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The truth you need to know about sleep deprivation

The truth about sleep deprivation is simple…

It’s staring at you in the face, it’s just you’re too bloody tired to see it.

infant baby boy sleeping with plush toy

When you’re so sleep deprived because you have a baby that decides night time is day time, your whole world is reduced to numbers.

 

Husband: How many times did the baby wake up last night?

Me: Five. Once for an hour.

 

Husband: How much sleep did you get last night?

Me: 4 hours, in 2 hour increments.

 

Husband: What are you doing today?

Me: 3 cups of coffee.. oh what?

 

But then exhaustion kicks in.

True exhaustion.

And suddenly, the numbers don’t even matter.

 

Husband: How many times did the baby wake up last night?

Me: Dunno.

 

Husband: How much sleep did you get last night?

Me: Grunt

 

Husband: What are you doing… forget it.

Me:

 

And that, that silence right there, was filled with everything I was too tired to say out loud.

At least, I think it was, it’s all a bit of a blur.

When you first have a baby, sleep deprivation is normal. You wake every 3 to 4 hours to feed. You sleep when the baby sleeps.

Everyone is in the same boat so it seems okay.

Then when your baby reaches the 3 month mark, they ‘should’ (I hate that word) be sleeping through the night, which for the poor suckers who didn’t do their research before having a baby means only sleeping for five hours straight!

But even if they don’t sleep through the night at this age, it’s manageable, right? You think to yourself, ‘She’ll sleep through soon‘.

Sometimes it’s more sleep, sometimes it’s less, but if you can get some sleep when you’re baby is sleeping, you’re winning and grinning.

For the poor old souls who’s baby’s don’t sleep through at three months, they’re not winning and grinning as much, but they still have faith that their baby will sleep through soon.

At six months, if your baby still isn’t sleeping through the night, even for those five hours you scoffed at three months prior, you are not winning but you can still grimace in a sort of almost-grin.

You say to yourself, “It must be my turn next? Surely, she will sleep eventually!”

And you hold onto that hope for just a little bit longer.

This hope will get your through until around the 10 to 12 month mark when things start to go downhill. Like, really downhill.

If at this time your baby is still not sleeping through the night, waking as often as 8 times as mine did at this age, you’re life is about to get a whole lot harder.

Exhaustion.

Utterly debilitating.

This was me.

You are not winning and you want to smack the face of anyone who is grinning.

This is what you can expect if you’re going down this trajectory of sleeplessness:

You suffer memory loss. You don’t have any idea what day it is, when you last showered, and if the left overs in the fridge were from yesterday or last week. People should just be grateful that you cooked, right?!

You inevitably put on weight. Sleep deprivation leads to more calories because, if you’re anything like me, you eat when you’re tired, you eat sugar when you’re tired, and you eat the entire contents of the fridge, the pantry, the expensive chocolates you save for guests, and your secret stash of $14 Forerro Rochers in the top drawer (which apparently people have… not me though… anymore), when you’re tired.

You become addicted. Two addictions actually – sugar and caffeine. I once was a green tea drinker  – dip the bag for thirty secs and it’s ready. Now I’m a full blown long black x3 a day drinker. The need is real.

You stop socialising. Going out in public is too hard, let alone having to put on make up, have a shower, shave, iron a dress… not in that order, or any order for that matter because it doesn’t happen!

You stop doing the things you love until someone forces you to. This is true. You’re just too tired, and if you do end up doing something you love, you ultimately love it (of course) and swear you will do it the very next day. But you don’t. And it’s three months since you’ve last done that thing you love. Until someone forces you to do it, again.

You are not the parent you thought you were or want to ever be again. This was my biggest challenge. I am not a yeller. I’ve yelled maybe once when I thought my child was going to be burnt. But getting to that 10th month of sleep deprivation… I felt myself getting to boiling point several times. It was truly, truly awful experience for me and no doubt for my toddler who copped the brunt of it. He was only being a three year old. I’ve never been so ashamed of myself.

You make bad decisions. I gave my daughter apple and she choked – enough said.

You are highly emotional and sensitive. I cried when I stubbed my toe. I cried when I ran out of conditioner. I cried (and kicked a toy across the room) when my babysitter didn’t arrive so I could go to the one exercise class I actually had the energy to go to – yoga!

You will know when enough is enough. I knew when enough was enough when I was thinking about joining a meditation class just so I could sleep for an hour. No joke. I literally said to myself, ‘Hmmm… an hour of sleep, I would pay $30 for that’. It was also enough when the 2.5 hour afternoon naps, which I was so fortunate to be able to have, weren’t even hitting the sides of the sleep bank… and I woke up grumpier than ever!

You feel half of yourself. It’s hard to describe how unrecognisable you are to yourself when you’re sleep deprived. It’s like you’re looking at someone else in the mirror. You are not the mum you thought you were, you make bad decisions when your decisions are usually good, you eat bad food and don’t exercise when you’re a health fanatic, you don’t look after yourself, you give up the things you love.

But the end is nigh: I was at the end of my tether before I did something about my daughter’s sleep habits. I spoke to my friend, a psychologist, about whether sleep deprivation was a ‘thing’ and if so, what supports were out there for Mums who needed help. I even ignorantly said in jest, ‘I feel like I need to admit myself just for a couple of night’s sleep‘. She said, ‘Yes, it’s called Maternal Exhaustion and it’s a ‘thing’. Most of the times Mums know what they need to do to get their child to sleep, they’re just too exhausted to implement it. They feel they need a few night’s sleep to get back on track again’.

My solution came when I hit rock bottom and said to husband one night as I sat breastfeeding the baby for the umpteeth time (it was only 11pm) crying my eyes out, “I’m not okay. I love her her so much, but I’m not okay”.

And I know, and he knows, that when I say I’m not okay, I’m not okay.

So we did something about it.

Using the advice from a friend, for the next three nights my husband did the night shift next to the cot. He did the nights while I slept. He went to work the next day, then came home and did it all again.

The fourth night… she slept through. No… not five hours. Eleven hours. Eleven beautiful, glorious hours. She’s a trooper this baby of mine and I love her and her chubby little thighs to bits!

It’s been a week today since she’s been doing these hours.

I’ll be lying if I didn’t say that I feel like a new woman… or perhaps, I’ll settle with just being my awesome self again. I’ve missed her!

At this point in time, I can honestly say that sleep deprivation, maternal exhaustion, whatever you want to call it, is a ‘thing’.

It feels like in some ways I’ve been recovering from a chronic, 12 month trauma. I’m in self-care mode. You know when you are burnt out, or your grieving, or you’ve just been dumped and you spend some time healing your heart… this is what this week has been like. This is what recovering from the ‘thing’ looks like.

The truth about sleep deprivation is simple…. ask for help but don’t leave it until you’re recognising yourself in all of my points above before you seek support.

Go find that woman you see in the mirror… she’s waiting x

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About Lauren Jackman (160 Articles)
Lauren Jackman is the author of Canberra Mummy. A self-confessed perfectionist, Lauren writes about the truth about pregnancy and parenting for perfectionist mummies. Lauren is a mum, wife, author, runner and a not a bad cook