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how has long-term sleep deprivation changed you?

post #1 of 46
Thread Starter 
I've been thinking about this a lot lately. My DD is 11+ months and I haven't had a decent night's sleep since she was born. (maybe 3 nights in that time where she's miraculously slept a 6-7 hour stretch, but it's usually up every 1-3 hours all night long). We co-sleep, she latches on herself sometimes, sometimes I wake up too, sometimes I'm able to just drift back off to sleep, etc. Before I went back to work at 9.5 months, I usually napped for at least one of her (short) naps. And often DH was able to take her for 1-2 hours in the AM for 3-4 days a week. Now that I WOHM (doing 12 hour shifts at the hospital where downtime is nearly non-existent) I rarely get a nap in anymore.

I'm not looking to nightwean for at least another couple months and I know that this is all normal baby sleep patterns, etc. But I just wonder, when she finally is consistently sleeping longer periods at night and allowing me to actually get some uninterrupted sleep (whenever that may be), how long does it take to feel "normal" again? For those BTDT mamas, did the long-term sleep deprivation make you a different person even when it was over?

I just feel so in a fog most of the time and it's challenging to carry on most adult conversations. Does this go away? And if it does, how long roughly until the fog lifts once baby is sleeping better? I just find that not sleeping well has become such a major part of my life right now that I can't really envision a life without it.... and I can't really remember who I was when I wasn't so sleep deprived. Does this make sense? Oh, and I'm curious to know is there's a difference in response on whether you WOHM full-time or are a SAHM.
post #2 of 46
I am totally struggling with this issue/feelings these days! My baby girl is 10 months old and I have gotten a 3-4 hour stretch of sleep maybe a dozen times since she's arrived. Usually she is stirring/nursing every 30 - 90 min. I don't want to night wean any time soon (don't know that that would solve the wakings, anyway), and I'm right there with you about meeting her needs and understanding this is normal, etc... BUT I, too, am in a haze the majority of the time, and can't imagine feeling this way for another year plus. I am a SAHM and feel guilty talking to most people about being this tired all the time, especially my working-mom friends. However, my baby girl will only sleep with me holding her - as in holding sitting upright or in her sling, she will not sleep with me laying down with her so I don't get any nap options that way...

So since we're in the same boat I don't have much to offer except empathy. But I will curious what other mamas write back on this topic.

The one thing my mom friends with older babies always tell me is the old 'this too shall pass' - I rely on that most days to get me thru!
post #3 of 46
I am actually having a really hard time due to sleep deprivation. My 11 month old wakes up every 2 hours. She sleeps with me and I am able to get her back to sleep pretty quickly but I have not slept for more than 2 hours in a row since she was born. When she was around 5 months my vision started getting all weird. I was seeing double (visual ghosting), tv static (visual snow) on the walls, after images, and other fun stuff. I didn't know what was going on at first and got all kinds of tests done, but nothing was wrong. That left the possibility of some scary stuff. My doctor was finally able to get my insurance to cover an MRI which thankfully was normal. I met with a neurologist who thinks that my vision problems are from sleep deprivation, and that we won't know if it will go away until I get some sleep. It really sucks. I see this stuff all the time and I am worried that I will be like this forever.
post #4 of 46
It does get better! You are in the worst of it. My DD started sleeping 6-7 hours at a stretch, and then another 3-5 hours, around 13/14 months old, with the exception of teething. Now, at 18 months, we'll have a few bad nights here and there, and then a new tooth pops through, and then she's back to sleeping again. I can tell you how it works for me, although probably everyone is different. The first night I get sleep, I feel awful the next day. It's like I've been going on vapors for so long that I just collapse once I've slept. The level of fatigue is actually worse than not getting sleep at all. The day after that, I feel great. By about the third or fourth day, I feel totally normal.
I did some light encouragement toward night weaning around 13 months, but that was about it.
I just had to tell you all that it does get better. Hang in there!
post #5 of 46
I WOH. I have a 4 1/2 year old who was up 3 - 4 times a night until bout a year. I went back to work at 3 months.

I swore I would never have another child because the chronic sleep deprivation. I was sad all the time, incredibly quick to anger, and had panic attacks about losing my job because I was obviously not meeting expectations. And I caught every cold that came around.

