When your baby is not sleeping, it can be incredibly tough. It’s not the same tiredness you may have had when you were younger and going out all night. Fatigue from a baby not sleeping is unrelenting and has a huge impact on you which is important to recognise.
The effects on you of your baby not sleeping
When you haven’t slept, it can make you feel terrible both mentally and physically. After having a baby, you are physically quite tired. After all, you just produced a whole new person! But the mental toll on you can also be significant. If you think you might be suffering from postnatal depression, it is important to talk to your doctor or a maternal child health nurse. You can get help and you are not alone.
Even if you are not suffering from clinically defined depression, when you are tired, you can feel incredibly low. One mother I helped told me how she would sometimes lie down in the hall outside her baby’s room and sob. She just didn’t have the energy to try and settle her baby one more time. Sadly, this level of sadness can be quite common when you are getting no sleep or interrupted sleep.
We are all conditioned to expect that having a baby should be a time of great joy and you should feel elated. When you’re tired, it can be hard to muster the enthusiasm. Snapping at your partner or family is incredibly common. You just don’t have the reserves left to be civil.
If you have had no sleep, of course you are going to feel stressed. When your baby won’t sleep, you worry about them. What is it doing to their development? What are the long-term effects? Will this sleeplessness go on forever?!! Who wouldn’t be stressed?
It’s not just your mood which is altered when you’re tired. It’s estimated that a driver who has been awake for 17 hours has a driving ability similar to someone with a blood alcohol level of 0.05, and after 21 hours, similar to 0.15. In fact, fatigue is one of the leading causes of car accidents.
COMPROMISED IMMUNITY AND BEING RUN DOWN
The link between sleep and our immune system is not fully understood but it is known that our T-cell count goes down when we are tired and T-cells are crucial to our immune system. Lots of mothers have told me that feel physically terrible when they’re tired and little things seem to take longer to get better or heal.
At the one time when you really want to be losing those baby kilos, fatigue is reducing your body’s ability to get rid of fat. Your body doesn’t metabolise food in the same way when you are tired and you end up craving sugary treats.
The effects on baby when they’re not sleeping
Recent research suggests that there are some significant effects on baby if they don’t get the sleep they need. It is during sleep that babies’ brains develop some of their most important skills such as linking between the brain hemispheres which is a crucial step to making connections and understanding relationships in the world. Like us, if babies are tired, they can lack coordination, making them more prone to bumps around the house.
There is also evidence to suggest that a baby not sleeping can be linked to obesity, diabetes, and heart disease later in life.
Is it time to do something about it?
I know that when your baby won’t sleep, you feel terrible and as I’ve outlined here, the science is also clear. Unfortunately, when you feel that bad, it’s often the worst time to suggest that you do something about it. It’s a vicious cycle. There are gentle, effective techniques you can use to get your baby sleeping more easily and for longer, and get the whole family sleeping better. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from your family or partner to get a couple of good nights’ sleep or some decent sized day sleeps for you and then see what you can do to tackle the sleep issues that you are facing. It will make you feel better and help your baby.