How to Deal with Sleep Deprivation as a Working Mom

Here’s a fun topic for today, ladies: What are your best tips for dealing with sleep deprivation as a working mom? Do you nap at work? Do you have a system worked out with your partner for sharing this parenting duty (such as where one of you “falls on the sword” to deal with the sleepless kiddo, letting the other one get sweet sweet sleep?) Whether you’ve got a newborn, a teething toddler, or a kiddo who’s afraid of monsters, this comes up from time to time for all of us… so let’s discuss.

For my $.02, my youngest, H, is dropping his last nap. Yaaaaay… not. On the nights that we don’t get him to bed super early to make up for the lost nap we often get nighttime wakings — like last night when he came into our room at 4:00 AM and was pretty much up for the day, despite my best efforts to convince him that it was still time for sleep. My husband happened to be out of town — so right now I feel like the walking dead. In general, though, my husband and I thankfully tend to complement each other here — he is an early bird by nature, so by 5:00 or 6:00 he’s up and playing with the kiddos — but he loves a good nap later in the day if and when he can. On the flip side, I’m not much of a napper unless it’s truly desperate times — but if I’m still in bed I can go back to sleep, and my husband will often let me catch another 60–90 minutes of shuteye. While our default move is to pull the kiddo into bed with us, once it becomes clear the kiddo is going to be wiggling more than sleeping, one of us (usually my husband) will go find another place to sleep, such as the kiddo’s vacant bed or the couch — and then if the next night is also a bad one, whoever didn’t deal with the sleepless kiddo the first night takes their “turn” if at all possible.

How about you, readers — is sleep deprivation a problem you face? What are your best tips for how to deal with sleep deprivation as a working mom?

Psst: we’ve talked a LOT about pulling all-nighters for work-related reasons over at Corporette, including tips for looking great the day after the all-nighter, how to nap at work, and our best tips for surviving the day after an all-nighter. You can also check out some of our top sleep tips for working mothers!

Pictured: Shutterstock / pathdoc

Sleepless nights are par for the course if you're a parent, from the newborn stage, to the teething toddlers, to the Big Kids afraid of monsters. We brainstormed ways to deal with sleep deprivation as a working mom, including ways to catch up on sleep and share this parenting duty with our spouses.


  1. Alas, this post is extremely relevant to me right now as 8 month old is waking pretty much every hour – 90 minutes at night. I feel like I’m continuously in a fog. DH helps out by letting me sleep in on weekends till around 8. Perhaps paradoxically, I feel too tired to sleep train my little one. The only solution I have is to drink a lot of coffee and muscle through. I also keep reminding myself that the older one eventually slept through the night.

    • Commiseration. I’m in this exact situation now. We’ve tried sleep training our 8 month old twice in the past few months with limited success (we even paid a sleep consultant!), and now we’re dealing with a combination of HFM disease, cold/ear infection, and teething…so sleep is just not happening. Our four year old also turned into a good sleeper, eventually, so I’m just praying the baby will turn the corner soon. I hate that you’re going through this, but it’s good to hear I’m not the only one. Lots of coffee for me, too. All I want for Christmas is a night nurse….

  2. Anonymous says:

    Did anyone else yawn after reading this headline? *reaches for another coffee*

  3. I nap at work. My office has a door that can be closed without raising any eyebrows and so I usually take a 15-20 min nap to recharge my batteries on days I need it. I pull up a chair to put my feet up, recline my desk chair a bit and close my eyes. This really helps me be productive in the afternoon! The key is not sleeping any more than 20 minutes or I wake up too groggy/tired.

  4. Emily says:

    To the moms with unsleepy 8 month olds: there is an end!

    My oldest (5) was always a good sleeper. My second came along and, well, wasn’t. She just hit 17 months and JUST (two weeks ago) started sleeping 7:45pm-6/6:30am. Prior she’d been getting up once or twice a night, or more recently up at 5 and then maybe (or maybe not) going back to sleep. It was awful.

    With the second, she got her teeth a lot earlier and seems to have been more affected by teething. ODD would randomly just pop teeth and be like oh yeah whatever, I have molars now.

    • When my son was an infant, let’s just say one or two wakeups would have been a *good* night! This went on for something like 20 months. My next one will be a good sleeper, right? Right? You’ve given me hope that these kids exist.

  5. FTMinFL says:

    One cup of coffee, two cups of water, rinse and repeat all day long. Caffeine keeps me awake, water keeps my mind clear, and both combine to keep me moving (to the bathroom!). At home, I’m “on” at night with the nursing infant and my DH takes the toddler in the event of the rare night waking. On the weekends DH will take the infant after her 6am feed and let me sleep a few more hours.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Shared parental duty was key to survival. I get up M/W/F nights and DH gets up T/TH/S nights. We have been doing this for six years, since our oldest came home from the hospital. I nursed to 15 months on all three kids, so when DH was ‘on’, he brought me baby, I nursed lying down, he put baby back to bed/changed diaper if needed – usually I only opened my eyes long enough to latch baby. If kids were waking a lot, sometimes we’d sleep in the guest room with ear plugs on our ‘off’ nights. I only did that after I stopped nursing though.

