Sleep deprivation - a slow form of torture

Written by: Dianne Edmonds Posted on 08 Aug 2012 1

How is it that mothers can run and operate on little sleep, still being tuned in to their baby’s cry or their children’s call in the night? It is not until I had some interrupted sleep again, that I realised how tired I must have been those years ago. Although there are some awesome stories of babies who sleep soundly throughout the night from a young age, there are also many mums I know, who found that wasn’t the case. Some have needed to visit a sleep centre or get expert guidance to overcome the sleep challenges they were facing with their children, and therefore with themselves.

How can a mother make rational decisions when they are tired and sleep deprived? We give lots of advice on the benefits of exercise, nutrition and a healthy lifestyle, but the barriers sometimes are overlooked when one mum can’t get to the shops easily, or have the energy to find the ingredients and cook a nutritious meal. This is important for themselves, and for their growing family.  This sometimes leads to shortcutting, eating processed and quick to prepare foods and quick fix meals. It takes a dedicated mother (or having another cook in the family) to ensure that her own nutritional intake is adequate, so that she can care for her baby and any other children in the family. Sleep deprivation will not help this, and so, it takes some careful planning and some support to ensure that as a mum, you do get enough sleep.

Sleep can be interrupted in the evening, and if not made a priority, catch up day naps are easy to put aside when there are other household tasks to do. If you have a friend or family member available, enlist the help and support you need before things start to pile up. Ask them to mind your baby while you sleep or rest, or help you with the washing pile, so that you can rest and sleep when your baby does. It can be hard for mums who have other children at home, to always coincide sleeps, and the washing pile grows, so don’t forget that you can ask for help too, if there is some at hand.

The key is to not ignore your symptoms of tiredness, and to learn to recognise when the levels are becoming too much. Often we continue to push through the warning signs of tiredness and ongoing fatigue can show up in a number of ways. We can become irritable, just like our babies and children do when they don’t have enough sleep. We can become run down, which can lead to colds and flues or physical problems becoming more apparent. It is common for post natal back ache to be felt when a woman is tired, and it makes a difference in how you feel in yourself. One that is common for me if I push through, still now ten years later, is neck ache. I have learned finally to recognise when I need to go to bed now, but there was many a time that I pushed through when I was tired, and paid the next few days with a tight and sore neck.

My husband recently has been trialling a fatigue management cap that sends signals from the brain to a monitor, which sounds an alarm, when fatigue increases to a four out of five level. My first thought was, I wonder what would happen if women at home were able to trial and test this. 

Ignoring warning signs is not healthy for a mum and those around her.  Many things in the home centre around a mum’s well being.  I am no longer surprised to hear the stories about run down mums, however it would be really nice to hear how you have championed solutions that may help other new mums, so that together we can change and enjoy our health, and our sleep. So if you have a comment, suggestion or an encouraging word, please share your comments below.
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