Sleep Deprivation Really Is Why You Feel Crazy


Sleep Deprivation Really Is Why You Feel CrazyFirst and foremost, this is not an article on how to get your baby to sleep through the night.

I’m not going to tell you to “sleep when the baby sleeps.” That advice is only applicable for the first three days of your first child’s life. It doesn’t help much when your non-sleeper is three-years-old, and you have other children and a job to manage.

What I do want to tell you is you are not alone. You’re not making it up. You are NOT CRAZY even though you feel like it. Sleep deprivation really is wreaking havoc on your body and mind.

My first child is a naturally good sleeper. She slept through the night at five weeks old and never looked back. I still complained of being tired because it was the most tired I had ever been up to that point. Then my second child was born. He is not a sleeper. At almost three-years-old, he has only slept through the night for brief periods. The chronic sleep deprivation has taken me to a place I didn’t know existed. The brain fog has made me feel like a different person. I joke all the time that if you’ve met me in the last three years, you haven’t met the real me.

When it comes to sleep deprivation, there is some startling research on just how much lack of sleep affects a person. Science of Mom reports that sleep-deprived mothers struggle with lack of emotional regulation, more intensely negative emotions, and reduced ability to communicate effectively. A 2017 study found that chronic sleep deprivation disrupts brain cell communication, which leads to mental lapses.

According to research in the medical journal, Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, other symptoms of sleep deprivation include:

  • changes in mood

  • working memory problems

  • attention problems

  • rise in blood pressure

  • obesity

  • logical reasoning problems

  • lowered immune system

  • increase in cortisol, the stress hormone

So I have to ask: does any of this sound familiar? As moms to new babies or non-sleepers, we probably could have rattled off a list like this off the top of our heads. I’ve walked into rooms and completely forgotten why I was there. I’ve snapped a little too harshly at my kids. I’ve stared blankly at dinners with friends, not able to think of any words to contribute to the conversation. Sleep deprivation has pervaded every aspect of my life.

What can we do about it? The obvious answer is “get more sleep.” Wouldn’t it be nice to just decide to get more sleep? We’ve tried everything to help my son sleep through the night. He’s just not wired that way. Instead, I’d like to share a few ways I’ve learned to survive this sleepy, disoriented phase of life:

  1. Acknowledge it.

    You’re not crazy. It really is the sleep deprivation. Explain to trusted loved ones how you feel. In my experience, “I’m tired,” doesn’t really tell the full story. Understanding sleep deprivation on a medical level empowers us to recognize it in ourselves; not as newly acquired character traits, but temporary symptoms of a situation.

  2. Choose wisely to whom you give your tired time.

    Your energy is not endless. There are obligations that require your energy: work, children, spouse. Everything else is extra. You don’t have to attend every event or play date. Conserve your energy for the things that matter, and when you have a little left over, splurge on those extras! Don’t feel guilty about it. Good friends understand that text conversations are sometimes the best way to maintain friendships during these sleep-deprived years.

  3. Find the version of self-care that helps you the most.

    You may not be able to fix the sleep, but you can take care of your tired self to the best of your ability. What gives you a little oomph to keep going? Naps? Early bedtime? Time with friends? Time alone? A night away? Everyone has an opinion about what you should do to survive, but only you can really decide what gives you the most life.

  4. Evaluate the night accurately.

    This has been more important for me as my child has gotten older. Some nights are worse than others. Take advantage of the nights that weren’t so awful. Do as much as you can when the energy is there. But on truly bad nights, take the day off from all unnecessary activities. Slam that easy button as hard as you can.

Every one has different amounts of sleep needs. It doesn’t really matter how much sleep you got last night. If it wasn’t enough for you, it wasn’t enough. I know it’s awful. I know it feels defeating, especially when you don’t see an end in sight. You are completely validated to feel all the crazy things you feel. You have a pass. This is not who you are; this is just where you are. And these babies are worth it.


  1. Laura,
    Thank you so much for this article! While I hate that anyone else is going through this level of sleep depravation it is nice to know I am not alone and not crazy. The very best I can do is go to sleep as soon as she does because the wakings are inevitable, then, try to not feel guilty about napping as often as possible! The BEST part is to hear “The obvious answer is “get more sleep.” Wouldn’t it be nice to just decide to get more sleep? (I mean, seriously) We’ve tried everything to help my son sleep through the night. He’s just not wired that way.” Our almost 3yr old daughter is the SAME. In solidarity… Ashley

  2. Thank you SO MUCH! My almost theee year old is the same way. We have scheduled a sleep study for April because we are just so over being so tired all of the time!

  3. My 4 year old also NEVER sleeps through the night and usually only last an hour or two in her own bed before she wakes for the first time. Her pediatrician recommended a sleep study to make sure there wasn’t a medical reason…almost $5000 later…there is no medical reasons for her sleeplessness! Doctor at sleep center said she is just one of those ‘bad sleepers’. Funny thing is when I was pregnant she would start turning somersaults around 7 or 8pm every night and wasn’t too active during the day to the point my doctor would keep me in her office strapped to the monitor to make sure my daughter was moving and ok because she was so inactive during the day. Everything I read said that movement in utero was not indicative of how the child would sleep once born…WRONG!! LOL


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here