Things got a lot better a few months after I startd getting full nights of sleep. When I was consistently sleeping 8 hours for about six months, things became SO much easier.

And now I have a 4 month old. And I cry a lot. And, again, I am sad, very quick to anger, and get sick all the time. And I worry more about losing my job.

I make it through each day and each night because I do know that at some point in the future I WILL sleep again. That is actually the difference this time around - I know there is a light at the end of the tunnel somewhere.

But this is it. We are done.
post #6 of 46
I have a 20-month-old who still almost never sleeps for more than 2.5 hours at a time, usually 1.5-2, and it's definitely affected me. My thoughts aren't as clear, and I definitely have more trouble forming a logical argument when in conversations. (I'm an introvert, so I wasn't even all that good at it to begin with! ) I'm not a morning person, so getting up early after not nearly enough sleep is the hardest part of being a parent.

Physically, the day after getting a little more sleep is definitely hardest. The biggest differences I've noticed after only sleeping a little better is that my chest feels more open (I can breathe a bit easier) and my shoulders feel lighter, if that makes any sense.

I just look forward to when she finally starts sleeping again. The good news is that she's so much fun during the day.
post #7 of 46
Oh, what a question- I have pondered this myself many times. I too have constant brain fog, feel depressed, can't carry on intelligent conversations, can't focus mentally, just get by day to day, feel withdrawn, get sick often, etc. etc. It is hard on me too because I had just finished grad school while pg and I can't remember a good part of my research and am behind on the literature- as in years behind .

I do notice that I feel worse the day after we have a good night and I am slowly seeing some changes as things get ever so slightly better. DH has been able to sleep more and his temper has gotten better and our marriage is growing stronger. I am able to stick to an exercise plan now and feel a world better from it. We force ourselves to keep up a social life even if it means a night or two or even less sleep because it makes us remember who we are/were before sleep deprivation. We also force ourselves to do the things we used to love (camping, hiking, canoeing, traveling, etc) that we haven't done this past year because we realized that it won't make sleep any worse but it will make us feel better. I am very slowly getting back into my field (I did teach last year but it was mostly online) and I feel good about it- especially feeling like I have a functioning brain- although I am not quite there yet.

I have gathered from other mamas that things do eventually get back to normal and very few actually remember how bad it really was years later. This gives me hope. I feel like we will all be superheros when we finally get sleep because it is amazing what we can do without a year or more if sleep!
post #8 of 46
Thread Starter 
Thanks for all your thoughts. It means a lot to me to hear other mamas in the same boat and to know I'm not the only one going through this. I have other mama friends IRL who are going through the same sleeping stuff with their babes too but for some reason we don't seem to talk about the effect on US. We all seem to just laugh about it even though it's really not that funny.... maybe the alternative is too dreadful!

It's good to hear from some of you that it does get better once you get more sleep on a regular basis. It's hard to believe some days that I will feel better, it's just been going on for so long. I start to wonder too sometimes whether my commitment to being a "good" night-time parent negatively impacts my ability to be a "good" day-time parent. Who knows. I do try to tell myself daily though that I am a tough person for having got through the last year on such little sleep and that really it means that I can do ANYTHING. I think that's an important lesson. I think part of me doesn't want to forget the experience of sleep deprivation because it's become a part of who I am. Make sense?

pentasmon- I envy that you're finished grad school! I got 1/2 way through before DD arrived and have to go back in september - I've been putting it off for the last year. I tried to take a course this summer but had to drop it because I could not figure out how to actually absorb any information. I have no idea what I'm going to do if DD is not sleeping any better come september....
post #9 of 46
You used get used to it. I only notice the fog when DS has a string of bad nights, like for the past month. A "good" night is every 1-3 hours, a bad one is every 30 minutes all night long. For the record I haven't STTN in 8 years, yes you read that right. I haven't had what most people would consider a decent night's sleep during that time either, I 've had a night nurser or been very pg (even worse for me then a night nurser because of horrid insomia) that entire time. I've rarely taken a nap since my 2nd was born, I WAHM part time, and have 3 kids so naps for me do not exist. On a night where DS sleeps a good chunk of time, 3 hours then I actually struggle to go to sleep, my body is like, that was awesome, I am ready to face the day now! This is my normal. I do most of my work at night, have taken some classes here and there, I have been studying this year for the IBCLC exam, and am going to start grad school late this year. I remember being more tired when I had only one kid, now maybe since there is no option to be exhausted, you just learn to push past it. All of my kids still wake up at night for various reasons so I do take what sleep I can get, which is what I am going to do now!
post #10 of 46
My DD is only a month old and I hadn't even considered that lack of sleep might actually be affecting me. I *just* had a conversation with DP tonight about how I don't feel depressed, just really raw emotionally and unable to filter/ keep it together in any normal way. I'm prone to crying over nothing and might be a tad irrational/ reactionary at times- lol.