    DH is ‘off’ until noon on Saturdays – usually sleeps until 10am and then runs for an hour. I’m ‘off’ until noon on Sundays – I either sleep or sleep+ spa or run into the office for a few hours to catch up.

    Eye mask is also key for me. It helps me sleep deeper and fall asleep faster.

    • AnotherAnon says:

      +1 we traded nights with our first (who’s 9 months now and STTN!) and I’d do that again in a heartbeat. I honestly don’t know how people do it otherwise. Also caffeine.

  7. Redux says:

    This is so real. I’ve got a toddler and an infant, both of whom wake up at night. My husband is a champion sleeper, so he is the first line of defense, getting up with one or both almost every night and then falling immediately back to sleep. When it’s my turn I am basically up for the day, even if it’s 2 or 3 am, so I am really grateful that he does the lion’s share during the week. I try to take the weekends and let him sleep in.

    Still, the long series of interrupted sleep (basically every night since the second one came along) plus the daycare germs means I have had a series of colds (or is it the same cold?) since before thanksgiving without a break. I need rest to kick a virus, but there is no rest. :(

    The toddler wake-ups is a problem we need to remedy. She used to sleep through the night but since the baby came along (a year ago) she has taken to calling us a couple of times a night. How was she such a good sleeper at 3 and now is a terrible sleeper at 4? She’s obviously capable of sleeping through the night. I am supposing this is a baby-related phase we just have to push through but it makes me so sad that even when the baby has a good night, we still get woken up by the toddler. Please kid, I know you can do it!

  8. Since I’m nursing, I have DH basically do any wakeup that’s not a feeding. At four months this has finally gotten more predictable so we both know by the clock whether he needs to be fed or just needs a paci, diaper, etc.

    I sometimes close my eyes while I’m pumping but its impossible to relax enough to actually sleep.

    I also second the coffee + water.

  9. I have a pre-schooler and a 8.5 month old. We’ve gone through sleep issues with both children and with my first I tried to do it on my own. Various kinds of sleep training, and I should have started when I was an infant but started when he was about 2 years old. He’s a rockstar sleeper now, thankfully as the kids share a room. With my second, I used a sleep training program that I cannot, cannot recommend highly enough! I am not affiliated with this program at all, just a user of the program who has seen that it works – we started when he was 7 months old. (I hope it’s okay to recommend a program on this site in the comments!). If you are struggling with your 5-24 month old’s sleep, then definitely check out “Taking Cara Babies: the ABC’s of Sleep.” It’s a program that is worth every penny, comes with detailed instructions, puts you in touch with a community of parents who are also utilizing the program, and enables you access to Cara Dumaplin, the creator of the program, and her helpful team. And the most important part is that it works! Cara also has a newborn sleep program, and all programs are compatible with babies’ needs to eat every few hours and as older babies still keep a dream feed. It’s changed our life in that my second now goes down at 7pm and sleeps until about 6am. Which means that I am now sleeping again and I feel like a new person.

  10. Emily S. says:

    I no longer have an office with a door that closes so I sometimes use the bathroom to sit and close my eyes for 5 minutes. I’ve seriously considered curling up under my desk like George Costanza. On days when I really need it, I go to my car and sleep on my lunch break. I try to drink lots of water and move a lot (gym at lunch and getting up to ask co-workers questions when I can). Then, at home, going to bed much earlier than normal (is it frowned upon to ask you 2.5 year old to put themselves to bed so you, too, can sleep from 7:30 pm to 7 am?)

  11. Anonanonanon says:

    Coffee + Water combo as mentioned above, a “car nap” during lunch.

  12. LadyNFS says:

    I feel like I’m adding to your commercial but I took her newborn class “will I ever sleep again?” and loved it. I have a 4.5
    Month old who slept through the night starting at 7-8 weeks as a result and is going strong. I tell all my friends and if my daughter regressed I’d take the older babies class, too.

  13. I am in the no sleep-training camp as I don’t believe in not responding to my child with what he/she needs – it’s always something in those early years – hunger, teething, bad dreams, needing a cuddle – and I didn’t feel right forcing my child to cry through any of those. Also I needed to make sure we kept night nursing as it was important to me to maintain my supply even after I started work and had to pump.

    So we started bedsharing/co-sleeping and breastsleeping around the 4-5 month mark (when the first sleep regression began). And what a Godsend! It has been the most amazing way to address all the worries I had above – AND reconnect with my child after not seeing him for most of the day. I would still need my second coffee during the day but I definitely wasn’t as sleep deprived as I expected!

  14. psychopharmom says:

    #4 is 7 months and hasn’t recovered from the 4 month sleep regression yet. A series of illnesses, teething, learning to crawl, bumping her head, etc… Mostly I just use coffee, water, walking around to stay awake. DH is a butthead about taking one for the team with the baby, but he’s in charge of random toddler/preschooler/first-grader wake ups so I at least don’t have to deal with that on top of baby craziness.

    I probably inadvertently co-sleep with the 7month old at least 2 nights a week since I nurse in bed. She’s big enough that I’m not worried about squishing her. The struggle is so real tho.

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