While I wouldn't say sleep deprivation ends when a baby becomes a toddler, or even a "kid," I do know that parents often start getting insufficient sleep when their child is in the infancy stage. A lack of sleep, or sleep deprivation, can create a wide range of problems other than just difficulty staying awake. However, knowing that you need sleep and getting it as a parent are two very different bowls of Cheerios. Your only two means of counteracting the zombie-parent effect, as I like to call it, are to try to get more sleep and deal with no sleep.
Getting more sleep as a parent:
-Sleep when your baby sleeps. You've likely heard this before and ignored it in the pursuit of getting something done--or even not getting something done and just having some time to do nothing for once, but in my experience it really is worth it to just sleep when your baby sleeps if you're not getting enough sleep. I found I got more done rested with a baby awake, than dead tired with a baby asleep, which left me with more free time.
-Experiment to find the optimal routine for your baby. You may find changing a small part of your day results in your baby sleeping more, and therefore you sleeping more. It pays to experiment with things like sleeping locations, times, feeding routines, even background noise. Also, if your baby is having great difficulty sleeping, be sure to check that a health issue is not the cause. Acid reflex, for example, can cause frequent and unhappy waking in infants.
-Ask for help. I don't think it takes a village to raise a baby, but it certainly would help. If you have a partner or family member that's willing to watch the wee one while you catch a few Z's, don't be afraid to indulge in that.
Dealing with no sleep as a parent:
-Keep cold fluids on hand. I'm allergic to caffeine, so while I hear coffee, soda and other caffeinated wonders are a godsend to parents, I can't indulge. What I can recommend for sleep deprivation is an ice cold beverage. The chill factor helps you stay alert and the hydration helps you stay healthier, and thereby deal with the lack of sleep better.
-Keep your home cool. Something about a warm cozy house makes you want to curl up and take a nap, and if you can't, that's just frustrating. Keeping your home cool -- but not too cool for baby, of course -- can help you stay awake.
-Eat healthy. Heavy meals can lead to food comas. If you watch your portioning and try to eat light, you'll not only be healthier, but generally feel less bogged down and tired. Proper nutrition also leads to more energy.
-Hide your clocks. Not only will hiding your clock ensure you get up if you set an alarm, but it also prevents you from looking at it every 5 minutes and thinking about how much sleep you're not getting or even that you shouldn't be sleeping at *this* time. Overall, forgetting about time can lead to a far less stressful life. Stress, by the way, should be avoided if you can. Remember to take breathers and appreciate the small things in life. Don't get so caught up in being tired that you walk around asleep.
How do you deal with sleep deprivation as a parent?