There’s a reason sleep deprivation is used as a form of torture by the military. It has an impact on everything; your mental health, physical strength, skin, hair, resilience, appetite and ability to keep your s**t together.
I remember the days I took sleep for granted. When I closed my eyes, relaxed in the knowledge I would be undisturbed, feeling comfortable in my clean sheets and pyjamas. On a Saturday and Sunday I would often not wake up until 9 or even 10am. Then me and hubby would lie in bed watching Saturday Kitchen or maybe binge watching our latest TV series obsession. How blissful it was knowing there was nothing to do but lie there for as long as we wanted.
Like a fool I nodded as people told me to say bye bye to sleep when I fell pregnant the first time. Inside it didn’t really register what this would mean. You can’t possibly understand until you’re in month seven of being woken up multiple times a night and surviving on as little as just one or two hours of shuteye.
Bubba One was a brilliant sleeper. We were so lucky. She did 12 hours a night from just a few weeks old and never went through any regression until our youngest was born. I’m sure other parents wanted to punch me when I told them this. Well don’t worry, we’re getting our payback now.
These days I have Insomnia by Faithless on loop going through my head as a I stumble about trying to cater to both my children’s constant demands.
My youngest sleeps a bit better now, at seven months, but still wakes twice a night. When she wakes at 4am it’s pot luck if she goes back to sleep. If she doesn’t, she practices making noises. This wakes up my toddler and from there I’m up for the day. 6.30am is a very very very good day.
Going through this can be separated into stages, much like the grieving process or addiction. Except in this case the only death has been your sanity and the only addiction is coffee. Here are the seven stages of sleep deprivation:
I’ve just brought my beautiful baby home and I’m riding on a high of hormone-fuelled love. Sure I’m a bit tired from that marathon labour but I’m great because I have a healthy baby. I will recover and the other half is on hand with drinks, food, snacks and an extra pair of hands. An endless stream of visitors bring gifts and hold the baby to give me a break. Baby sleeps so easily, she’s always nodding off in my arms. Then I pop her down and she sleeps for hours. This is great. She’s a good sleeper.
After the hazy bliss of the first two weeks my baby seems a bit more awake now. She seems to need a bit more help to nod off and when she is asleep it doesn’t last as long. In the evening she wants to feed constantly. At night she’s up wanting to eat every two hours. This will pass quickly. She’s just getting my milk supply up. Once she’s in a routine and taking full feeds in the day, she won’t need to eat at night and so will sleep longer.
We’re in week 15 and she’s still waking up five times a night. Oh god. Everyone said it would be better by week 12. Now people say there’s a four month sleep regression round the corner. But how can she regress any further from where we are now? Surely a regression would mean she doesn’t sleep at all, ever??!
Now it’s personal. How can this be happening? Something must be wrong. For f**k’s sake. It must be husband’s fault. He keeps overstimulating her late in the afternoon. And look at all the lovely sleep he’s getting. He doesn’t have boobs to share the load with breastfeeding. Then he remarks, with a big yawn, the baby woke him up with her crying at 3am. Is it still murder when you were faced with extreme provocation?
You must be doing something wrong. Surely things should have improved by week 21? There’s no reason for her to still be waking up four times a night now. She seems to eat a lot in the day, although it’s difficult to tell. Should I be giving her a bottle so I know she’s getting enough? How can I even be thinking about giving her a bottle? Breast is best. I’m the worst parent ever. She’s not sleeping because I’ve got the routine all wrong. I haven’t taught her to self-settle properly. I haven’t made sure she’s napped well in the day so she sleeps well at night. It’s all my fault.
I will give you anything you want. Maybe a different white noise machine will work. There’s this nighttime bath product, that should relax you to sleep. Here’s some solid food, you’re only a week off six months. Surely this will help you sleep through. Maybe I can bulk this meal up with extra potato. Here, have this yoghurt, it’s full of calories.
I’ve tried formula, doesn’t work. Baby is on three meals a day, that’s made no difference. I’ve tried white noise, routines, feeding as much as I can in the day, leaving her to cry (failed after 10minutes). So that’s it. I’m f**ked.
How I coped with sleep deprivation:
Get hubby to help wherever possible at weekends and in the mornings.
Try to grab sleep whenever you can.
Don’t try to do too many errands in one go, spread them over the week.
Remember to eat and drink lots of water.
Lower your standards for housework.
If your mum asks how she can help, throw your mountain of washing her way.
Get a dishwasher.
Plan for easy to cook meals.
Be kind to yourself, it will get easier and you’re doing your best.
What are your tips for coping with sleep deprivation? I would love to hear your ideas.