The entire summer and half of autumn have completely escaped me and there’s a reason: I’m a new (sleep challenged) mom! I didn’t write about my pregnancy or mention I had a baby until just now because it has been a BIG lifestyle adjustment that I’ve been enjoying privately for a while.
I must say that being a first time parent is so much harder than I ever could have imagined and also way more fulfilling than I ever could have imagined. There was a long period in my 20s and 30s when I was really uncertain if I wanted to have kids. Over time I decided it was in fact something I wanted and I feel very blessed that I am now a mom.
I’ll write more about my new journey of motherhood in due course, but today I want to talk about sleep. Oh sweet, wonderful, restful (and also frustrating) sleep…zzz… One of the main reasons motherhood has been a significant challenge for me and many other parents is sleep deprivation! I anticipated being low on sleep with a newborn before my baby arrived, but I honestly didn’t have a clue about the degree of difficulty sleep deprivation would have on me.
It is seriously crazy just how much sleep truly affects every aspect of our lives – physical health, mental health, work, lifestyle, relationships, day to day functions, moods, appetite, hygiene, mental clarity, errands, financial decisions, etc.
It’s not just me – sleep deprivation affects millions
Surely you’ve had times in your life when you were low on sleep. Perhaps you’re even suffering from sleep deprivation now. If you are, I feel your pain!
Here are some interesting facts about sleep that are important to be aware of.
- 58 percent of workers feel they don’t get enough sleep.
- 61 percent say lack of sleep has a negative impact on their work.
- 21 percent of workers have called in sick to catch up on sleep
- 44 percent of workers say thinking about work keeps them up at night.
- Only 16 percent of workers get eight hours of sleep a night during the week.
- 63 percent get an average of six to seven hours of sleep each night during the workweek.
- 21 percent average five hours or less.
- 43 percent have caught someone sleeping at work.
- 39 percent of workers would take advantage of a designated “nap room” if offered at their place of work.
- 61 percent of workers say lack of sleep has had a negative impact on their work in some way.
- 10 percent have dreamed about telling off the boss.
- 10 percent have dreamed about getting in a fight with a co-worker.
- Sleep deprivation causes increased risks of weight gain, heart attacks, strokes, developing Alzheimers, a weaker immune system and relapses in other disorders.
- Being awake for 19 hours straight is essentially like being as cognitively impaired as a drunk person.
As a new mom, it’s never been more clear to me that sleep deprivation causes decreases in motivation, productivity, accuracy, memory recall and increases stress. Being low on sleep is a perfect recipe for grouchy and unproductive workers in the office too and spousal clashes at home. After all, there’s only so much caffeine can do and some people like me can’t even drink it. Even though I was never as low on sleep consecutively during my office job days as I’ve been as a mom, lack of sleep definitely impacted me at work too. I remember many grouchy days when I didn’t want to do any work at all and counted the minutes until I could go home.
The true sleep champs
Everything really starts with sleep and babies are the perfect example. They undergo an incredible amount of development in their first months and years of life and they need a heck of a lot of sleep to do so! They are the true sleep champs and sleep the most of all of us even though uninterrupted sleep isn’t always easy for them either. Here’s a look at the recommended sleep ranges from birth to age five.
Total Sleep: 16-18 hours
Nighttime Sleep: 8-9 hours
Naps: 7-9 hours (3-5 naps)
Total Sleep: 12-16 hours
Nighttime Sleep: 9-10 hours
Naps: 4-5 hours (2-3 naps)
Total Sleep: 11-14 hours
Nighttime Sleep: 11 hours
Naps: 2-3 hours (2 naps)
Total Sleep: 10-13 hours
Nighttime Sleep: [10-11] 10-13 hours
Naps: 0-1 hours (naps usually stop by age 5)
The real success killer: insomnia!
Being woken up in the night multiple times sure sucks but man oh man, insomnia is so much worse. I used to sleep so well in my 20s and early 30s. Although there were a lot of times I didn’t sleep as much as I would have liked when I was working (I do best on 8-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep), I never imagined having insomnia in my life back then.
But becoming a mom sent my good night sleeps out the window! Thankfully I haven’t had long stretches of insomnia, but I’ve definitely had some rough nights with it. It’s just plain awful. My worst bout with insomnia was only being able to sleep 2 hours in about 38 hours or something like that. The positive of that experience was I was even though my brain was mush I was able to get a decent amount of stuff done during the daylight hours because I felt so wired. That feeling of being wired eventually turned into major mental drain, not being able to think straight, and sheer physical exhaustion. It took at least a week for me to feel halfway normal again too.
It really is nuts how sleep deprivation can literally make you feel like you’re going crazy. Our brains really shut down without sleep! The first couple weeks after my son was born I couldn’t even remember what I was doing an hour before, had no idea what time or day it was, couldn’t remember what I’d said in conversations minutes prior, etc. My mental functioning was definitely at its worst back then.
What I have the most about insomnia is being so exhausted and desperately wanting to sleep but not being able to drift off no matter how hard I try. It’s also nearly impossible to stop thinking about how much you wish you could sleep when insomnia strikes. Sure there are sleep aids out there that I’m sure can be helpful, but I can’t take any of that stuff and need to be able to quickly attend to a babe during the night when the need arises.
I’ve figured out though that every time I’ve had insomnia it was because of stress and anxiety. The tricky thing is the more sleep deprived you get, the more anxiety starts to consume you and the stronger insomnia can strike. Annoying, but it makes sense. So to help avoid future sleepless nights with insomnia, I really try and talk through my worries right as they start to surface. Coming up with solutions with my husband helps allay my fears and researching topics on raising a baby have helped a lot too.
To be successful, make sure you sleep!
Since my days of uninterrupted sleep are long gone, at least for the foreseeable future, I’ve come to accept it is what it is and just manage the best I can. Instead of dreading the nights, I now look forward to having my sweet sleeping babe by my side where I know he’s safe and I can tend to him immediately when he needs me.
My experiences with sleep deprivation and insomnia have definitely taught me that everything starts with sleep though. Without enough sleep for too many days in a row I literally start falling apart mentally and physically and it takes time to get back to even or as close to even as possible. So my one word of advice from this post is to take care of yourself and get sleep whenever you can!
I definitely can’t handle the amount of work – or even simple errands – that I used to, especially when I am waking constantly at night, so a lot of my career and lifestyle has been put on pause. I do wish I could be more productive each day in so many ways, but my top priority is now my babe and family time. I know that with time I will be able to sleep better and uninterrupted once again, and those precious hours of extra sleep will propel me forward and allow me to be more productive once again.
Anything is possible with enough energy, enthusiasm and resilience. And to acquire and maintain all of those traits, you need good, solid sleep!!
Untemplaters, how much sleep do you average per night during the workweek and weekends? How does that differ from the amount of sleep you wish you could get? Have you ever gone through rough periods of sleep deprivation and insomnia?