Before becoming a parent, you're warned about the sleep deprivation you will face with a newborn. You may have heard that sleep deprivation can literally be torture, but what you soon realize is that lack of sleep affects many aspects of your life.
When you're stumbling around in a sleep-deprived haze, take comfort in the fact that plenty of other parents have been there.
Here are a few things parents of newborns can relate to:
When I had a newborn, I couldn’t find the toothpaste for a couple of days. I eventually found it – in the laundry hamper. I’m still trying to figure out how it got there.
In the first couple months after having my son, I woke up in the middle of the night and frantically searched the bed for him, which was odd, because we had not been bed-sharing with him.
“Where’s the baby?” I asked my husband.
My husband pointed to the crib near our bed, where the baby had been sleeping the whole time. Science seems to back up what I was experiencing – sleep research has shown that hallucinations can be a side effect of lack of sleep (in one study, a participant kissed a piece of paper that he must have thought was his girlfriend).
When you're exhausted, you may nod off in all sorts of places – the couch, the kitchen table, the bathroom. I heard a story about a sleep-deprived new father who decided to take a short nap at work. He closed his office door and laid his head down on his desk; when he woke up a few hours later, it was dark outside.
You might accidentally call your baby your dog’s name or your cat your husband’s name. It’s hard to keep anything straight when you are surviving on so little sleep. Some researchers theorize that sleep helps you store memories better, so it’s not surprising that new parents find their cognitive abilities impaired.
Maybe you’ll burn something or forget food in the microwave for an hour, or a day. Research has also indicated that sleep deprivation can make you hungry, so you will likely mess up more than one meal. But none of this is a big deal – it’s why take out was invented.
Just after my son was born I accidentally washed my face with conditioner in the shower. It’s hard to keep the basics straight when you have been awake at two hour intervals for weeks on end.
Maybe you’ll forget where you put your keys, a bag of groceries you just bought at the store, or how to turn on the windshield wipers. It’s hard to remember even the simple things when you are sleep deprived. It’s not surprising that too little sleep affects your thinking skills. The good news is, one study found that too much sleep can also be a problem, so parenting is at least saving you from that problem.
Dealing with very little sleep when you have a newborn is tough, but it’s something many parents go through.
At some point, you may even look back at this time in your life and be able to laugh.