No one can prepare you for what severe ongoing sleep deprivation is like, you know you’ll be tired but that doesn’t even cover it. It can affect every aspect of your life, affect you on every level…in ways that you didn’t think possible. These are the 8 things I never knew about sleep deprivation…until it hit me
That you forget your name. I never would have thought this was possible but there really were days when I couldn’t think of my name, where I was or what day it was. I could barely string a sentence together, so goodness knows how I actually looked after a baby! I guess I only had limited reserves and they went on the important stuff like caring for my Little One; minor details like remembering who I was and looking after myself had to be shelved
Adrenalin is your best friend and worst enemy. This stress hormone is what gives your Little One their second wind after they’ve missed their sleep cycle…and keeps them awake for what seems like forever! When this happens again and again, the adrenalin builds up in their system and not only stops them sleeping, but also causes wake ups. It is also what keeps you both going the next day when you’re on your knees but have to get through until the next disastrous bedtime. Although it keeps you going just as well as a strong cup of coffee, when it builds up it also causes anxiety which brings me on to the next point.
You become anxious…about everything. Adrenalin and Cortisol surging through your system make sure of that, as does having far too much time in the middle of the night, wide awake to think about everything. You worry about why your Little One isn’t sleeping, why you can’t make it better, if you’ll ever sleep again, what damage the lack of sleep is doing to both of you. You feel anxious when your Little One actually sleeps that little bit longer…what has happened to them, are they still breathing? As anxiety really takes hold it becomes difficult to do anything or go anywhere for fear of something really bad happening.
That no one understands it. Unless you’ve been through it, lived it, you can’t possibly understand how crippling ongoing sleep deprivation is. Even friends with Little Ones of the same age…if they’re not up for half the night every single night, they just can’t understand. Family will be confused at your hyper vigilance over sleep times and being completely silent once your Little One is asleep. They will also not understand the wrath that ensues if they ever wake your Little One!
It comes back…again and again. Just as you think you’ve nailed it, along comes another tooth, an illness or development leap to put a stop to the short lived sleep. Just as your body has cleared the adrenalin that you needed to keep going, you get hit by another wave of sleep deprivation (which always feels worse than the last). Even years later, when you have a bad couple of nights it’s like you’ve been transported back in time…you feel exactly the same as you did when you were in the thick of the worst of it.
When you do get some sleep, you feel worse the next day. Who would have thought that you would feel worse for having a good night sleep?! Without the usual night wakes you start to release the build up of adrenalin that has been keeping you going, so you actually feel more tired! Your body feels like it’s recognising just how much sleep it needs to catch up on…and one night sleep really isn’t enough to even make a dent in it!
It’s all your fault. You spend every waking hour wondering where you’re going wrong, what you could be doing different, what you did to cause your Little One to not sleep. Everyone else’s Little Ones are sleeping, so it must be your fault right? Just to add weight to this belief, you then see the Health Visitor who tells you that you shouldn’t be feeding/cuddling/rocking/co sleeping and that you are creating a rod for your own back. Yep it’s definitely all your fault. *It’s not you know, so ignore anyone who says this
There’s no way to make it better. You try everything, read every book, scour every online forum, listen to friends and relatives advice, ask what worked for their Little One. Every Little One is different so there are a million ways to help your Little One sleep…and you’ve tried all of them. The only thing left is Cry It Out and that’s not an option…but you’re being told that it’s the only way to guarantee your Little One will stop waking every single hour. So, there really is no way to make it better…just need to sit it out and hope for the best. *There is always a way to make it better and so much easier to find the way when you’re removed from the situation!