Sleep Deprivation Effects and Post Partum Depression
Author: Heidi Holvoet, PhD
99% of parents experience sleep
first year, and often beyond. Broken
the top cause and leave many moms and dads feeling tired
Unfortunately sleep deprivation also plays a role in post partum depression
What can we do to prevent
and cure the effects of a lack of sleep
Understanding Sleep Deprivation Effects
From chaotic newborn sleeping patterns to teething and tantrum sleep
scenes, our sleep is so easily disturbed.
The link between sleep
deprivation and baby blues
is the first effect of
deprivation on anyone, whether a young mom or an energetic
It is a physical effect, your body craves more sleep and hopes to
achieve that by making you feel less like wanting to do things.
Unfortunately that makes
sleep deprivation an important factor
in post partum depression (also called postnatal
depression or baby
Sleep deprivation can be quite severe for
a mother: still
from being pregnant and giving birth, and then sleeping very little
with baby around. Add to that worries about baby's health, and
possibly a baby crying a lot and you have a natural breeding
ground for a
depression ... that is why the first months with a baby make many moms
prone to baby blues.
Several studies ()
have confirmed this link. Take-home lesson: no mother should ever feel guilty:
it is absolutely normal to feel depressed when sleeping so little.
Plus: when treating mom, health professionals should also help improve baby's sleep.
Even a few broken nights are
enough to set off the
first sleep deprivation effects
: feeling tired all day,
having less energy, you may find it harder to concentrate and you
often feel down.
The good part is that our bodies,
especially women's, are able to
adjust rather well and to keep going in spite of the lack of sleep -
but there are limits of course.
We all plough our way through these sleepless
way or another. Some parents seem hardly affected and find a way to
adapt naturally, others have a harder time.
Much also depends on baby's
health, baby crying a lot or not, baby sleeping reasonably or really
What can help to start with:
that things will get better.
After the chaotic first weeks and months, your baby will start sleeping
more and better, and so will you! It may look like a dream far away,
but better times are ahead! This may not be a big help at the toughest
times but it is a fact to hang on to.
that it is absolutely alright to feel down.
Knowing that it is the lack of sleep doing this, and not you not
to it, gives you the confidence to keep going.
A cure for Sleep Deprivation Effects?
It sounds all too easy, but sleep
is of course the single
best cure for sleep deprivation
Unfortunately, getting more sleep is often easier said than done
when you have a newborn baby, maybe older children, household and work
activities to be dealt with too.
What can you do?
When you feel extremely tired or suspect you are
having a post partum depression: seek help
Seek professional help
to fight the symptoms of your sleep deprivation or depression. Make
sure there is someone who supports you and you can talk to.
You can also contact me through this site here
and I will be happy to offer the support and advice you need.
Do not hesitate to accept help
from your partner, family or friends
. Many moms feel
ashamed or guilty to do this, but there is no need to. Having a young
baby is not easy and it is perfectly alright to get help.
Remember how it is in today's society that we are expected to do
so many things alone. In the old
days, all young
moms had mothers, sisters, aunts, ... who were closeby to help out.
If you do find someone to look after your baby for an hour, an
afternoon or maybe a night: don't hesitate.
And take that time to recharge
It's amazing what a few hours of sleep or just some relaxing can do.
You can feel so much stronger again after that.
Besides accepting help, the following will also help you:
well: just like for your baby, a regular sleep schedule
and a bedtime routine helps adults sleep better too. Within what's
possible with baby's sleep, try to go to sleep and wake up at regular
times when possible.
eating and drinking: drink plenty of water and eat healthy
meals with lots of fruit and vegetables. Avoid alcohol, coffee and tea
in the afternoon and evening as they may make you sleep worse. Herbal
tea, a glass of warm milk, yogurt, a banana, ... are all good.
in a bit of, preferably dark, chocolate. Chocolate is known to improve
your mood. As always, too much is not a good idea.
by regularly doing something you really like (put on your favourite
music, watch a movie, go out for a walk, ...) or try some simple
can be really daunting and can make
you feel really bad, even desperate. Do keep taking good care of yourself
and seek help, start here
if you like. Hang in there, better times are ahead!
deprivation or postnatal
depression in later infancy: Separating the chicken from the egg
Armstrong et al. Journal
of Paediatrics and Child Health, Volume 34, Number 3, June
1998 , pp. 260-262(3)