Surviving on 4 Hours of Sleep… Or Less


Like many new parents, I was wondering if I had what it takes to be “good” at raising my child. From what I could tell, parenting was both emotionally challenging and physically exhausting. While I consider myself a person with substantial grit, I worried I didn’t have enough to sustain myself, my relationship, my businesses, and my baby while sleep deprived. Sleep has been an important part of managing my ADD and anxiety, and I feared the lack of sleep would bring me back to a mental place I never wanted to visit again.

A year later, I can say I’ve learned that I have resilience in me that I didn’t know I had–even while in the darkest moments of postpartum depression and sleep deprivation.

I thought I understood resilience before becoming a parent, but it’s taken on a new definition. I used to think resilience was about achieving your goals despite setbacks. Now, I realize that it isn’t about accolades or achievements…. at all. It’s about accepting setbacks and finding the silver-lining in situations. It’s about HOW you react when things get hard, not necessarily about what you do next.

My resilience has never been tested more than when dealing with sleep deprivation– what I consider to be the most physically trying aspect of parenthood (aside from the whole giving birth thing). A few weeks into the newborn phase, I was desperately googling how to get some Zzzs back. Article after article gave the same advice: sleep when the baby sleeps. The problem was, my baby wasn’t sleeping during the day aside from a few 10-20 minute catnaps.

Day after day, the house started to fall apart slowly. Dishes were piled up. Pillows and blankets were everywhere. I barely had the energy to put a fork in my mouth let alone wash a dish.

I found myself going from desperate to delirious, and along the way, I stopped being mad and started laughing at how crazy our lives had become. Joe and I would have laughing fits when my hair became so tangled it resembled a mohawk. I kept it that way for three days. We found hilarity in where I left my keys: usually in the fridge or pantry. And as we found ways to laugh through the pain, I started to see a few ways to cope with the fact I was going to be sleep deprived until the latest teething/growth spurt subsided. And then it would start all over again.

For now, Joe and I are working through our irregular and sporadic sleep schedules; we’ve decided we need to take it day-by-day. With a positive outlook on the future, I put together a few tips and tricks below that have helped us cope with our lack of sleep and be more happy and efficient in everyday life.

1. Use modern amenities to lighten your to-do list.
During the holiday season, I found to be a HUGE help for picking up items I need. Everything from Christmas decorations to diapers to wipes and lotion, I would log on and order items from my list (sometimes at 4 am while I was feeding) and sent Joe out to pick them up on his way home from work. No wandering the store like a zombie. Just go in and grab your goods.

2. Make the nighttime routine a special part of the day.
We give August a bath before bed, followed by a little massage and lots of cuddling. As he has become more active, we play a little longer in the tub and enjoy filling the tub full of bubbles! Our go-to bath products include Baby Dove Rich Moisture Tip To Toe Wash and Baby Dove Rich Moisture Baby Bar (which I often use in the shower, too!) August has really sensitive skin, and we’ve found that using Baby Dove Sensitive Moisture Lotion has helped keep dry patches at bay. Bath and massage time is followed by ample time rocking and reading books. August responds especially well to this routine, and it has helped him wind down at his own pace. We’re still working on not having to rock him to sleep, but that’s another story for another blog post!

3. Ask for help.
The only way it was possible for me to get a nap in was to ask my sister, MIL or SIL to watch August while I napped. I had to get over feeling sheepish about how long I napped and just trust that they understood how far behind I was on sleep.

4. Laugh it off.
The other day I found my keys in the fridge and my laptop charger in a toy basket. I used to worry when one of us showed signs that the lack of sleep was getting to us, but I’ve realized this form of scrutiny wasn’t helping anyone. Finding laughter in times of hardship has been the most important part of staying strong and united when times get tough.

5. Forgive yourself for not following sleep rules religiously.
So much of parenthood is weighing two not-so-ideal situations against one another. We lifted our noses at co-sleeping before August was born and while it hasn’t become a nightly ritual, co-sleeping got us through a particularly rough sleeping stretch last month. August wouldn’t go down without being held and woke up at 12 am, 2 am, and 4 am clearly in need of a bottle and his parents. He’s back in his crib now with little to no protest. I learned that just like life, black and white parenting advice should be viewed with some amount of suspicion.