Uh. Lack of sleep, eh?
post #11 of 46
Just chiming in....

I've generally had (in the best of times) 3-4 hour stretches of sleep (about 8 hours of broken sleep a night total) for the last two years. I find that if I can consistently get at least one 4 hour stretch a night that I feel pretty good the next day.

I've just come to accept that I have an altered perception of reality and that's just the way my life is right now...and it took me about a year to really get comfortable with that and "move on" from complaining about being exhausted all the time. And I complained *a lot*.

Yes, I get sick more. Yes, I leave the milk in the cupboard and the cereal in the freezer. No , I can't carry on any type of complicated conversation and my short term memory is totally shot. I feel like this fog has something to do with sleep deprivation, but that a HUGE part of it also has to do with the mind-altering chemicals that breastfeeding creates.

I think we need to see this special time not so much as being in a fog, or being "deprived", but as having the opportunity to develop different parts of ourselves. The ambitious, rational, intellectual parts (that our culture values SO HIGHLY) take a back-seat for awhile and the quiet, intuitive, introspective, grounded parts of ourselves get to come to the fore-front.
post #12 of 46
I'm past it all now (kids are 7 and 10) but those days and nights are seared into my memory as perhaps the most nightmarish period of my life.

Sahm. How sleep deprivation changed me? I was grumpier, quicker to snap at those I loved, generally unmotivated, and frequently despairing. I couldn't imagine ever wanting sex again, which was awfully depressing. I cursed a lot (very out of character for me) and found myself so lulled by driving that I'd think about how easy it would be to drift into oncoming traffic. Sure, I'd be dead. But I wouldn't be tired anymore.

It is truly amazing how all of that disappeared when my kids started sleeping.
post #13 of 46
"I think we need to see this special time not so much as being in a fog, or being "deprived", but as having the opportunity to develop different parts of ourselves. The ambitious, rational, intellectual parts (that our culture values SO HIGHLY) take a back-seat for awhile and the quiet, intuitive, introspective, grounded parts of ourselves get to come to the fore-front."[/QUOTE]

This really spoke to me. Thanks.

I LOVE this thread!! I feel so validated and normal for the first time in months!! My son is 11+ months and I too, like all of you, have been in some sort of a fog the entire time. It doesn't help that I get comments all the time from other well-meaning friends that "shouldn't he be sleeping through the night now?" and "You still nurse him how many times a night?!" Grrr... But look at what super-women you/we all are! Finishing grad school, working, taking care of 3 little ones! Jeez. We are amazing. I'm a WOHM 20 hours a week and do a child care exchange the other 2 days a week so another mommy can work too.

The feminist-advocate-hell-raiser part of me wants to write a book on why it is that society thinks women are not as smart/capable/ambitious etc...Uh, we will be when we get some sleep, thanks! And I know I'm doing the right thing with our son because whenever there is a change in schedule or something new happens (like daddy home from deployment) he wakes up more, nurses more and generally just needs security. Anyway, my 70 year old globe-trotting Aunt always says, "You can sleep when you are dead honey!" I love that...
post #14 of 46
Originally Posted by sarah1122 View Post
I think we need to see this special time not so much as being in a fog, or being "deprived", but as having the opportunity to develop different parts of ourselves. The ambitious, rational, intellectual parts (that our culture values SO HIGHLY) take a back-seat for awhile and the quiet, intuitive, introspective, grounded parts of ourselves get to come to the fore-front.
I guess it was different for everyone. I found it impossible to be intuitive, introspective or grounded while sleep-deprived. I need a good night's sleep to pull off those things.
post #15 of 46
We just read NURTURESHOCK. One of the chapters is about sleep deprivation, specifically in children. But it really reinforced my sense that sleep is important for adults, too. If we don't get enough of it, it hurts us in very real ways. (How sleepy do you have to be before it's unsafe to drive, you know?)

