Beyond Exhaustion: The Unfiltered Truth of Motherhood Sleep Deprivation

*Googles* Can you really survive on no sleep? Like, really?

Hello there folks, me again! This time I’m here to chat to you about the effects that your baby’s lack of sleep is having on you. You can tell me that you’re okay and loving every single second of parenting, but honestly, I’ve heard that too many times from parents who are literally bawling to believe it.

Sleep is a biological NEED. Not a want, not nice to have. You NEED sleep like you NEED food, water and sex (even though you so don’t feel like it right now!)

So, without scaring the pants off you, what actually happens to our bodies when we don’t sleep and what systems does it effect? In short, everything. Let’s dive in to the in long.

Understanding Sleep Deprivation

Sleep deprivation, simply put, is the condition of not having enough sleep. For mothers, this can be caused by the demands of caring for their children, frequent night time wakes, and the general stress and worry that come with growing up our babies. What makes it even more challenging is the unpredictable nature of a baby’s sleep patterns, leaving mothers feeling constantly exhausted and unable to get the rest they need.

Physical Effects of Sleep Deprivation

The toll that sleep deprivation takes on a mother’s body is in short, wild. Beyond just feeling tired, it can weaken the immune system, making you more susceptible to the lovely daycare bugs. Additionally, the disruption of the body’s metabolism can lead to weight gain and other health issues, which basically means you can’t eat as much chocolate as you like, which is just fucking rude if you ask me.

But the signs are not just on the inside. Been told you look tired lately? Lack of sleep can also manifest externally, with mothers experiencing premature aging, dark circles under their eyes, and a general look of f*****g exhausted. These physical changes can make you feel like absolute crap, especially when people are constantly pointing it out (thanks Brenda) which just makes the whole thing that much harder.

Mental and Emotional Toll

As if the physical stuff wasn’t bad enough, the mental side of things can be downright terrifying. Cognitive functions such as memory, attention, and decision-making are impaired (or completely absent) when sleep-deprived, making it difficult for mothers to perform even simple tasks (lost your keys in the fridge lately?). This brain fog can be frustrating and overwhelming, especially when you’re trying to coregulate a screaming toddler.

Sleep deprivation is also strongly linked to mood disorders such as postpartum depression and anxiety. Read the science, it’s all there. The hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy and childbirth, coupled with the sleep disturbances that come with caring for a newborn (or infant, or toddler), create a perfect storm for mental health challenges. Mothers may find themselves experiencing more irritability, mood swings, and an absolute inability to even begin to emotionally regulate, which means you’re probably crying over things you never would have before and are screaming at your husband for looking at you sideways. Not a vibe.

Social and Functional Impacts

The effects of sleep deprivation on mothers extend beyond their own well-being to impact their relationships and daily living. Struggling to juggle the demands of parenting with the effects of sleep deprivation can make it really difficult to socialise with others, causing tension and conflict with hubby, your other kids, your mother in law, and friends. Do you find yourself constantly triggered as hell or overanalysing what someone said to you and making up ridiculous scenarios in your head? Yeah, it’s not cause you’re crazy, You’re just tired. Add in the inability to perform daily tasks and responsibilities effectively can and does lead to crazy overwhelm for most mums, which just adds to the fun.

Sleep deprivation can have a pretty decent impact on a mother’s work life. Balancing the demands of work with the challenges of caring for a child while sleep deprived and constantly sick borders on impossible, leading to you struggling to do your job well even when you do make it in and an overall shitty feeling about the entire thing.

Coping Mechanisms and Support

Despite the many challenges that sleep deprivation presents, there are strategies that you can put in place. I cannot stress enough how much it helps to prioritise your self care and sleep (whatever that looks like!) even if that means actually asking for help (I know, I know, I used to hate it too!). Setting boundaries and gathering your village (which can include friends, family and professionals like myself) is the absolute best way out.

Seeking Help and Professional Guidance

There is no medal for the person who survives off the least sleep and it’s really important that you’re able to make the call when enough is enough. If sleep disturbances persist and begin to significantly impact daily functioning and quality of life, it may be time to seek help from someone like me (there’s others out there if you don’t like swearing). There are genuinely so many ways to improve this situation and despite what a certain Facebook page tells us, you don’t have to cry it out or wait it out.

At the end of the day, you know yourself best. You know if the sleep deprivation is manageable or if you’re really starting to go off the deep end. This isn’t just about your mental health, but also your capacity to show up as the absolute best mama you can be. Our kids will learn how to look after themselves by watching us, which is a pretty good reason to sort this out before it sorts you out.

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