My experience with sleep deprivation and sleep anxiety
Our guest blog has been written by the wonderful Lydia founder of Sleep & Bounds, who set up her infant sleep coach business after she suffered from sleep deprivation for nearly two years. The lack of sleep affected her mood and migraines. Read her story...
Broken sleep, not enough sleep, no sleep - something we all go through when we are new parents and something we expect when our babies are little. It is our job to make their transition into the world as calm and as easy as possible. Feeding our babies and supporting them back to sleep is a natural process.
However if those frequent night wakings continue for a long period of time, the lack of good quality restorative sleep can take a toll on your body and mind, and this is something I didn't realise until it happened to me.
My youngest didn’t sleep for two years. Her night wakings were frequent, and at around 18 months bedtime had become a battle. This meant I didn’t have an evening to myself to decompress from the day and relax. By the time she had fallen asleep, I was so tired that all I wanted to do was crawl under my duvet and close my eyes. But falling asleep made me feel anxious, as all I thought about was when the next wake up would be and how I would feel the next day.
Due to the lack of sleep, I changed. My mental wellbeing changed, and inside I didn’t feel like myself. I felt flat, my mind was blurry, my heart raced and I felt worried and overwhelmed by the smallest things; but overall I felt anxious. I also experienced night terrors and migraines became a regular occurance. I knew I didn’t feel right but I couldn’t understand why or explain to my family or friends what was happening.
Looking back I wasn’t fully present, and I wasn’t able to enjoy motherhood the way I wanted. It makes me sad and makes me wish I had changed things sooner.
However, change felt like a huge step. I felt like there was no way out of the dark sleep deprived tunnel I was in. Changing how I supported my daughter to sleep felt more frightening than just continuing with the rhythm I had found myself in.
But one day I realised that it couldn’t go on. That it wasn't fair to my family and myself, that the lack of sleep was having such a negative impact on our lives. So I decided to seek sleep support from a lovely sleep coach. When my daughter finally started sleeping, it meant that I could start to mend myself, by getting a full night's sleep (most of the time!) and having time for me. It was only once I started to sleep and once I started to study to be an infant sleep coach, that I fully understood the power of sleep. That it really can restore your body, and your mind.
Studies have shown (The Sleep Foundation) that broken sleep or lack of ‘good sleep’ can be one of the main contributors to anxiety. When sleep deprived, you are unable to function properly, unable to concentrate and can experience memory loss. You also become more emotional and feelings seem out of control. I wish information like this had been shared when I became a mum as it might have helped me understand what I was going through.
I believe that sleep deprivation is something we should be educated about when we become parents, how the lack of sleep can affect how we feel, but also how important it is to be open to how we are feeling when sleep is broken. We are told how much sleep our little ones need, but caregivers seem to only be given certain advice like, “just sleep when your baby sleeps.” But what if our baby doesn’t sleep, or we have another child to look after, and a household to run, a job to go to?
It is taking me a long time to get over the effects of sleep deprivation, but my experience has made me want to help others. It is my job to help with any sleep challenge a little one is facing but my aim is to take away the anxiety around sleep and to give parents their energy (and sleep) back, so that they can start to enjoy family life and parenthood.
Your sleep will change once you have a baby, but no one should suffer beyond the point where they feel like they can’t cope anymore.
We all need to sleep. We all deserve to sleep, and deserve to bound - each and every day.
Top tips to help with sleep deprivation
Your own bedtime routine: having your own bedtime routine & doing things in the same order will help your body and mind get ready for sleep.
Limit screen time: blue light can keep you awake as it decreases the body’s release of melatonin, which is our sleepy hormone.
Find time for you: don’t feel guilty about wanting some ‘me’ time. It is so important especially when you are dealing with broken sleep. It will make you feel recharged and ready to face the rest of the day.
Fresh air: makes you feel calm and helps with sleep (for you and your little one)
Deep breaths: Mindfulness and meditation can really help when you are feeling overwhelmed and anxious, and can be done during the day or before bed.
Get up & Glow: my go to Hottea Mama - amazing to help get you through the day when tired.
For more information about Lydia, head to her website https://www.sleepsandbounds.
Or instagram https://www.instagram.com/