hormones. It may surprise you to know it only takes one night of broken sleep for the hormones in your body responsible for regulating hunger and how full you feel to be affected - your hormones send a little signal to your brain saying that you are hungrier. Plus, your blood sugar hormone (insulin) is affected, altering how well your body can process sugar.
The take home point here is that it is not a lack of will power at all! A lack of sleep literally affects your cravings and how you respond to sugar. This is why one of my core messages is to keep your sugar down. Although it is what we crave the most, it will only add to the cycle of crashing energy levels, not give you the nutrients you need to enable your body to repair (especially from birth) and increase your risk of sickness.
Next are some of my top tips to help keep your sugar intake down when you are really tired. Remember to be kind to yourself while you are at it, you are up against some tough circumstances.
Rather than focus on what you cannot have, or are trying to cut down on, focus on what you can eat. Try instead to include more dietary fat and protein-based options as possible. Both will really help with maintaining energy levels and combating cravings. There has been a lot of new research in the last few years showing us that good dietary fat can really help mediate some of the hormone changes that happen with stress and a lack of sleep – and can actually help kick start weight loss.
Forget The Clock
When you have been up half the night your natural circadian rhythm is going to be out of sorts so you may be more, or less, hungry at times that you do not expect – this is ok, just run with it do not worry about the clock. Eating according to how your body feels is much more important and will keep your energy up thus preventing cravings later on.
Planning for Dinner
Dinner often a stressful time of evening. We are often juggling feeds, bath time, and our fatigue can be felt the most at this time of day. When days are going to be pear-shaped I like to know that dinner is taken care of. It means that whatever happens for the rest of the day, the evening meal is sorted and can be eaten at any time. It is one of the major reasons I created my cook book Healthy Easy Dinners for Busy Mums. Simple, healthy meals which can be made in advance and easily frozen. Of course, some days this just is not possible so look for the best options (like baked beans on whole-grain bread) and remember tomorrow is another day.
Snacks can be out biggest down fall bad days. Having a container of bliss balls ready to snack on is very helpful. Sometimes carrot sticks are not going to cut the mustard when you are really exhausted so this is a way to sneak in some good dietary fat and protein. Check out my Apricot, Coconut & Nut Balls below.
Every Meal is a New Meal
If you do reach for the chocolate bar at 10am, just move on and please forgive yourself – sleep deprivation is extremely challenging, let alone when you have little people demanding love and care from you – feeling bad about it will only reinforce the guilt-cycle. Every meal is a new meal and every day is a new day.
BONUS RECIPE | Apricot, Coconut and Nut Balls
The best part of this recipe is that it requires no baking, just pop everything into a food processor and you are done! The coconut and nuts provide some good fats and protein, plus there is only a few apricots for a bit of sweetness.
100g Dried apricots
70g Walnut pieces (1 packet)
70g Sliced Almonds
1 Cup Coconut thread (or shredded coconut)
2 Tb Dark coco powder
4 Tb Coconut Oil
Desiccated Coconut (for rolling balls in)
1. Place all ingredients into a food processor and pulse until well combined.
2. Roll into balls in your hands and then place on a plate and roll in desiccated coconut (recipe makes approximately 20 small balls)
To store place in an air-tight container and keep in the fridge – will last at least a week (unless household members gobble them up!!)
Dr. Julie xx
Dr. Julie Bhosale is an internationally-renowned family wellbeing and nutrition expert, author, and speaker. She has a two boys aged 4 and 2 years old! Dr Julie regularly features as a guest expert on Paul Henry, Breakfast and in the New Zealand Herald. She has also appeared live on Seven Sharp, Sunrise and 9 News in Australia, RTL in Germany and The Lorraine Show in the UK. Her online community is free to join via her website and you will receive weekly nutrition advice, new recipe ideas and details of her upcoming events.
Yay, summer is here! And with summer comes it's own set of sleep challenges for those of us with little ones. To help you to prepare (and ensure the best possible rate of survival!) here are a few tips:
Keep it dark – At this time of the year settling for naps or bedtime can be challenging, simply because there is more light which diminishes melatonin, the sleep hormone responsible for making us feel sleepy. If your child has higher levels of melatonin they will find it easier to settle to sleep and to stay asleep, so make it really dark! If you need to make your child's room darker, consider investing in some portable black out blinds. These can be really handy as they easily stick to a window with suction cups and you can also take them with you if your child needs to sleep somewhere else. Snoozeshade also make black out options for the pram/stroller, capsule or the portacot, so that it doesn't matter if you are at the beach, park or camping, you can still provide a lovely dark place for your child to sleep.
Keep it cool – it's hard to fall asleep if you are hot and sweaty so try to regulate the temperature of the room. Ideally we would like to aim for 18-22 degrees Celsius - this may mean that you need to open some windows or use a fan, if you don't have air conditioning, to cool down the room before nap time or bed time. Blackout blinds will also help to cool a room down when the sun is at it's hottest by blocking it out.
Make sure that you are using the right sleeping bag or swaddle for the current temperature. Sleeping bags can be used as a positive sleep association that help a child to wind down or prepare for sleep, so keep using them throughout summer too. Invest in a good quality sleeping bag, like a standard weight Merino Kids sleeping bag, which is great for temperatures between 18-30 degrees celsius – just change the layers of clothing that you use with it, even if it's just a nappy and nothing else! Merino works well for drawing moisture away from the skin, preventing your child from waking up hot and sweaty.
White noise – If you are out at the beach, camping, or any noisy environment, I would also recommend that you use white noise, such as a baby shusher or baby shusher app, to cover up noises that may distract your child from settling to sleep.
Keep them hydrated – through the day offer your child plenty of chances to drink so that they don't wake up due to thirst.
Respect nap time and maintain your usual routine where you can – a well rested child will deal with changes better, while an overtired child is likely to be more difficult to settle and may struggle to stay asleep. You can still offer naps in the pram/buggy or a baby carrier while you're out – life doesn't have to stop for nap time! But if your child has short or interrupted naps, try to offer an earlier bedtime and follow it with a 'recovery day' where you stick to their routine so that they have the chance catch up on sleep.
Enjoy your Christmas and summer!
Remember, if you do have any issues Baby Sleep Consultant can help you to get back on track. Follow us on facebook for more tips from the experts!
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