My guy is now an excellent sleeper (we're lucky: I claim no part in this!), but those first weeks/months, when he was up every 90 minutes all night - I was so foggy, so out of it, so depressed I was pretty much losing my mind. I remember being out in the car by myself for a 10-minute errand and thinking "I could just keep driving! They'd never find me!"

I would not say that I had any PPD, either. Once our son started to sleep longer periods, I bounced back almost immediately. But my lord, those first months without much sleep - the hardest period of my life. The mental fog, the loss of memory, the depressed feelings, the "nothing will ever be okay again" feelings - all symptoms of not enough sleep. It was totally lousy.

Now that I get almost-"normal" levels of sleep again (he eats once or twice during the night, but we do family bed, and usually neither of us really fully wake up) it's like night and day. I can see a future (if that makes sense - I really found that the sleep deprivation stole any sense of looking forward to things), I enjoy my life again, I feel upbeat, I have a decent memory, etc. In short, I feel like my old, pre-baby, lots-of-sleep self!

I found that even after he started sleeping more, there was about a month, maybe two, where I still felt run-down, more emotional, had some memory issues. But it was a clear improvement over the darkest days, even so!

Anyone out there who isn't getting enough sleep has my deepest sympathies. I hope things improve for you.

ETA: you asked if we were at home or working - I SAH, although I'm a writer and do some work at home, but it's nowhere near full-time. Even those few hours a week felt impossible when I was seriously sleep-deprived. I just don't think my brain worked well enough to do anything remotely intellectual.
post #16 of 46
With a few exceptions, I haven't had decent sleep in nearly 2 years. My DS still gets up many times a night and the toll on me has been substantial. It's hard for me to see this in a positive light, although I really like that idea. But that has been one of the definite impacts of sleep deprivation. I feel like I just can't think clearly and that my thoughts are not really what I would be thinking if I was rested. I know that on the few occasions that I do sleep, I can see a huge difference in my thinking. It makes it really difficult for me to trust my thinking - I have a hard time telling whether my thoughts are coming from the real me or the sleep deprived me, if that makes any sense. And when I am deep in a bad thought process, I can't pull myself out and see the light no matter how clear it seems on a "good" day. I just can't convince my mind to think differently.

I know that my patience is much shorter, my outlook on life more negative than I'd like, and I am far more emotional as well, and I'd say that I feel depressed and anxious sometimes. I had a brief period of several weeks when my son was sleeping through the night. Believe me, I have no idea why! But during that time, I just knew I wanted another baby. But if you ask me right now, no way! It's just hard to make decisions in this state. I definitely don't want to make big decisions!

I have adapted though over the past year in particular. I can get by on far less sleep than ever before. A good 4 hour stretch and I feel pretty functional! I cling tightly to the idea that "this too shall pass" because I have to. I sometimes wonder how I am still married!

One particularly ugly thing that I have been experiencing lately as a result of sleep deprivation is resentment and anger towards people who have children that sleep! Dumb, I know. My son goes to daycare (I am a WOHM) and we have to write how well he slept and time of wake-up. It's on the very top of the form so I can see all of the other parents' responses. If I see another GREAT! 8 am! WELL! 7 am! I am going to freaking lose it. I often think that no one can possibly know what I am going through. No one. But then I come here and read posts like this and feel so relieved.

Plus, I'd do it all over again to have my son. I really would. He is amazing and worth it.

Thanks for letting this tired, foggy, cranky, slightly crazy mom ramble on.
post #17 of 46
Hi...Joining in the sleep deprivation camp. I am currently sleep deprived for the second time going on 8 months. My baby girl only naps in my arms. I can lay down with her but she has a pretty good mommy radar and wakes frequently if I don't stay put. Then we she sometimes won't go back to sleep.
Her naps have over the last few weeks improved slightly. She sleeps a little sounder and a little longer but still in my lap.

Blame it on whatever...teeth, tummy, etc...I guess it is what is.

