10 Things I’d Tell My Best Friend About… Sleep Deprivation
1. Timing Is Everything
First, I would choose the moment of my telling. There is no point telling an expectant first-time mother ‘Oh, you’re going to be so tired…’ because she will not really understand what this means.
And why spoil her last few months? We all know what’s coming towards her, there is no need to gloat, or hurry it on.
2. It's Real
However, it is 'A Thing', this sleep deprivation. It’s not just being ‘tired.’ We’ve all been tired before. A good night’s sleep sorts us out. Actual sleep deprivation is different. And it kicks in when ‘a good night’s sleep’ is a memory so distant it may as well be a fairytale.
3. Don't Underestimate It
It is not for nothing that sleep deprivation is an effective means of torture. The cumulative effect of months, sometimes years, of broken sleep, where you never get longer than a few hours at a stretch, cannot be underestimated. It is hell. You may feel like the walking dead – I know I did. You may feel that all the good has gone from the world – yes, I did. You may feel that you live in a land of shadow and fog – again, yes. This, sadly, is ‘normal.’
4. There May Be Moments...
You may also start to have pretty mixed feelings towards your baby. On the one hand, here is this adorable infant, the most beautiful and precious thing in your life, for whom you would willingly die. On the other – that self-same adorable baby, having woken you for the fourth time with an insistent wail, can begin to assume to aspect of a sadistic jailer. Mostly, the warm feelings will win out. Mostly. There may be moments, late at night, when you may think thoughts that you are not proud of.
5. Be Kind To Yourself
If you do, try to forgive yourself. I have one friend who confided that when her first baby was around a year old, she used to fantasise about having a small car crash, something very tiny, and not with the baby in the car of course. Just enough to land her in hospital for a night or two, so that she could get some proper sleep. This might sound bonkers, but anyone who has known sleep deprivation will understand. It doesn’t make her a bad person, or a bad mother, just a very tired one.
6. Accept Help!
On that note – take the offers! If someone is willing to mind the baby for a night and give you the unbroken hours you need – jump on that person with alacrity and tie down the time and day of their taking immediately, before they think better of it.
7. They'll Be Fine
Yes, you might spend the moments before dropping off worried that your baby is crying for you, that no one can possibly soothe the child like you can. And you may very well be right. But seriously, this is a question of survival and your baby will not suffer irreversible trauma because you are not responding to every cry for a night. And when you wake, a new person, after eight unbroken hours, you will understand the cost-benefit ratio.
8. They'll Sleep Like A Log
Also, if the baby-taker is any good at all, she (it’s probably a ‘she’) will tell you your little darling slept the sleep of the just and didn’t stir all night.
9. Get Expert Help
As with everything, it’s a matter of timing. We all understand that a very tiny baby needs to be fed every couple of hours, and will wake accordingly. When the same baby is still doing this at a year old, and is putting away bowls of spaghetti Bolognese by day, the whole thing feels very different. This is the point at which you may wish to consider sleep training.
Get in touch with eumom Sleep Expert, Fioan O'Farrell, here.
10. This Too Shall Pass
However – and here’s the good bit – it will pass. Eventually, they pretty much all start sleeping through. It may take a while – a long while – but it will finally happen. And then you will spend years luxuriating in nine or ten unbroken hours, to make up for all those times of want.
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