It’s a myth that you can “bank” sleep. Mr Cath and I spent the months before Pip was born going to bed at 10pm most nights and waking up at 7am (to be fair, we were pretty boring before I got pregnant too!) Getting at least 8 hours’ sleep a night means that you end up NEEDING 8 hours’ sleep a night. So when that lovely long sleep stops happening, it hurts. As one parent noted in the recent BBC article “30 tips for first time parents” (kindly sent to me and Elly by Hester):
“Never underestimate the power of sleep deprivation. It can turn the most pleasant of persons into a raging psychopath.”
Although I fortunately haven’t reached psychopathic levels (at least, no more than usual), I have been suffering nonetheless and can feel myself being slower and grumpier than normal. Not exactly the ideal state to be in when you’re supposed to be caring for a newborn baby! Things have settled down a lot since the first week though – I spent those days in a, well, daze. Pip seemed to need feeding constantly, especially through the night, and my mind’s refusal to sleep when he slept meant I felt hungover but without the fun part beforehand (unless you view childbirth as fun!)
Thank goodness Pip has magically regulated himself, now sleeping for a couple of 3-5 hour stretches at night. I don’t know how this happened: my only suggestion is that he consistently binges in the evening which perhaps sets him up for a longer break between feeds. I don’t want to question it too much; just enjoy it while it lasts… until his next growth spurt!
I’m glad things are getting under control because sleep deprivation can be a very serious business. After all, it is a well known method of torture! The Justice Campaign describes sleep deprivation as one of the main torture techniques used in Guantanamo:
“…because it makes a person more suggestible, reduces psychological resistance and it reduces the body’s capacity to resist pain. Sleep deprivation is a very effective torture technique …and is primarily used to break down the will of the detainee. Sleep deprivation can cause impaired memory and cognitive functioning, decreased short term memory, speech impairment, hallucinations, psychosis, lowered immunity, headaches, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, stress, anxiety and depression.”
Extreme tiredness has also been linked to postnatal depression – not surprising, considering everything seems a whole lot worse when you’re tired. For me personally the sudden lack of sleep, especially when before there was plenty, has been the number one worst thing about having a baby. At least there is an end in sight: Pip will sleep through the night ONE day!