Mums and sleep deprivation

So, I am really tired. I am also coming down with something, or just struggling against a low-grade cold. My son is sleeping better this week, but even when he is asleep, I wake up after four hours or so. After all, that’s how much sleep I have been accustomed to getting in the last 16 months! I used to feel refreshed after a weekend, because I would relax and catch up on sleep, sit around a bit. I get a three day weekend generally, since I negotiated to work a 0.8 workload.

But recently, I seem to spend the entire weekend on my feet, catching up with washing, gardening, cleaning and so on, and then trying to make some time to do something active and fun with the kids — swimming pool, bike ride or even just a jump on the trampoline. I finish my weekend with a one hour swim session with a women’s swimming group at 5pm, which is absolutely awesome. It does put me ‘behind’ though, when I get home and need to help my husband with dinner or dishes (we take turns) and get the kids to bed and organised for Monday. Is it just having three kids? Or is it me being stressed and anxious about housework, work and organisation? The combination of too much to do at work and at home does seem to affect my ability to relax. There is also some evidence that reduced sleep contributes to obesity, which may help explain why I haven’t managed to lose any of my baby weight yet!

I know things will get easier once my youngest is a bit older. I read that breastfeeding at night is still important in toddlers, especially if you work and need to make sure you get your ‘magic number’ of feeds each day in order to keep up your supply. If I was really at breaking point this wouldn’t have been helpful to read, and would probably just have been stress inducing. Although I do find in general breastfeeding is fairly relaxing, due to the hormones I guess. But for now, I am not breaking, and I keep trying out strategies that could boost my energy while continuing to breastfeed and perform the emotional labour required to keep things running at home and at work.

Sleep deprivation is not all laughs
Sleep deprivation is not all laughs

Today, I bought some probiotic juice, berocca, and some raw food for lunch in order to boost my metabolism. I also bought some magnesium, as I have read it can help with sleep (hopefully it will go through the breastmilk to my son). I am no longer having coffee after midday, although I can’t seem to give up my evening cup of earl grey (it relaxes me psychologically, but could still be contributing to night waking for us both?). I will try chamomile tea. It seems my son sleeps better if I keep him up quite late (like 9pm) and go to bed with him, because then we both get the best quality sleep at the same time. Despite these proactive strategies, as I start flagging at work and thinking about naps I was induced to searching for ‘mums and sleep’ on Dr Google.

I found this article called Moms and Sleep Deprivation by the initially androgynous R. Morgan Griffin. I like how the article is realistic about babies’ sleep, and doesn’t make unrealistic recommendations such as ‘make your baby sleep through the night’. I like how it mentions all the tasks that might keep a mother out of bed at night, such as prepping food for lunches to get the morning flow happening, or finishing the dishes so there are bowls for breakfast, or getting the last load of washing on. Griffin suggests mums should prioritise their sleep and think about how important it is for the wellbeing and safety (particularly while driving). Yet the rub is, for many of us, we are not staying up polishing the silver or ironing — we really are just getting the minimum housework done for our household to function without falling apart the following day. HOW do we prioritise sleep and just leave it? I have to think that part of the answer is that OTHER household members take up this slack.

Maybe I should give this a go while at work. Image from
Maybe I should give this a go while at work. Image from

Perhaps an original version of the articles suggested that partners and children take on greater household responsibility and it was edited out. But still, the article does leave me with a bad taste in my mouth: the taste of mother-blaming. I then checked out the gender of the writer and was annoyed to discover R Morgan Griffin is a ‘he’. I could have taken these suggestions better from a fellow mum. Yes, I know people have jobs as content writers for sites such as these (Web MD), and as free lancers they need all the jobs they can get. He just has to get the article written to get paid. But once I discovered Griffin was a man,  the whole feel of the article intensified (for me) to ‘you mums do it to yourselves, because of your high standards of care’. We should just chill out more. Pay attention to sleep hygiene practices such as having down time reading before bed and so on. Take some time to nap and get a babysitter. Does anyone else find babysitters only work for over two-year-olds though?

I don’t know. Maybe I should just chill out more. But I can’t help thinking that if I don’t get the minimum tasks done, the whole place will fall apart the next day. Will it?

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