Whether your child is 6 months or 6 years old, sleep deprivation is part of motherhood. Some mornings, you'd like to crawl back under the covers until next week...but that's not an option.
So we've gathered great ideas from moms and other experts to boost your energy and alertness, let you feel -- and look -- better rested, and even help you avoid snapping at everyone around you!
The Morning Rush
Light up your life.
Right after you wake up, open the curtains, turn on the lights, or walk outside. It'll reset your body's internal clock to daytime and minimize the urge to snooze, says Clete Kushida, M.D., director of the Stanford University Center for Human Sleep Research.
Feel the chill (gently).
Step into a warm shower to soothe away the groggies, and end with a cool rinse and a splash of cold water on your face -- this will rouse your nervous system and constrict surface blood vessels, which temporarily cuts down on puffiness, a by-product of sleeplessness. Lather up with a shower gel with an invigorating fragrance like grapefruit or peppermint, then follow up with a moisturizer to rehydrate your skin. "When I'm exhausted, I take a shower and exfoliate with my loofah. It wakes me up and makes me come alive," says Shawne Kanter of Millburn, New Jersey, mom of 21-month-old Rae.
Go for the bold.
If ever there was a time to dress for comfort, this is it -- but choose your colors wisely. Wearing only black, brown, tan, or another neutral color can sap your energy, but adding accents of red, orange, or yellow, can rev you up. That's the theory, at least: "These are the colors in fire; they attract our eye and spur us into action," says Leatrice Eiseman, director of the Pantone Color Institute and author of Colors for Your Every Mood. You can get a similar charge from rich blue, turquoise, or purple. If bold isn't your thing, try softer versions -- coral, butter-yellow, slate-blue, or lavender.
Brighten your face.
Here's an advantage moms have over dads: They can hide lack-of-sleep evidence with makeup. To look more refreshed than you feel, try these tricks from Kelley Quan, a makeup artist and mom of two in New York City:
Prioritize and delegate.
Focus on being able to do a few things well. Figure out what really needs to get done, leave the rest for another day, and divvy up chores you can't tackle: Ask your husband, a work buddy, or anyone who's available and breathing to help you with the rest.
The Midday Lull
Sip a cup of tea.
Whether caffeinated or herbal, the soothing, mild flavor is a wonderful antidote to feeling draggy. For extra benefit, think green: Sleep deprivation slows cellular turnover, but green tea is packed with antioxidants, which help your body create new cells, says Mary Lupo, M.D., an associate clinical professor of dermatology at Tulane University Medical School, in New Orleans.
When you breathe shallowly -- as many harried moms do -- you don't take in enough oxygen; the higher levels of carbon dioxide in your blood can make you feel extra tired. The solution: Breathe from your diaphragm. Put your hand over your navel and inhale, focusing on making your stomach and chest expand.
Come to your own emotional rescue.
"Realize that you're going to be on edge because you're tired," says Jodi Mindell, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at St. Joseph's University, in Philadelphia, and author of Sleeping Through the Night. "You don't really want to divorce your husband or put your kids up for adoption." The old trick of visualization can help. Close your eyes and picture yourself at the beach, the mountains, or wherever you feel content. "Imagine the scene with all five senses," Mindell says. "Feel the ocean breeze against your skin; smell the salty air. The more you use all your senses, the more you'll get into that image. It'll help you calm down." So will turning to your social network. "I call and check in with a girlfriend. We'll exchange a funny story about something our kids did that day," says Laurel Shapiro, a Chicago mom of 2 1/2-year-old and 3-month-old boys.
Use common scents.
Certain aromas can pep you up when you begin to sag at lunchtime. Jasmine and peppermint increase beta waves in the brain so you feel more alert, says Alan Hirsch, M.D., neurological director of the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation, in Chicago. Keep these scents handy in the form of candy, a candle, or an essential oil in your desk drawer or purse -- and take a whiff when needed.
The Afternoon Nosedive
Tune up your posture.
Stand up if you've been sitting behind a desk, on the couch, or in the car. Reach your arms overhead in a stretch, and then align your head, shoulders, hips, and feet vertically. Finally, tighten your abs. This relieves tired, aching muscles. It also increases blood flow to your brain, so you get a mental lift.
Move your body.
It may be the last thing you feel like doing, but taking a brisk, 5- to 15-minute walk or climbing the stairs in your office building will recharge your batteries. It revs up your metabolism and sharpens the body's ability to use oxygen. No matter how tired she is, Shapiro tries to stick to her workout. "Sometimes I want to take a nap, but I force myself to go to the gym. After twenty-five minutes on the treadmill, I get a boost of energy. It makes the day much better."
Play mind games with yourself.
Close your eyes and try to call up a time in the past when you felt incredibly alive and effective. It might have been a hiking vacation, your wedding day, or the time you received a promotion at work, says Karen Cogan, Ph.D., a sport psychologist at the University of North Texas Center for Sport Psychology, in Denton. The important thing is to remember the scene and how you felt, both physically and emotionally. Spend a couple of minutes recalling how it felt to have a surplus of energy flowing through your body and to be jazzed up mentally. Try to recapture that feeling now as you swing into action.
The Evening Shift
Rub your feet the right way.
Reflexologists say that applying pressure to certain points on your feet will relieve tension and induce a sleep-ready state -- and it sure feels great. A how-to from Laura Norman, author of Feet First: A Guide to Foot Reflexology: Sit comfortably and hold your ankle or the toes of one foot firmly in one hand. Put the thumb of your other hand on the bottom of your heel, then apply steady, even pressure with the edge or ball of your thumb, moving forward, caterpillarlike, to the toes. Continue until you've covered the entire bottom of your foot. Switch feet.
Hit the sack asap.
After a particularly heinous night, going to bed by 9 p.m. will help restore your equilibrium for the next day. To make sure you get a good night's sleep, ask your husband to be on call with the kids. Spend 15 to 20 minutes relaxing before bed to make sleep come quickly and easily: Drink a cup of chamomile tea or take a warm bath, for instance. "After the kids go to bed, I'll often read light fiction for a little while," says Stefanie Asin, mother of twin preschoolers in Houston. "I forget how exhausted I am and escape for a bit. That helps for the next day."
Stacey Colino, a mom of two, writes about health and psychology for Parenting and other magazines.