Prior to motherhood – when anticipating the sleepless nights people spoke of – it was difficult to understand what was really so hard about nights with few hours of sleep. After all, most of us have lived through those days of little sleep while staying up until all hours of the morning (when it was our choice)!
The first few days – or, perhaps, weeks – it still didn’t seem so bad. Little did we know, we were still on an adrenaline rush and it was only a matter of time before the adrenaline ran out. Motherhood is a time consuming, energy draining endeavor and it is difficult to anticipate what the long hours and lack of sleep will do to any individual. But, for most, over the long run, it is not easy.
Fatigue is not uncommon in motherhood but most of us just plow through it, anticipating the day when we can “catch up on our sleep”. Sleep deprivation is something every mother knows about, but the effects of sleep deprivation are often overlooked. Sleep deprived mothers (and others) are often compared to drunk drivers.
Sleep deprivation can lead to slurred speech. There is actually a physical difference in the cerebral cortex between a sleep-deprived individual and one who is well rested. It can also cause delayed responses. It is as though our brains are still asleep (I think we can all relate to what that feels like). Creative thinking is also slowed by a lack of sleep, and moms need this imaginative and inventive thinking to get them through each day.
Also similar to drunk drivers, a mom who is sleep deprived is slower to respond, shows poor motor control, and has a harder time making decisions. These are all tasks that are important to a successful functioning day for mom. It is obvious that sleep – proper sleep – is essential to a mom’s well being. But, how is she to accomplish this most difficult task?
If you are not sleeping because you have a new baby in the house, it is cruicial that you listen to your friends who are telling you to “sleep when the baby sleeps”. Take a nap during the day and you will find that you are able to get the dishes and the laundry done in a shorter amount of time.
If you are not sleeping because you have young children in the house who continue to wake you up throughout the night, it’s time to make some changes. Sometimes it’s as easy as creating a star chart to keep young children stay in their beds all night. When ten days of stars have been earned, the child earns a special treat.
If it’s not that easy, you may have to take shifts with your spouse or partner. One of you gets to grab a night of sleep – in another room or, if you’re lucky, at a hotel – while the other one takes the “night shift”. Use points to treat yourself to a weekend at a local hotel in order to catch up on sleep.
If you are not sleeping because you are waiting up for your teenagers to get home safely, I’m not sure there is anything you can do about that. You may be up all night, but – perhaps – you can arrange to nap the following day or sleep in the next morning. If you know your teenager is going out on Friday night, maybe a nap during the day on Friday will help balance the lack of sleep.
Fatigue – especially in new moms – is a serious thing. It is important to be aware of how much sleep you are getting and how a lack of sleep affects you and your ability to get through the day. Establish a routine to ensure you are getting the proper amount of sleep. Don’t forget – that mom’s well-being effects the whole family!