The impact of sleep deprivation on mental health.

I love my sleep.

Who doesn’t?

Before becoming a Mum, I would sleep anywhere, anytime, for any amount of time.

I was known for my lie ins and always struggled to get up in the mornings. I am not a morning person…

When you’re pregnant, you are told to “enjoy your sleep whilst you can”, “rest up before the baby comes”.

Now, firstly, the idea that you can somehow stock-pile sleep is a load of crap. You could sleep for months on end whilst you’re pregnant (which you won’t because you’ll need to pee! A lot!), that doesn’t mean you suddenly won’t need sleep once the baby arrives. It doesn’t work like that, judgey Julie!

I knew having a baby meant broken sleep, sleepless nights… it is just a given but I didn’t realise quite how bad it would be. I didn’t realise that even when your baby does sleep I would never sleep as deeply or as restfully again and how true sleep deprivation would actually affect me.

It’s human nature to think that things just won’t affect us.

And whilst I may have ‘handled it’, it affected my mental health far more than I ever thought possible.

I have spoken previously, in my blog post about my breastfeeding journey, how after giving birth I felt I needed to do everything myself, especially night feeds.

As I saw it, Ryan would have to go back to work after just 2 short weeks and so I would need to be in the habit of getting up in the night with her. Except it wasn’t just getting up in the night but being awake ALL night for the first 6 weeks. (Isabelle had day and night the wrong way round…)

Because of this pressure that I put on myself, I didn’t give myself the opportunity to recover and recuperate from labour.

Isabelle was born at 2.13am and I went into established labour at 5.30am the previous day. I had been awake for the whole time.

After she was a few hours old I was moved into the recovery ward and I couldn’t sleep…

I felt like I shouldn’t. Like I should be awake for her… just in case.

It was also incredibly warm and I was not at all comfortable. I just wanted to go home. I did everything I could possibly do to go home.

We were discharged when she was 20 hours old.

I feel like a right moron now, looking back!

Why the hell didn’t I take every opportunity to sleep?

I didn’t sleep right from the day that I went into labour and only then grabbed a few hours here and there until she was 5 weeks old and it took its toll on me.

I remember one night when I had been up for hours, I finally settled her, laid her in her moses basket next to me and I laid my head on the pillow.

I could have been asleep for hours but it felt like minutes. I woke at her cry but I couldn’t get up. I was emotionally and physically exhausted. I cannot even explain what it feels like but all Mums know.

I admitted at that point that I couldn’t do it. I needed Ryan to.

He got up, got her up, fed her and settled her back to sleep and put her back next to me.

Minutes or hours could have past again… I hadn’t even noticed that he’d taken her. I was past the point of exhaustion and finally succumbed to the fact that I needed to rest.

After that point I started to be kinder to myself.

Once a week my Mum would come over in the afternoon and she would sit with Isabelle whilst I slept until Ryan got home from work.

This was the best present I have ever received.

It isn’t just the newborn stage where sleep deprivation hits you, it is just the stage where you first experience it.

As time moves on, sleep (hopefully) can improve, especially as you get into a routine and night feeds reduce but you will still face sleep regressions, teething and illnesses.

After the newborn stage, the worst phase we have had in terms of sleep was when she was nearly 11 months old and I had gone back to work.

It felt like she was forever getting ill and she was teething.

I don’t think we sleep through the night in 6 weeks and I still had to get up in the morning for work.

I was weepy, emotional, extremely sensitive and began to believe I was a bad Mum (all over again). I would wonder why I had put so much effort into getting her into a routine with naps and mealtimes/snacks, if she was just going to wake up in the night? Maybe going back to work was a bad idea…

I have spoken previously about postnatal anxiety and for me, my anxiety was undoubtedly worse because I couldn’t sleep but also I couldn’t sleep well because of my anxiety… was she okay? Would she wake at any minute?

I go to bed anxious now because she could wake during the night and somehow I still need to function in the morning.

It is very easy for your mental wellbeing to be affected when you’ve had little or no sleep.

I think we need to alleviate the pressure on ourselves as Mums and to give ourselves a break!

We cannot function on no sleep.

Sometimes we just won’t sleep as parents, it is a fact, but when you are so exhausted that every little thing upsets you, get upset. Cry, moan etc. do not hold it in. You do not have to.

It is perfectly normal and okay to feel however it is you feel and to show it.

Piss off to any judgey Julies because the fact is, WE ARE NOT SUPERHUMAN.

Rest when you can, moan when you want to, say that you are exhausted, be emotional if that is how you feel.

Never been judged into silence just because “we chose to have children”.

Yes we did. But we didn’t choose to function the same as everybody else on ZERO sleep.

Happy sleeping Mamas and Dadas (if you can!).

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