Many of the symptoms of sleep deprivation manifest themselves in impaired cognitive function. In her book Brain Food, Dr Lisa Mosconi explores the neuroscience behind the foods that improve mental fitness. Meaning, there is such a thing as brain food, what Mosconi terms ‘neuro nutrition’.
‘What most people don’t realise that the nutritional requirements of the brain are substantially different from those of the other organs of the body.”
Dr Lisa MosconiThe sugar-laden, carbohydrate heavy foods we crave when we’re tired (and that deliver instant gratification with the first bite) aren’t really doing you any favours in the long term when it comes to combating fatigue. Try to avoid and plump for healthier alternatives instead.
Water is crucial, two litres a day and tap water is absolutely fine, as is bottled mineral water. Purified water ain’t so great as it’s been filtered of all its precious minerals and nutrients. Water-rich fruit and veg is also good; such as cucumbers, courgettes, strawberries, grapefruit and watermelons.
A balance of Omega 3s and 6s is essential to get your neurons communicating properly and can be found not just in fish oils but plant oils (i.e., grapeseed oil). Mosconi also recommends certain nuts and seeds (chia, flaxseed); food high in choline (B vitamins), glucose (spring onions, turnips, apricots, grapes) and phenylalanine (spinach, high-protein animal products). Her book contains some brilliant brain-boosting recipes and we’re a particular fan of her cacao smoothie, which tastes like pudding in a glass – and is still good for you! Wins! Proof that you don’t have to forgo sweet treats.
We know. It’s hard to exercise when you’ve a baby – or two – in tow. But it’s crucial. Exercise literally changes your state of mind, be it a stroll with the pram, an at home HIIT workout or a 10-minute yoga flow with the baby on the mat beside you. There are exercise classes up and down the country that cater to new parents where you can actually leave the house and exercise in a group setting with your babies and toddlers. Do whatever you feel most comfortable with, but the point here is really to do it. Shoehorn it into your day. Perhaps this might mean asking a partner or a friend to take over whilst you exercise, and that’s ok.
Yes, when you’re exhausted the last thing you feel like doing is exhausting yourself even more, but it really works. It’s a great stress reliever and ushers in a feeling of real positivity and achievement. So do try to set aside a little time every day to exercise. You won’t regret it.
Sloooww down & step off
Sometimes having a baby can feel like operating in the normal world with your hands tied behind your back. Things take longer, you can’t just–
All the stuff you used to be able to do at your peak productivity, well, try not to lament it. That was then, this is now. A different gravy. The laundry will wait. And the world will still turn.
Don’t expect so much of yourself.
Give yourself a break.
You’re raising a child, not trying to be a superhero.
Your circadian rhythms are already shot with the arrival of a new baby, and screen time at night will only exacerbate the situation. If you need something to while away the witching hours then try swapping your scrolling for audio books – or the shipping forecast, and you’ll probably find it much easier to fall back asleep if/when your baby does.
Have a giggle
Don’t be afraid to be silly. Sometimes laughter really is the best medicine. Embrace the ridiculous situations that often present themselves to you as a new parent; projectile poo/wee whilst changing a nappy; thinking you could get a quick quiet coffee only for your baby to howl down the café, the list is long…Try to laugh about them. Or, if you find that difficult, get your laughs in watching a TV programme you love or a clip of your favourite comedian on social media. Whatever it is, laughter can break through the tension. It always feels good to giggle. Find comfort in the little things.
Cuddle your partner as well as your baby
Having an addition to the family can be isolating for a partner, especially if you’re night feeding in another bedroom. Physical contact is so important. Get close, enjoy a hug. If you’re a single parent, don’t underestimate the strength of an embrace from a friend. Sometimes, it really is the little things that make all the difference.
Sleep, whenever, wherever.
As discussed in our first blog post, there are no-points for martyrdom in the sleep stakes. Get it whilst you can. Forget household chores and put your head down, even if it’s just for 10 minutes for a quick refresh. Clinical studies have shown that a nap of less than half an hour in the day promotes wakefulness, enhances performance and learning ability.
Writer and memoirist Amy Liptrot regularly extolls the restorative effect of a stolen ‘wild sleep’ with her young children. Or, join the army of parents who sleep in cinema matinee performances. Whatever it takes, you’ll be much more capable of completing your to-do lists if you’ve had more sleep. Forget the pressures of being productive and remind yourself how much you’re taking care of yourself getting in all the sleep you can.