I have many of the same symptoms you all have. The big one I didn't realize is the memory loss. Oh and the sex thing. DH is being so patient and doesn't even complain but does make advances. I feel so bad that I am just not in the mood. I also have the quick to snap, depressed, anxious, no motivation to do anything. etc...

My first born is now almost 7. Honestly things didn't really get better until we weaned at 3. He started to have over night visits with his dad (we split when he was six months) After he came back from a weekend with his dad and he wanted to nurse I told him they were empty because he drank it all. It worked. I think he asked a few more times. Then it was just a memory.
I worked only part time starting at 3 months. I went back full time around the time he was 2.

He slept in bed with me until we moved in with current DH. He was 4 1/2. I felt so bad and loved cuddling with him. He probably be still sleeping with me if it wasn't for DH. But honestly there really wasn't room in our queen bed. DS is really big for his age. He is currently 53" and is solid at about 60 lbs and is just turning 7.
Anyway ds is very affectionate and cuddly and I absolutely adore him. I wouldn't want him to be any different

I am currently not working but will be starting up my own mobile grooming business soon. (hubby is converting a van for me, I groomed in a salon for 7 years prior to my maternity leave) Anyway I have been struggling too with the lack of sleep nurse all night baby. Yes this too shall pass. Let's support each other!!!!
post #18 of 46
I'm in the process of night-weaning DD at 11 months. I have come to realise that that we will all be MUCH better off if I have more sleep. I have never had a temper before, but I find myself getting sooo angry all of a sudden. I am a nanny, I work about 50 hours a week, and bring DD with me, and the two-year old I watch tantrums at tiny things. It drives me nuts, I get so mad, and I need to night-wean DD or change jobs, which I don't really want to do. I just want my patience and even temper back. I nearly pinched DD today, and I didn't manage to catch her when she crawled over the side of the bed. I really hope things change when I night-wean...
post #19 of 46
It does get better. I was desperately sleep deprived for 14 months when suddenly DS started sleeping through the night. At first, DH and I wouldn't even mention it in case we jinxed it. Then three nights turned into a week turned into two weeks and in no time at all those 14 months of being woken up every 1-3 hours felt like ancient history. I am pregnant again so I'm still feeling exhausted but it's different.

I've done a lot of thinking about this and have to say that as hard and frustrating as it is to get through the day with that thick fog in your brain and all the sadness and resentment that comes with it, I have found some pretty profound benefits. Sarah summed it up exactly:

Originally Posted by sarah1122 View Post
I think we need to see this special time not so much as being in a fog, or being "deprived", but as having the opportunity to develop different parts of ourselves. The ambitious, rational, intellectual parts (that our culture values SO HIGHLY) take a back-seat for awhile and the quiet, intuitive, introspective, grounded parts of ourselves get to come to the fore-front.
I could never have said it so well but this is so true. During those 14 mos of sleep deprivation, my A-type personality slid away and was replaced by someone far more pleasant. I became more open minded and less competitive. I'm not a perfectionist anymore. I am entirely focused on being a good mum (in a laid-back go with the flow kind of way) because everything else has fallen away. Had I seen this coming before DS was born, I would have been horrified and maybe even a bit ashamed. But I am so much happier now and I feel like for the first time in my life I really know what is important in life. Life is simple. I'm a better person to my family and to my community and I have a period of sleep deprivation to thank for it!

(Or possibly I've just gone utterly insane. But it's okay. Insane feels good.)

On the downside, I cry at commercials now and my 8 o'clock bedtime hasn't done my sex life any favours. Yet somehow DH and I are more in love than ever. It sort of feels like we've been through a kind of trauma together and come out the other side okay.
post #20 of 46
Wow, I had no idea there were so many others like me! DD is 1 year now and I too have not slept more than 2-3 hours (and that's on a good night) in a row since she was born. Actually probably since I was in third trimester because I waking up so much too pee when pregnant. I feel really cranky some mornings and on others I'm fine (after my soy latte). I do find it hard to follow some adult conversation and have NO short term memory. I also feel so much worse after actually getting sleep, it's like I see what I'm missing...I can't imagine life sleeping again, but am soooooooo hoping that it happens soon. thanks for sharing Mamas!
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