A guest post by Bianca Ritchie, Hush-a-Bee

Returning to work as a new parent can bring with it a lot of mixed feelings. For some, there will be worries about childcare arrangements, how your child will cope without you, going back to the office after an extended break. For others, there is the excitement and anxiety of getting back to some form of normalcy (because, let’s face it, the world of kids is like the great unknown). For just about everyone though, there is the sleep issue.

Sleep is a basic human need. As basic as food and water. And as parents, we are often made to feel that a lack of sleep just comes with the job. But it’s tough enough doing your job of parenting while sleep deprived, so how are you supposed to do any other job?

The effects of sleep deprivation on work productivity

You know you feel terrible when you haven’t slept well, but you probably don’t realise the extent to which a lack of sleep can affect you. Here are just some of the things that can happen in a work setting:

  • Bad communication: Do you ever pause for long intervals while talking, lose your place in a sentence, or mispronounce, slur or run words together? If you’re not intoxicated, you were probably sleep deprived!
  • Poor performance: Performance declines, vigilance decreases and your response time slows down. And you probably have poor insight into these performance issues – that’s a bit embarrassing…
  • Easily distracted: Trouble maintaining focus, keeping track of things, maintaining interest and completing mindless tasks.
  • Impaired driving: If your job involves driving or operating heavy machinery, look out because with the above effects on your cognitive state, you’re the equivalent of a drunk driver.
  • Bad behaviour: Suddenly that annoying co-worker is about to get a piece of your mind, and you have no idea where that short fuse has come from and no way of stopping it.
  • Increased errors: Errors can be made in something you do, or DON’T do, due to sleep deprivation, and depending on your job, this can mean serious consequences.
  • Poor memory: I’m sorry, what was I saying? The only benefit to this one is that you can blame it on baby-brain!

The scary thing is that the more sleep you lose, the harder it is to catch up. It’s not impossible, but it takes some learning to make sure you’re sleeping well. So how do you do that?

Getting the sleep you need

The most important thing for any parent is to make sure your child is sleeping so that you can sleep. Before heading back to work:

  • Get your family on the schedule you’ll be on during work days. If bedtime will be changed, start making that change a couple of weeks before you get back to work. To ease the change for your tot, just move bedtime in 15-minute increments every few days until you’re where you want to be.
  • If you’re breastfeeding and you’ll be pumping, start building up your freezer supply a couple of weeks before work begins. And make arrangements with your employer to have a place to pump during work time. This means your little one won’t need any extra feeds at night time to make up for missed day time feeds.
  • Work on your mindset. While you ARE amazing, you don’t need to put yourself under pressure to do everything. Get the family pitching in around the house, so you have some downtime at night. Returning to work will be tiring for many reasons, so rest up when you can and let others know when you need a break.
  • Get your child sleeping through the night. This may seem easier said than done, but it really doesn’t have to be difficult. There are many programs around designed to help with this, so pick one that feels right for your family, and go for it. With a good night’s sleep, you won’t know yourself.

About Bianca

Bianca is the Founder of Hush-a-Bee sleep consulting. She is a Certified Sleep Sense™ Consultant, dedicated to making sure the whole family is getting the sleep they need. After her experience helping her own boisterous son to start sleeping through the night, Bianca decided to help other families get the same results.

Bianca also has a Bachelor of Business (Human Resource Management), and has helped many new parents make realistic return to work arrangements for their families. You can find Bianca on the Hush-a-Bee website, Facebook and Instagram.

Image: iStock.com/SIphotography

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