If you’ve ever watched one of these SAS selection programmes there inevitably arrives an interrogation episode where shell-shocked wannabee recruits are subjected to sleep deprivation and the recorded sound of a crying baby – sound familiar?
A CIA report for the US Senate Select Committee recently reported:-
“Sleep deprivation involved keeping detainees awake for up to 180 hours, usually standing or in stress positions, at time with their hands shackled above their heads. At least five detainees experienced disturbing hallucinations during prolonged sleep deprivation and, in at least two of those cases, the CIA nonetheless continued the sleep deprivation.”
For the SAS and CIA to effectively recreate the conditions experienced by new-parents, probably tells you everything you need to know about sleep deprivation in the early stages.
Countless pieces of research emphasise the importance of sleep to your mental and physical health. Prolonged poor sleep puts you at risk of serious medical conditions, including obesity, heart disease and diabetes – and it shortens your life expectancy!
Basically, you need sleep.
Yet those early days, weeks and months are synonymous with sleep deprivation. So, what can you do to get through this stage with your body, mind and soul intact?
Expectant fathers tend to fall into two categories. Those who treat the impending arrival of a baby as an excuse to enjoy their last vestiges of freedom out on the town and those sensibly tucked up in bed, living like a monk ahead of the sleepless nights.
In the 4-6 weeks ahead of the due date, I certainly fell into the latter category: quitting drinking (which is wise anyway, as you’ll never know when you’ll need to drive hurriedly to the hospital), eating healthily and banking as much sleep as I could.
Did it make the post-birth sleepless nights easier? I’ve no idea, but I certainly felt great going into this trying time.
Manage Your Expectations
Anything less than 8hrs solid sleep used to be cause for an existential crisis.
If you view sleep post-birth as a ‘nice to have’ rather than an entitlement your anxiety levels should suffer less.
Also, try and keep your life simple in the weeks following birth. If you can get ahead of yourself at work before birth, great. Keep the evenings free, and don’t overburden yourself at the weekends. In lieu of sleep, quiet weekends at home can be a great way of getting some rest, and perhaps even stealing some sleep as your baby sleeps in the day.
Remember it’s a Moment in Time
Something resembling normal sleep will return.
The sleepless nights and foggy head are temporary and will pass. Keep that in mind during the tough moments in the middle of the night. Try and enjoy them, building the bond between you and your child that will last a lifetime, even at these unsociable times.
Eventually, when this child reaches their teenage years, you’ll be chasing them out of bed!