Sleep deprivation is a universal truth among moms. It’s something that we all experience, typically to levels we never thought possible before entering motherhood. Sure, there were all-nighters during finals, and that summer working as an office intern all day and as a waitress/bartender all night. You survived that, so motherhood is basically the same, right? Except instead of a drunk dude yelling for a drink at the bar, your sweet adorable baby is yelling for milk. Right??? NOPE. Just a giant pile of NOPE. Sorry, fresh-faced 20-something self, no amount of late nights or all-nighters could possibly prepare you for the depths of exhaustion of motherhood. All the coffee in creation cannot make you feel like a normal functioning person.
Walking Mombies (or former Mombies), here are a few sleep deprivation scenarios that I’m sure you will recognize:
REM is the stage of sleep where your brain codes things into memory and dreams occur. Motherhood brings about this phenomenon where the second you close your eyes you go directly into REM. You are asleep for exactly 14 minutes and have already had an entire crazy dream saga. This fuels confusion when awoken for the 29th time in 36 hours. You stumble around not sure if you’re actually at that amusement park with the creepy clowns playing baseball with a flock of seagulls that sound strangely like your baby crying, or if you’re in your bedroom where your husband is soundly asleep (as baby is crying). There may come a point where you would prefer to roll the dice with the creepy clowns instead of face reality. The sleep/wake/REM confusion is closely associated with another favorite…
You’re so tired that you actually have semi-conscious dreams while up and moving around. Your body is going through the normal motions of changing or feeding or rocking or whatever else is demanded of it, but your brain is still half-asleep and trying to churn out dreams. It’s profoundly strange, and a little scary what the overtired brain will do.
- Sleep Hostage
In this stage, you feel like a hostage in your own home. There’s no escaping, and all you want is sleep. You understand why sleep deprivation is a form of torture. You think about things like the sum of money you would pay for 3 hours of uninterrupted sleep. The number is easily in the thousands, hospital bill and mortgage payment be damned. YES I would pay $10,000 for some real sleep! I will DEFINITELY negotiate with terrorists (otherwise known as motherhood and the baby) for my own release!
- Night Terrors
No, not the kind that your 5 year old has. This is the mom version: you are deliriously tired, but lie awake in fear that something is wrong with your baby, or that the baby is silently suffocating. You can’t sleep because you’re so scared. You get up to check on the baby, again. For the 70th time in 45 minutes. Of course, nothing is wrong, and a logical person who is rested (side-eye to the aforementioned sleeping husband) knows that, but logic is useless on the overtired brain. No amount of “reason” and “logic” will convince you otherwise. So you get out of bed for the 71st time in 52 minutes.
- The Ticking Clock
You know that you have exactly 1 hour and 25 minutes until you have to be up. This is your chance to actually sleep! It’s quiet. No one is crying. But you CAN’T SLEEP. What the heck?? You’re so tired that your bones physically ache. You close your eyes and try to think about nothing. You count backwards from 100. 1 hour and 4 minutes left. CRAP! I really need to sleep NOW. Toss and turn. 48 minutes of nap time left. No other chance to sleep until tonight (ha ha ha….as if it will happen then!). MUST SLEEP. Try to do boring math problems in your head. Can’t solve them, and instead start thinking about what you have to do when you wake up. Wait–to wake up you have to have been sleeping. 32 minutes. 26 minutes. 17 minutes….FINALLY drift off…and then the alarm goes off. THIS IS TORTURE.
- Where Is My Mind?
You call your kids by the wrong names. You call your husband by the dog’s name. You sign your maiden name, even though you’ve been married for 10 years. You say “breakfast” instead of “supper” and your kids erupt into laughter and launch into an unnecessary 5 minute explanation of why it’s suppertime and not breakfast time. You frantically search for your keys for 10 minutes just to find them…in your hand. You don’t know what day it is, or what you came to the grocery store for. You can’t remember when the book fair is at school, you completely forgot about soccer signup, and you have no idea which Sunday Easter falls on. Wait….you never know which Sunday Easter falls on (just pick a week and stick with it!). You can’t remember anything because memories are stored during sleep and you haven’t had any of that since…wait, how old is the baby? You can’t remember that either.
- Time is Fluid
Normal people go to sleep at the end of one day, and when they wake up it’s a new day. But not you, Mombie. You are operating on a continuous 24-hour cycle where day/night, day of the week and numbers on the calendar have no meaning. It could be 2am or 2pm, Tuesday or Saturday and it doesn’t matter, because you’re doing the same thing. You eat meals at all hours whenever you’re hungry. Leftover spaghetti at 6am doesn’t seem odd because you had cereal at 1am. You know weird things like that HGTV switches over to infomercials for Shark vacuums at 3:00am, and that your neighbor walks the dog at 5:40am.
- Super Mom!
One day, you get a solid 5 hour block of sleep. You wake up quite literally feeling like you can conquer the entire world. Convinced that you are wearing an invisible cape, you tackle your 37-item to-do list with gusto. You feel amazing! You are productive, and smart, and say entire sentences that make sense! You smile at the cashier and remember where you are going while driving! You catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror and you even LOOK amazing today! EVERYTHING IS WONDERFUL!!! …..6 hours later, your body reminds you that 5 hours of sleep does not make up for 5 months of no sleep. You hit the wall with as much panache as you had earlier superheroed your day with. It is epic, ending with major waterworks and scared looks from your husband.
Just remember, tired mama, that we’ve ALL been there. Many of us are there right now. Be nice to that Mombie in the mirror, and remember– this is temporary. One day you WILL sleep again. And those dark circles? Don’t worry– you’ll get to keep them as a souvenir of that time that you morphed into a walking Mombie and came out the other side— alive.