Sleep deprivation really shows when you are that much quicker to snap at your partner. It shows when a task that should take 10 minutes takes twice as long because your mind is fuzzy. It shows when you “just don’t feel like yourself” day after day. It shows when you can’t seem to shake the symptoms of a cold.
“There is nothing in our daily lives in which sleep deprivation doesn’t have a negative effect,” says Whitney Roban, Ph.D., the sleep specialist behind Solve Our Sleep. “Sleep is considered the third pillar of health, along with diet and exercise.”
So where does that leave parents? Although popular Pinterest posts may have you believe 6-week-olds will sleep through the night with a few simple steps, that isn’t the case for the majority of newborns. In fact, according to a 2018 study published in the journal Pediatrics, 43% of 12-month-old babies wake up throughout the night. Studies that do claim the majority of infants sleep through the night by three months typically come with some major fine print, like this small 2010 one published in Pediatrics that used the criteria of snoozing from 10 p.m. until 6 a.m.
The disruptions only compound for parents of multiple children, which can make “exhaustion” the standard mode of operation for many of us — but not without consequences.
Kelly Burch, a mom of two, says she wasn’t even aware of how much sleep deprivation was affecting her until she accidentally backed into a ditch with her car when her second child was 6 weeks old. The damage cost her $1,000 to meet her car insurance deductible, but the fear that she could have endangered her children or others was even heavier to bear.
“I thought I had it together that day. I had actually gotten dressed, was looking human and remembered diapers,” Burch says. “It honestly made me nervous driving afterward, because I had been doing everything right, but my brain just…