6. Take pleasure in the little things.
That big cup of coffee and extra cozy sweater are small luxuries that feel like big ones when you’re sleep deprived. Even if you find yourself with 5 minutes of peace, make a point to say to yourself, “ah, how wonderful is THIS.” I’ve found these moments of peace in some pretty unexpected places. A trip to the gas station or Target all by myself is basically as rejuvenating as a couple of hours at the spa.

I know a lot of you reading this post are in the thick of it right now. It’s been so helpful to hear your stories through this motherhood series, so I put together a couple of playlists to enjoy when you feel like you either need to wind down or gear up for a long night ahead. Here’s to embracing the tiredness and staying strong!

For staying awake…(Listen on Spotify)
1. Here Comes My Baby, Yo La Tengo
2. The Night Is Still Young, Nicki Minaj
3. Harvest Moon, Poolside
4. Hometown Girl, ZHU
5. You Make Loving Fun, Fleetwood Mac
6. Sun in the Morning, Future Islands
7. Aloha, Mome, Merry Jeann
8. No Other Plans, Sunny Levine
9. Kids, The New Division
10. Nightswimming, R.E.M
11. Walking’ After Midnight, Patsy Cline
12. Hold On, We’re Going Home, Drake, Majid Jordan
13. Stay Up Late, Talking Heads
14. You Can’t Walk In Your Sleep, The Go-Go’s
15. Party All Night, Sean Kingston

For winding down… (Listen on Spotify)
1. Grown Up Calls, Toro y Moi
2. Girl and the Sea, Reonda
3. Gypsy, Gardens & Villas
4. Hysteric, Yeah Yeah Yeahs
5. Pink + White, Frank Ocean
6. Should Have Known Better, Sufjan Stevens
7. Song For You, Alexi Murdoch
8. Bones, Dustin Tebbutt
9. Naked As We Came, Iron & Wine
10. Higher Love, James Vincent McMorrow
11. Half The World Away, AURORA
12. Heartbeats, Jose Gonzalez
13. Anchor, Novo Amor
14. Say You’re Mine, Amateur Love

Ed. note: This post was sponsored by Baby Dove. The compensation received in exchange for placement on Wit & Delight is used to purchase props, hire a photographer, write/edit the blog post and support the larger team behind Wit & Delight.

While compensation was received in exchange for coverage, all thoughts and opinions are always my own. Sponsored posts like these allow for the development of additional dynamic content to be produced, unsponsored. Thank you for supporting our partners!

BY Kate Arends - August 8, 2017

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August 8, 2017 10:31 am

I’m really enjoying your parenthood posts so much. My daughter is 14 months, so I’m just slightly ahead of you in the parenting world. I remember when people would tell me that being a parent is one of the hardest things you’ll ever do and I didn’t understand it nor do I think it’s hard in the way they described. It’s relentless, both in time and sleeplessness but also in love.

Keep doing what you’re doing. I love reading about it.

You’re incredible for being able to survive on just 4 hours of sleep. Thumbs up and props!

Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

August 8, 2017 1:21 pm


As always, thank you for sharing your journey.

August 9, 2017 5:01 am

Thanks for nice sharing. I love your blogs.

August 9, 2017 7:45 am

My daughter is approaching 12 months, so I’ve been on your tail since your son was born. I needed to hear numbers 5 and 6 today. Thank you!

August 9, 2017 11:50 am

Love, Love, LOVE. Thank you for showing the other side of parenting, i.e, not the staged photos. You are killing it, Momma!

August 11, 2017 6:01 am

[…] Speaking of babies, sleep deprivation is a thing.  I remember after Wilder was born, Garrett and I were like walking zombies and it was haaarrrddd!  Learning to live on 4 hours of sleep. […]

August 18, 2017 6:51 am

[…] Surviving on 4 hours of sleep or less….for all new moms (Wit and Delight) […]

November 6, 2017 3:53 am

so baby kids It’s about accepting setbacks and finding the silver-lining in situations. It’s about HOW you react when things get hard, not necessarily about what you do next.

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