We all know communication is crucial for keeping your relationship happy and healthy. However, communicating effectively and nicely can be an uphill battle if you are sleep-deprived. Follow these tips to help you maintain good communication with your spouse, even when you need sleep:
Prioritize Distraction-free Conversations
Timing is key. It can be tough to carry on a rational conversation when you’re tired and have a baby fussing in the background. Set aside time for you and your partner to decompress and have an adult conversation when your little one has a nap or is down for the night.
Take Turns and Breaks
Unless your partner works in an immediate life-or-death profession, like neurosurgery or a fighter jet pilot, they can do some overnight stints just like many parents before them. If they do happen to work in one of these professions, they can give you nights off on the nights they don’t work in the morning.
The bottom line, find what works for you; some couples switch off nights, so you each get uninterrupted sleep every other night. Be sure you use a noise machine, ear plugs, or sleep in a different room than your baby to get the best sleep on your nights off. If one of you is a night owl and one is a morning person, shifts might work better for you. The night owl can cover from 10 pm to 2 am, and the morning person covers until the daytime.
If you are getting burnt out, communicate this so your partner can relieve you and vice versa. Use this for discussions as well. If you both find you’re argumentative, blaming each other, and heading for a significant conflict, take a break and schedule the conversation for a time that you’ll both be able to keep a steady head.
Reexamine the Division of Labor
There are plenty of situations where one partner has to take the brunt of overnights. Suppose your little one is breastfed and won’t take a bottle, for example. Look at other areas where your partner can help make things feel more balanced. Your partner could take care of breakfast, clean up the dishes, and start a load of laundry. You can go back to bed after you feed your baby for a few restful hours before starting your day.
Making a list of your household tasks and parenting responsibilities and properly aligning who does what can help keep resentment at bay when you are sleep deprived. Figure out the best way to combine your resources and balance workloads.
If you know something will help you in the long run, even if it’s causing short-term difficulties, persevere. Bottles are necessary when both partners are working, but if you plan to stay home and breastfeed exclusively, you can feel stuck. Your baby will likely fight a bottle feed, but it will pay dividends if you keep at it and keep offering it. You both will be able to escape the house for a date night, or your partner can share the load of nighttime feeds. It’s also a bonding experience that the nonproducing parent will treasure one day.
Be Like Thumper
No, you are not actually thumping your partner, although you may sometimes feel that way. When all else fails, do what Bambi’s Thumper says, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”
Don’t bottle everything up until you eventually explode, but try to hold off saying something in the heat of the moment when you are sleep deprived. Wait until you can cool off and form a cohesive thought to explain what’s wrong and what will help you. It may just be pausing a beat and counting to 10, or it might be a few days before you can have that conversation.
If your partner didn’t say things nicely, try to remember you’re both going through a tough time. Give them a little grace, which is incredibly difficult when you are both sleep deprived. Many couples have a rule that nothing counts between 11 pm and 7 am. Your body’s circadian rhythm puts the most pressure on you to sleep, and when you’re sleep deprived, it’s almost a feral need to sleep. You can get cagey, lose patience, and say aggressive things you would never have voiced otherwise.
This isn’t a free pass to say all the horrible things you’ve been bottling up. Try your best to be respectful, loving, and kind. But when you or your spouse does slip up in the middle of the night, remind each other that you are tired, struggling, doing the best you can and love each other—even if you’re not feeling it right now.
Fix The Problem and Get Sleep Help
You are now a parent, and your life is forever changed, but that doesn’t mean you must be perpetually sleep-deprived. If your lack of sleep impacts your relationship or other aspects of your life, it is time to address it. You can incorporate tips that align with your parenting style and philosophy if your baby won’t sleep through the night. If that’s not working, you should consider a sleep consultant. Read more about that decision here.
The damage from sleep deprivation is unavoidable. You will start to hallucinate after three to four sleepless nights. Don’t underestimate what you or your spouse are going through. Damage can be permanent to your body physically and to your relationship if you aren’t careful. Follow these tips and seek professional help if you are still struggling.