Having less sleep is undoubtedly an accepted part of becoming a parent and particularly in the early days and weeks. For some parents, sleep deprivation means being totally lacking in energy or enthusiasm and snapping at partners much more easily. But the effects of sleep deprivation actually run much deeper than that and for some it can actually be a tipping point towards depression and anxiety disorders. Here are a few of the sleep deprivation effects to look out for:
Sleep deprivation has such strong ties with depression and anxiety and our general ability to cope with a whole new life of parenting. A lack of sleep sends your stress hormones skyrocketing and impairs your ability to think clearly and regulate your emotions.
While there are many factors at play, it does appear that sleep deprivation can exacerbate symptoms of postpartum depression in both mums and dads. Research suggests that if mum sleeps poorly, both mums and dads of young babies are more likely to have depressive symptoms.
Blood pressure and illnesses are both affected by prolonged sleep deprivation. It also has such a big impact on our diet and the foods we naturally reach for when tired – sugar and caffeine are high on the list to help “get us through” so our ability to lose weight is massively reduced. Our sex drive also takes a nose dive, unsurprisingly.
The relationship with our partner tends to suffer the most, with them being right THERE most of the time!!! But our patience and energy to lovingly parent our little ones also often becomes harder. Sustaining friendships also often takes a complete backseat (at a time when we really need them).
Can’t think of that really obvious word on the tip of your tongue? Left the remote control in the fridge? A whole set of cognitive skills are well and truly blasted with our ability to reason, our memory and our verbal skills all affected.
Research has also shown that even moderate sleep deprivation affects our ability to drive safely and is akin to low-level drink driving.
Exhausted is not your new norm
You are not failing by asking for help with sleep, and you don’t need to “just cope” or "get by" on the bare minimum. Just because we become parents it doesn’t mean we develop an ability to exist on no sleep for prolonged periods. You completely deserve to be rested and happy so reach out for support with your baby’s sleep when it is needed.
Significant improvements are usually made to sleep within days rather than weeks or months.
This guest post was written by The Sleep Chief, a sleep consultancy working with babies from newborn up to 4 years old. No-nonsense advice delivered in a caring way, with a range of downloadable sleep programmes available as well as Zoom and at home one-to-one consultations.
Williamson AM, Feyer AM. Moderate sleep deprivation produces impairments in cognitive and motor performance equivalent to legally prescribed levels of alcohol intoxication. Occup Environ Med. 2000;57(10):649-55