Hello!

There has been a lot written about sleep deprivation and babies, including by myself. The first year or two can be a difficult time in any parent’s life. I say ‘difficult’ because the most apt word for what it is like to deal with long-term sleep deprivation is probably not fit for print.

If you’ve drawn the short straw and have given birth to a night owl, you will know all too well the sense of exhaustion that has no other solution except the one thing you can’t seem to achieve as a family: regular, uninterrupted sleep.

Ah sleep. Sweet, sweet sleep. I have been pushed to the outer limits of what I can cope with in my own journey with sleep deprivation.

At the lowest points I found myself falling asleep on the toilet or leaning up against the nursery door.

Yet thankfully those desperate times of spontaneous narcolepsy are fading into the past. Sure we have blips with illnesses and teething but, overall, the sleep has improved greatly.

That is not to say my son’s sleep is optimal. He still enjoys waking up randomly during the night to check if we’re asleep. And he is almost always up well before the sun – a habit that still strikes me as somewhat inhuman.

Reluctant Early Bird

At first I viewed my son’s early waking as a more subtle extension of the acute sleep deprivation of the early days. I looked at the extra hours in the day as merely another obstacle to the next time my head could hit the pillow.

But then I realised a mummy trade-secret: chronic big-time sleep deprivation sucks but the low-grade version is actually quite awesome. Yes it is hard struggling out of bed while it is still dark but you get so much more out of the day in exchange for that small pain.

By the time my colleagues roll into the office at 9 AM with a coffee in their hand, I’m already 90 minutes through the day. I’ve responded to emails, read the headlines, made a start on writing up reports in the absence of any phones or interruptions and have enjoyed my coffee minus the queues. At the other end of the day, I leave earlier than everyone else and thereby avoid peak hour, get home with plenty of time to prepare dinner and can spend time with my son before he is tired and over the day.

Why Having 5 Hours Sleep Is Not So Bad

I’ve also discovered that post-baby I have a new sweet spot for hours of sleep. If I manage the 8 hours of sleep it makes me drowsier than getting my regular 5-6 hours. It is like my body sees 5-6 hours as a kind of challenge to push through whereas the 8 hours is too much of a good thing. Anything less than 4 hours is pretty tough but I can do it occasionally if I’ve been managing good sleep around such a night.

The extra 2-3 hours of awake time I now have are usually consumed by the additional housework created by having a child. This is not necessarily a bad thing. If I didn’t have those extra hours then I would feel a lot more pressured than I do.

Those extra hours also open up precious blocks of time where I can spend time with my husband. Ideally, we sit at the dining table after our son has gone to bed and talk while he plays with his Lego and I write or paint. Unfortunately both of us are often too tired to take full advantage and we end up watching television. Yet we are trying to push through and not make a habit out of this fall back option.

There are not many opportunities in our days to connect as a couple and pursue our passions. We need to take advantage where we can.

I’m still not much of a morning person but I’ve learnt to roll with it. My son may sleep halfway decent hours one day – probably when he is a teenager. In the meantime, I will continue to make the most out of the situation in the absence of being able to change it. I’m a reluctant early bird but a very efficient and strangely happy one.

yawning” image from Shutterstock
  • That’s interesting about the sleep sweet spot. If I get 8 hours or more if I’m lucky sleep I still feel tired and like I could stay in bed all day. But often if I get 4-5/6 hours I feel less tired. I’m glad that someone else has this experience as I was thinking it was just a coincidence. Perhaps I should try going to bed later so I have no choice but to get less sleep.

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  • Sometimes you can feel really clear, Hough it’s not sustainable long term.

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  • I have always looked at the perks of sleep deprivation and being up when the house is quiet!

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  • Yep, some valid points I agree with. But sad to say when you’re in the grips of sleep deprivation, it’s impossible to see ANY bonuses

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  • whilst i like the comments of some in this & yes i have always been a light sleeper but after nearly 20 years of shift work (working all shifts) it does eventually cause health problems & i am lucky if i get 5 or 6 hours sleep a night (& that is broken into 2 or 3 hour blocks) it in known as sleep apnea & it is very annoying waking every morning always tired (even the sleep apnea machine does not help much) & this has been going on for about 15 year now. & yes i still enjoy getting up early

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  • Thank you for sharing your perspective.

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  • I was always one of those people that pressed the snooze button a few times before I found the will to force myself out of bed. But now I am up out of bed as soon as I hear my bubs first little noises and get myself ready for the feed(s). I must admit that getting up for her is far more rewarding than getting up to go to work – hence maybe that is why I am no longer a snoozer :)

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  • I love getting out of bed early in the morning too. It’s a struggle some mornings, but I love the peace and quiet before everyone else gets up


    • It has always been my favourite time of the day. Quiet time and some me time because once everyone is up the focus goes as it should elsewhere.

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  • Really interesting article! Thanks for sharing this!

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  • I am a bit confused as to where your son is when you get into the office so early. Is he the first at childcare?

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  • Lol, always look on the bright side of life, glad someone came up with some perks, its hard to think of any when you are in the midst of three days with little to no sleep!!

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  • Haha, guess you have to look at the bright side!

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  • Well thats certainly looking at the world and sleep deprivation with a glass 1/2 full attitude.
    Wishing you and your family all the best.

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  • I don’t see any perks of sleep deprivation. I think it’s hideous in all its forms. It was the single greatest downside to having had a baby, I think.

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  • Love the way you see it, so much easier when face sleeplessness with humor

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