It is very hard to understand how debilitating sleep deprivation is until you suffer from it. There is a reason we, as humans, need to sleep. Our bodies need to recharge, our brains need time to process everything they take in, without having to take more stuff in, our muscles need to relax for a little while to make them stronger for the next day, and our eyes need to close, to rehydrate and allow us to see clearly for another day.
When you don’t get enough shut eye, these things can’t happen, or at least can’t happen to their full potential. We’ve all had bad night’s sleep where we feel rough the next day. Now imagine that bad night is every single night. That is when sleep deprivation really takes hold.
I’m not someone who needs loads of sleep. I think 7 hours is about my optimum, allowing me to spring out of bed and go about my day with barely a yawn. I don’t really know what 7 hours sleep is any more. The reason for this is, more nights than not, my children. Of course, a brilliant reason to be up in the night. And it absolutely does not bother me catering to their needs in the midnight hours. But I’ve suffered some ill effects over the past 9 months of Sienna’s life, from the lack of sleep I’m getting.
I wouldn’t say Sienna is a terrible sleeper, but she’s not the best. She has yet to have that magic sleep through, and on a good night wakes about 10pm and then again at some point in the night. On a bad night, she can be awake most of the night! We’ve had stretches of awful sleep, and stretches of good sleep.
Ella was a great sleeper as a baby. Now? Not so much! She wakes most nights at some point in the night, and the time taken to get her back to sleep can be anything from five minutes to three hours!! Dropping her nap has helped loads, and she’s usually back to sleep within half an hour. But again, there’s the odd night where she’s very much awake in the middle of the night.
The combination of the two means there is rarely an opportunity for me to have a good catch up on sleep, and I pretty much feel sleep deprived most of the time. Sometimes, in a good spell of sleep, I mainly just feel tired. Other times, when there is a prolonged spell of bad sleep, I feel beyond exhausted. The result on me has been memory loss, confusion, lack of concentration, difficulty putting words together, nausea and, the one that has bothered me the most, anxiety. I did wonder at one point if I was starting to suffer postnatal depression. But having read a bit more about anxiety, I found one of the factors to be lack of sleep. This culminated for me in a mild panic attack in December last year. I knew I didn’t want to face the new year in the same way, if sleep was going to continue to be lacking. And so, I set out to survive my sleep deprivation. Having just gone through another bad spell of sleep between the two girls (with a little bit of insomnia for me thrown in thanks to a house move!), I’ve realised I’m dealing with it so much better than I used to.
And here is how….
1. Stop Thinking About It
I used to get so obsessed with sleep. I would know exactly how much sleep I’d had the night before and my mood the next day would reflect it.
Now, I do my best not to think about it. I carry on my day as normal, try and have the odd moment of rest if possible. But otherwise just crack on. I actually feel far less tired than when I focused on it. This is easier said than done. But if you find yourself focusing on how little sleep you had, instead try thinking about how much sleep you did get. Rather than saying “I only got four hours last night”, try “last night wasn’t too bad, I got a good four hours sleep!”. It works!!
When you’re going through a really bad sleep spell, your body screams stop. It wants you to sit down and not do much at all. I did some research in to how to reduce anxiety without the help of drugs, and exercise came way up there.
I’ve always been keen on exercise. And I’ve really upped my exercise game since the start of the year. I go running a couple of times a week, and go to bootcamp sessions twice a week. I try and throw in one or two extra home exercise sessions too. It gives me the energy I’m lacking, I have less insomnia so am woken only by the girls rather than the goings on in my head, and my anxiety levels have really dropped.
3. Get Dressed
I love pyjamas. There’s nothing more relaxing than getting in to them at the end of the day, after the girls have gone to bed. But one thing I really don’t like is being in my pyjamas for too long in the morning. Whereas at the end of the day wearing my pyjamas makes me feel relaxed, wearing them any length of time in the mornings makes me feel dirty and slobbish.
I definitely lingered too long in my pyjamas in previous spells of bad sleep. It’s so easy to loiter and not get moving because you feel so tired. I now probably wear my pyjamas for about the first hour of the day until about 7.30/8am on the days I’m not working. Then I get dressed and feel instantly more energised and less depressed. I know some people love pyjama days. But I’ve come to realise, they’re just not for me.
4. Put Some Slap On
I’ve never been majorly in to make up. I loved putting some on for a night out or for work, but it would take me about 5 minutes and would be very minimal. I would rarely wear makeup on days when it was just me and the girls, and the most glamorous place we were going was to the park.
But I started getting in to watching beauty vlogs on YouTube. And it spurred me to start putting a bit of makeup on every day. I can’t believe the difference it has made. I guess it’s the whole ‘if you can’t make it, fake it’ idea! If I caught a glimpse of my tired, dark eyed, sallow face in the mirror, I instantly felt as tired as I looked. Now I see a brighter, more awake face in the mirror. I love experimenting with different makeup looks every day, even if it’s just a bit of cream blush, under eye concealer and a slick of mascara to make me look that bit more awake.
5. Do Something For You
Life can quickly become dominated by how much sleep you get. You slowly start to forget who you are and what your personality is! I think it’s so important to do something for yourself. Whatever it is that feels good to you.
For me, it’s getting out for a run on my own, no noise but the music pounding in my ears! Or going to bed early to have a YouTube binge!!! Do something you enjoy, every day if possible. Sleep shouldn’t dominate your life and leave you feeling like the shell of the person you barely remember being.
And that is how sleep deprivation no longer consumes my life. I’m not getting more sleep, but I am dealing with it so much better. My mood is no longer low, my anxiety is greatly reduced, and I actually spend my days feeling energised!
And, there’s always the focus that at some point, this too shall pass. And it will. Won’t it????