Sleep: The Unmet Need of Mothers
Air. Food. Water. Shelter...Sleep.
These are all essentials for any human to survive and thrive.
More than mere wants, these are things that we as people need to make it. You can only go so long without eating, drinking, being protected from the elements and getting rest. And even if you have just enough to survive but not enough to thrive, your body, mind, and spirit will start to suffer soon enough.
What would you say to a friend that was having trouble breathing?
I find it fascinating that of all of those needs, we tend to forget the last one.
How many times are expecting parents told to enjoy their sleep while they can? How often is sleep deprivation as a new parent glorified, expected, and overlooked?
Sure, we expect things to change a bit when a baby is added to the family. You may have less time to eat with two hands. You may need to remind yourself to stay hydrated.
But any one of us would be astounded if we found out that a friend of ours that was a new parent hadn't eaten more than a few bites of food here and there this week because they were so overwhelmed with caring for their baby.
We would be horrified and rush over to help if we found out that they were struggling to have even a glass of water a day.
We would be urging them to get to a medical professional if they were having trouble breathing.
We would bring them in if they didn't have a place to live.
So, why then do we treat sleep any differently?
tHE DANGERS OF SLEEP DEPRIVATION
The issue with treating a lack of sleep in parents (and let's be honest, mainly mothers that are primary caregivers and up all night breastfeeding due to having the necessary equipment) as a normal part of parenting rather than missing out on an essential need is that it ignores the very real impact that sleep deprivation can have.
Sleep deprivation can contribute to postpartum mood disorders like postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety.
Sleep deprivation can be as much of a driving impairment as driving.
Sleep deprivation can have a huge negative impact on your marriage.
And those are just the short term. In the long term, not getting enough sleep, or getting poor-quality sleep, increases the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes.
None of these things that we should just expect the mothers in our lives to live with for a period of time. And yet instead of getting them help and giving them solutions, we tell them it's selfish or unrealistic to expect to sleep while also being a parent.
We have to overlooking the fact that the mothers around us are drowning.
So, let's stop making "Mombie" jokes. Let's stop shaming moms for daring to desire regular sleep.
Let's start lending a hand to the moms in our lives.
Let's let them know that overnight newborn care is an option to allow them to catch up on sleep.
And let's stop calling sleep training, cruel, selfish, and harmful and recognize that when done properly, it's giving the gift of sleep to an entire family--and that's a gift that's a necessity, not a luxury.