5 Ways to Cope With Sleep Deprivation Without Caffeine

3075723695_81a4eded57_bFirst off, I just want to make clear my expertise on the subject. I’ll just bullet point my sleep deprivation résumé:

  • In college, homework never started before 1 am
  • Papers never started getting written before 2 am
  • Movie nights with roomies always to precedent to any schoolwork
  • Coffee makes me sick and I’ve tried many a time to make myself get used to it (ask my roomie who used to work at Starbucks).
  • My first year of teaching, getting married, and getting pregnant all happened the same year.
  • Olivia never ever slept. Ever. Never. Ever. For a solid year I took the 1-3am shift of rocking her and Kraft 3-5am.
  • Then Lina came 18 months later.
  • Then Teresa 18 months after that.
  • Then the twins 25 months after that.

You get it, I never sleep. Sometimes it’s my own fault because I just want to relish the quiet and the still for every second I can, but, mostly it’s because of the crazy life we’ve made for ourselves (which we love but it still makes us crazy). And I just can’t drink coffee. I don’t really drink soda. And, while I started drinking tea about a year ago, I usually mistakenly buy decaf tea because I hate myself and am too sleep deprived to read the dumb box when I pick it up. (Also, funny fact, I just calculated that I have been breastfeeding 40% of the last 7 years and caffeine always really negatively affected my milk production.) So while I would gladly chug any liquid that helps me stay awake, my body is not having it.

I hope my sleep CV is satisfactory to you. Here are some things I’ve learned in the last 13 years of not sleeping to help me not hate life.

1. I hate to sound like, well, what I’m about to sound like but here goes: If you decide to be alert and awake then it happens. You can give in to the grumpy and exhausted (which I do often) but you can decide to not feel like that most times. Remember this is just a season. Sleep will come again one day. Even if it seems forever off. Act like you want to feel and it usually follows.

Of course, sometimes you can’t fight it like this kid in the video. We’ve all been there. But it’s probably not all the time.

2. Don’t eat a lot of sugar. I know this seems counterintuitive because sugar is supposed to help your energy but I found that it doesn’t for me. During Lent this year we gave up sugar as a family. I have never felt so rested. I do notice when I drink a soda or eat a couple of cookies or something my body feels like it is dragging. Self-control around sweets is really hard for me so I tend to just keep them out of the house. I don’t buy sweets at the store or sodas. If I want dessert, I make myself bake it.

3. Eat well. This goes along with the sugar thing. When I get behind on meal planning and we are eating a lot of fast food, my body feels sluggish and unresponsive. More so than usual. If I don’t change my sleeping habits but I eat better, I feel like I’m sleeping better.

4. Actually sleep when you can. I’m awful at this. No matter how sleepy I am, it is so hard for me to go to sleep. I always want to check one more thing off my to-do list, or watch one more episode on Netflix, or read one more chapter. Stop it. Just go to sleep. Now. Go now.

5. I think the #1 most important thing is to manage your sleep expectations. There have been too many times that I have crawled into bed, cocooned myself in a blanket, and reached out to sleep as if it were my dying wish only to hear the door creaking open because someone just wet the bed or to hear a baby whimpering through the baby monitor. Nothing on God’s green earth will make me more mad than this very moment.

I feel like it’s similar to this commercial:

“Deep couch sitting” is telling your body that you are going to get sleep right now this very second. Don’t do that. I figured out that I have to trick myself. Really. When I go to sleep, I don’t tell myself it is to sleep. I just tell myself that I’m going to lie down and rest for a little while. If I get to sleep, fan-frickin’-tastic. Truly. The stars have aligned and the angels have sung. If not, I can’t get that mad because I was only going to rest for a bit anyway. This was a game changer for me. I still get really mad from time to time when I’m hoping to catch a few zzzs during the twins’ naptime and one of them just won’t go to sleep but, for the most part, it helps.

DISCLAIMER: This is not actually medical advice. I know people that have insomnia and other sleep disorders and this will not at all help any of that. This is just my experience and what has worked for me. You could just ignore it all. That’s cool. Or even better, just go pour yourself another cup of coffee. 🙂





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