Yes I remember it well.
During times of infertility, all we want is to finally hold our baby, to cuddle with the little joy and to imagine how marvelous it will be when it starts talking to us…
But what we don’t know in times of infertility is what no one has warned us about and that is, how horrible the sleep deprivation will be once the baby arrives.
My mom taught me nothing related to any sexual topic, unfortunately. She never even mentioned any “soft” topics like getting my first period or taking contraception. Simply nothing.
Luckily I had many relatives as well as good friends and they talked to me about all kinds of important and less important things: from umbilical cord stump, to Mongolian spot in babies, to how to turn a boyfriend into a husband.
So how come that no one ever said anything about sleep deprivation to me?
Was it so bad that they didn’t want to scare me?
Is it possible they all forgot? If so, is it possible that there is some biochemical mechanisms in our brain developed to protect us, triggered so that we can forget and eventually have another baby.
If you delivered your baby naturally like I did, without epidural you certainly remember how badly you sweated, how long it lasted, and how you behaved (and sounded) like an animal towards the end.
By don’t we remember the pain itself? How come we don’t have recollections of pain intensity?
It is the same with sleep deprivation. It is so bad, and so long, and yet a few years afterwards no one talks about it.
Why do I still vividly remember mine? Will it also dissapear soon, and when?
Maybe it’d be easier if there was a clear definition of exactly how long a person must go without sleep to be considered sleep deprived.
Different people have different needs, so no universal definition cannot be applied here. Common sense and research scientist agree that a person is sleep deprived if they get less sleep than they need to feel awake and alert.
I know exactly how much sleep I need to get there: seven hours and twenty minutes. If someone wakes me up half an hour before that point, I’ll be in a bad mood for hours. Strangely, sleeping two hours less than my optimal time works also works well.
Sleep deprivation is not the worst thing that you will ever experience, and surely not the reason you will abandon your desire to have more babies. Looking back, sleep deprivation hurts much less than infertility, though I think that both can make mentally ill over time. What I’m trying to say is, please be aware that once your baby comes, torture will not stop. It will only be a different one.
Let me now tell you a short story about Louis. Louis is an urban legend circulating on playgrounds in Berlin, where tired and exhausted parents meet on playgrounds, in weird hours of the day…Complaining to each other how their baby woke them up ten times during last night, how they can’t recall having three hours of uninterrupted sleep in recent past… Until someone mentions Louis, a son of a friend-of-a-friend who sleeps the night through! Really! No one has ever seen Louis or knows his parents personally, but the hope remains that it’s possible to not be tortured every night and that might be you who will be sleeping the night through very soon, maybe today or tomorrow.
But in reality, the percentage of couples whose babies are sleeping throughout the night is insignificant.
It’s even worse if you are breastfeeding. Your partner will not be able to help you. You will be the one getting up in the middle of night to feed the baby.
Then, if your partner works, you will be the one entertaining the baby for the entire day, and most likely still the one cleaning the house, doing all the chores, cooking, and in the evening getting up every half an hour or a few hours depending on the baby’s needs. Honestly, when I read the reports about 10-15% of first-time-mothers having postnatal depression and all other kinds of mental disorders, I’m surprised that it’s not more!
But what can sleep deprivation and chronic fatigue do to you? And is it really that big of a deal?
A late night here and there will not have lasting effects (apart from the fatigue you feel the next day). It is when you lack sleep, night after night, that this becomes a real problem. As the matter of fact, sleeplessness is a recognized form of torture. Because it leaves no marks and is efficient in breaking a person’s will, this tactic was used by security forces all over the world.
Not that it’s common but it is even possible to die of sleep deprivation. In animal study done on mice researchers found that sleep deprivation could kill lab rats, and in 2012 a Chinese man was reported dead after 11 days without sleep.
In the beginning, a night without enough sleep will only lead to a groggy morning. Anyone who endured a night without sleep knows that functioning through the next day can be uncomfortable and frustrating.
One of the primary impacts we feel is on our emotional stability, specifically, our positive emotions.
If this lasts for a while it will impact your driving abilities. Your reflexes won’t be as they used to. And it may harm your marriage as it did mine, not to mention my messed up self-esteem, pretty much as described in an article I currently found here.
If all this lasts for several months, or even worse, years, sleep deprivation can be a pathway to a psychiatry diagnosis. Hallucinations are just some of the long-term side effects, and they can easily lead to psychosis.
Over time stress accumulates and leads to chronic health problems. We all need sleep as much as we need to breathe and eat. We require sleep to survive. Sleep deprivation also affects our cognitive abilities and weakens our immune response. Sleep is necessary to keep our bodies functioning properly and sleep deprivation is dangerous to both our mental and physical health.
Several studies have been conducted at Harvard medical school and a link between lack of sleep and weight gain has been established. Along with overeating, sleep deprivation is one of the risk factors for obesity.
To conclude: Will it really be bad?
But your baby and your amazing body will, at the end, adjust and recover your old self. A sleep deprived person recovers from sleep loss similar to a traveler recovering from a flight. For each hour we spent on a plane, we would need approximately the same number of days to fully recover from jetlag.
Remember to take time for yourself once the baby arrives.
Folic acid and prenatal supplements: