The Dark Days of Sleep Deprivation

The Dark Days of Sleep Deprivation | Twin Cities Moms Blog

I knew having kids would impact my sleep, so it was no shock to me when we brought our daughter home at 11 months old via International Adoption that we dealt with many night wake ups as she moved her little body to our time zone and got used to a new…everything. I can’t remember exactly how many months we dealt with wake ups, but in hindsight, it seemed easy compared to our son.

Oh, our son. He joined our family through birth and so we parented him with all his night wake-ups from Day 1.

When people asked us how he was sleeping at three months old, we smiled and said, “Oh, he gets up every few hours to eat.” We knew this was perfectly normal and expected for babies this age.

When people asked us how he was sleeping at six months old, we nonchalantly said, “Yep, he still gets up every few hours to eat. We’re not worried.”

When people asked us if he was sleeping through the night at nine months old, we said, “Nope, not yet.” But we knew that day would come (any day now!).

Now at 15 months old, people assume we are sleeping through the night and all is well, but friends… HE IS STILL WAKING UP. We had one night – ONE NIGHT – of his life where he slept through the night. Otherwise it’s still 1-5 wake ups each night. Most often it’s two wake ups. I have been averaging five hours of broken sleep for the last year+ of my life.

It’s been a rough stretch. What I didn’t expect was how significantly my sleep deprivation would impact other areas of my life.

I have zero energy to be social, return phone calls, or even open texts and emails. When the evening finally comes around and the kids are in bed, it’s all I can do to muster enough energy to shut the curtains, brush my teeth, and collapse into bed. When I look at my phone and see that there are 12 new texts I haven’t read, I honestly feel like checking them would be the equivalent of running a marathon in the desert, so I just sleepily shut off the light and close my eyes, thinking that maybe tomorrow I will have the energy to get back to everyone.

I’ve forgotten important commitments. Any “pregnancy brain” forgetfulness I had when my son was in the womb is nothing compared to the sleep deprivation brain fog I have now. The worst offense I’ve committed so far was not showing up to a volunteer event I had signed up for…I was one of three people scheduled to help distribute weekend food packs to hungry children at a local elementary school…yeah, I felt like a complete moron for missing that one.

The house is a mess, a disaster, should be condemned not looking how I’d like it to. That’s all I want to say about that.

And I think the worst part of this stage of life is how lonely and isolating it can feel. It seems from the outside that everyone else’s kids are sleeping. Families with children born around the same time as our son have stopped talking about how tired they are and instead they talk about fun family outings they have had and upcoming vacations they are planning. Their lives seem to be going forward while mine seems to be stuck. And it’s a weird stuck, too. My kids are growing and changing and I see that mark of time passing, yet I still feel like the mom of a newborn because I have so little energy for anything above just surviving.

There have been a few glimmers of hope that this will not last forever. On the really good nights when I collect 6 or 7 hours of sleep, wow – look out world! I tend to rock my life on those days, and that gives me hope that once I start getting consistent, good sleep again, the pieces of my life that seem broken down right now will be up and running again.

Until then, I raise my coffee mug to all of you other mamas going through this storm of sleep deprivation. Hang on. We’ll get through this together. From one mama of a non-sleeping child to another, you are not alone. We’ll be okay and we will sleep again someday.

12 Responses to The Dark Days of Sleep Deprivation

  1. Nicole Kelly June 21, 2016 at 1:14 PM #

    Sleep deprivation is so hard, my first kiddo started sleeping through the night around 4 months dropping his night feeds on his own. I knew I was lucky but it’s hard to appreciate the effect of longer term sleep deprivation. I can’t even imagine parents going on over a year of it like yourself. Our second is 6 months and still volatile, he’s been able to sleep through since 6 weeks but it’s totally sporadic and less frequent as he got older. We had 3 nights of amazing sleep the past week (a first in a while) but the day before that started he had a night where he only slept 30 minutes at a time until 6am. Falling asleep independently is a major hurdle that I felt so proud we’d gotten over early with this little guy, but it’s still a work in progress getting him to eat enough during the day and who knows what else when he has a really bad night.

    This site helped me enormously and they have an active group on Facebook and Google+ for support and advice. I’d recommend it to anyone struggling with sleep. I’m not affiliated with the site, just a believer in Alexis and her research based advice with humor. 🙂

  2. Cassidy June 25, 2016 at 8:04 AM #

    Oh momma-the first year of my daughters life she didn’t sleep more than two hour chucks almost ever (there were less than a handful of chunks that got me thee or even once four hours). It was literally the hardest part period of my life. People in general just don’t get what it’s like to be that sleep deprived-but I do and I’m so sorry you are going through it!

    She is now sleeping (just turned two) and my life is so different. I still have short term memory loss issues and am as possessive over getting sleep as a dog who is finally being fed daily after starving for two years but life is GOOD. You will get there too.

