Let’s dive a bit deeper into the trenches of parenting and talk about the challenge of sleep deprivation.
We all know it's part of the package deal of having a little one, but its impact on our mental health, bonding with our kids, and even our brain function is often downplayed. Sleep deprivation effects include:
- Short and long term memory issues - Mood changes which can develop into anxiety/depression - Cognitive dysfunction including problem solving and concentration - increased risk of accidents due to reduced balance and coordination - Weakened immune system - Hormonal disruption including insulin release leading to higher blood sugar levels, and dysregulation of hormones that signal your satiety leading to weight gain/loss. - Low sex drive - Higher inflammatory markers and stress response
The Mental Health Rollercoaster
Picture this: it's 2 AM, your baby's crying, and you’ve had about three hours of sleep in the last two days. It's no wonder you're feeling like a walking zombie. But it's not just the fatigue. Sleep deprivation has a way of making stress feel like it's ten times worse. Feeling anxious, snappy or having crazy mood swings? Blame it on the lack of sleep. Feeling easily triggered with no buffer to cope with the day-to-day?
And so begins the rollercoaster that also includes issues with bonding and attachment.
I remember questioning my bond with my second child because I was so sleep deprived - my MIL would come to help, I’d hear him cry and not have any sort of response. Sound familiar? I thought it would be a natural connection when he would look deep into my eyes, but it wasn’t.
When you're sleep-deprived, responding to those little cute coos and cries can become overwhelming. Babies thrive on consistency and predictability, and when we’re overtired, it's hard to give them that. And this can make our little ones feel a bit insecure and fussy.
They’re vibing off you, and if you’re barely functioning, they’ll pick up on it.
Finding the Light at the End of the Sleepless Tunnel
But hang in there! There are ways to cope, and no, it doesn’t involve chugging down more coffee (although, let’s be real, coffee is a lifesaver).
First off, lean on your support network. Accepting help doesn’t mean you’re not capable—it means you’re prioritising your well-being and your baby’s.
Whether it’s someone cooking a meal for you, watching the baby while you nap, or simply offering a listening ear, support from others can make a significant difference.
Lastly, be kind to yourself. Parenting is challenging, and sleep deprivation can take a toll on your physical and mental health. Don’t aim for perfection; aim for survival and well-being. Allow yourself to take breaks, rest, and try and do the things that bring you joy.
Remember, a well-rested and emotionally balanced parent is better equipped to care for their baby or toddler.
So, here’s to us, the tired but fiercely loving parents who are navigating this sleep-deprived journey. Remember, it’s okay to struggle, and it’s definitely okay to seek help. Take those moments of rest, find joy in the small victories, and keep reminding yourself that this sleepless phase won’t last forever.
And if you find yourself at the end of your tether, know that I am here to help as a sleep expert. Reach out, ask questions, and don’t hesitate to seek my support.
Together, we can work towards establishing healthier sleep patterns for both you and your little one.
*disclaimer - if you are struggling with your mental health, please reach out to your GP. Some great resources are https://www.gidgetfoundation.org.au