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For Mum Wellbeing

“It hurts”: What they don’t always tell you about sleep deprivation

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Everyone knows that having children means getting less sleep at some point or another. For some, the sleepless nights disappear in just a few months, becoming a distant memory. For others, the constant night waking can continue for years. 

While all parents know it’s going to be hard, many don’t realise just how tough it is until they’re in the thick of it.

Taking to Instagram, mum Emma Heaphy has shared her thoughts on a side of sleep deprivation that isn’t talked about enough, and it’s hit a nerve with lots of parents.

It hurts

“It hurts. Everything hurts,” she says. “Your eyes burn. Your back aches. Your arms shake.”

“You feel trapped inside a cycle of tired. But you have no choice but to keep going. Nothing about it is in your control.”

It’s not just the physical side effects of not enough sleep. Parents who can’t remember the last time they’ve slept more than 3 hours in a row will also struggle mentally and emotionally. 

“Your thoughts can be dark. They can be intrusive. They worry you,” she says.

“Actually you worry about everything. You overthink. And there is no perspective to serve you.

“You are emotional. So emotional. Things set you off that normally wouldn’t. The tears fall but can be hard to catch.”

“Lonely, isolated, and resentful”

When all you can think about is sleep, it becomes a priority above eating healthy, seeing your friends, and doing things you would normally enjoy doing, making you feel “lonely, isolated and resentful.”

“You can withdraw from your friends, your family, your life outside of mothering. You can struggle like you never have before,” says Emma.

She thinks the reason why it can be hard to talk about is that it’s “wrapped in so much love.” But at the end of the day, we all need sleep to survive and function. 

“Sleep is a basic human need. Without it, we do not survive. And with little amounts of it, it’s really hard to function,” she says.

Emma finished the post by encouraging her readers to offer support to mothers who are experiencing this side of sleep deprivation.

“Help them to see the light at the end of the tunnel,” she says.

“Because it’s there, but right now they may not be able to see it.”

“This made me cry”

Lots of mums commented on the post, saying Emma’s words were perfectly written. 

“This made me cry 😢,” said one parent. “We’ve had less than 8 nights of full sleep since our 13mo was born and we’re both exhausted and nearly broken.”

Another added: “Feeling every word of this! My tired brain is always my friend… putting in the work to keep focused & counting blessings but feeling so lonely & as though I have never given so much of me to anything in my life.”

“The contrast of having total unconditional love and yet wishing things to change. Of trying to embrace it all and wishing the moments away to a time when I can climb into bed close my eyes relax and sleep. It will come I keep telling myself and how amazing it will be 🤍”

You can read Emma’s full post here.

Where to get help

If you or someone you know is struggling with sleep deprivation, make an appointment with your GP to talk about ways you can get more support. 

PANDA National Helpline (Mon to Fri, 9am – 7.30pm AEST/AEDT) 1300 726 306

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