    I wrote this for Dallas Moms Blog (on one of my good days, ha!)

  3. Angela June 25, 2016 at 7:32 PM #

    May seem stupid of me to ask this, but can’t you and your partner take turns so you at least both get decent sleep every other night? The day after your night of blissful 8 hours sleep you can do more of the child/house care, so days will be easier too xx

  4. Jaime June 26, 2016 at 11:11 AM #

    My son was still waking up at night at 15 months also. He was a very large boy – 10lbs 11oz at birth – so our pediatrician recommended some things saying that big kids who grow rapidly wake at night because they are hungry.

    We started putting him to bed earlier with rice cereal in milk bottles and giving him a completely full bottle of milk/cereal at bedtime. I know no one wants kids to drink milk out of bottles in bed at 15 months but we just took extra care with the teeth brushing and he’s fine now (at 2 years and 5 months) he just takes sippy cups of water to bed.

    The other thing was to give him a snack before bed in addition to the cereal milk bottle. So we gave him a pouch before bed, brushed his teeth and put him down with the milk cereal and he started only waking once a night. Then we got him one of those toys you hang on the side of a crib with moving parts and lights (sounds off) and he would wake once, play with the toy a bit then go back to sleep. Now he’s just drinking water sippy cups and sleeping through the night.

    It was good timing – only took about a month. Then his baby sister was born! So I can relate to sleep deprivation for sure!

  5. Amelia June 28, 2016 at 8:41 AM #

    I’m in the midst of all this with a 2 yr old and 5 month old. Thank you for posting. It is isolating.

  6. Mary M. August 26, 2016 at 8:57 AM #

    Thank you so much for sharing this— our little girl didn’t sleep through the night until she was 22 months (!) old. I even remember the date, April 16th, 2015, because I literally feel on my knees the next morning in gratefulness and in tears. It also took over an hour or 2 to get her to fall back asleep. I was, quite literally, a walking zombie.

    I can’t even begin to describe my exhaustion, the isolation, the desperation. My husband travels almost every week for work, so it was mostly on my shoulders every week. I had nothing to give and was just, exactly as you said, surviving. But barely.

    I stopped talking about it to everyone, because it made me feel even more alone because no one went through this, not even close.

    I completely understand and empathize with you — thank you again for sharing and making another fellow mama not feel so alone. Hang in there and know that YOU are not alone. Email me anytime if you want to connect more and need someone in MN to commiserate with…?

  7. Brianna September 29, 2016 at 10:21 PM #

    Wow so nice to read this article and the responses from other moms. I too have been through a natural disaster that has rocked my families lives. We are trying our best to recover and try to resume as “normal”. I too feel as though I’ve been running on empty for some time….15 months to be exact. I just tell myself it’s going to get easier lol. Thank you so much for making me feel that I can relate 🙂

  8. Sarah November 18, 2016 at 2:34 AM #

    Ugh I am right there with you mama. My six month old STILL gets up literally every half hour. No I am of kidding. Yes we’ve tried everything. I’m due for about 15 ugly cry sessions. *cheers*

    • Amber
      Amber November 18, 2016 at 8:16 AM #

      Oh my goodness, what a challenge! Every half hour…and yet you still choose to provide care, to love, to keep moving forward. Bravo, mama. I am utterly impressed with your fortitude and hope with all my being that your sweet little one learns to sleep longer at night. Starting tonight! You are not alone in this, there is an army of sleep-deprived mamas standing with you all over the country.

  9. Emily January 14, 2017 at 12:27 PM #

    19 months of terrible sleeping here. Ironic to have named our kid Noah which means ‘restful. Ha, cruel joke, kid!! He’s the least restful little human. He sleeps with us so I don’t completely lose my sanity, but wiggles and wakes frequently and needs a hand on him or some pats to stay asleep on an ok night ( there are no good nights, just ok ones and bad ones)…and oh the bad ones.. why are there so many more bad ones?! Now he’s taken to waking in the night and not going back to sleep for 3 hours. Sometimes he’s crying ( read screaming), sometimes he’s just lying there wiggling around. If my husband tries to take him and calm him he screams mamma. I’m exhausted, emotionally a wreck, but putting on that happy everything is fine face because people just don’t get it ( ok very few get it). And somehow through this all, my child manages to wake up each day with smiles and energy that I long for. Thank goodness for the smiles and non grumpy kid, otherwise this hellish sleep deprivation would be far worse.

    • Amber
      Amber January 14, 2017 at 6:39 PM #

      YES! I totally agree with you Emily. If it weren’t for those smiles and the happy demeanor, I would completely lose it. I’m sorry to hear you’re going through this too, but glad to know that neither of us is alone in this. Our boys will sleep one day…right?!?


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