You’re only twenty minutes into your day after having a horrible night’s sleep where you were woken up every three hours by the baby and your toddler decided that they needed fresh water (not the old gross water that you had put into their glass at bedtime) from the tap at 3 am. The kids are screaming for breakfast, and as you frantically try to whip up some healthy quinoa and banana pancakes (okay..okay, so more like a piece of toast with some peanut butter....or better yet just a plain piece of toast because you've just realized that you're actually out of peanut butter and make a mental note for the seventh time to grab some at the store), your husband calls out from the bathroom asking where the fingernail clippers are.
And you Lose. Your. S@*t.
I mean, how could he not know where the fingernail clippers are when they are literally in the exact same place every single time he asks where the fingernail clippers are? Rather than holding in your frustration and responding in a calm manner like you “always” (50% of the time) do with your children, you scream out in frustration something that you wish you could take back, but at the same time are too tired to really even think or care about it.
What is it about us having a lousy night’s sleep that makes everyone else (sorry husbands) so awful? I mean think about it. You have a night of broken, interrupted, or just plain horrible sleep, and the next day literally every single thing seems to get on your nerves.
Did you know that there’s actual research that shows that people who were deprived of sleep just over a 55 hour period had…
-An increased tendency to blame others for their problems.
-Reduced willingness to alleviate a conflict situation by accepting blame.
-Lower willingness to behave in ways that facilitate effective social interactions (like calmly telling your husband that the finger nail clippers are indeed in the glass bowl above the sink where they ALWAYS are).
Can you imagine what that means for moms who are probably going on hour 18,756 of sleep deprivation?
Okay. So let’s say you’re thinking something like: DUH! That’s so obvious. Everyone knows that a lack of sleep probably causes irritability.
But let’s, for a moment, think about it now under an umbrella of this wonderful thing that we call parenting.
When we start our families and bring babies into this world, we know that our lives are going to change, but we are often hit square in the face with the mountain of responsibility that having a child actually requires. There are a bazillion number of decisions we have to make on a daily basis (that’s an accurate amount of decisions, right?) to ensure that our little ones are healthy, safe, and happy. And for every one of those bazillion decisions, your have to let your partner be a part of at least some of them, right? That's two different personalities and expectations deciding the fate of this tiny little human.
So here you are faced with all of these decisions that have to be made on the daily, as well as the mountain of sleep that you’re lacking, and your bound to feel irritated or maybe even resentful of your partner. On top of that, couples who don’t get enough sleep are less likely to show gratitude towards each other, and are significantly more likely to feel unappreciated, according to Amie Gordon, a doctorate candidate in social-personal psychology at UC Berkeley.
And as though that’s not enough, consider the fact that (which is probably pretty obvious too) lack of sleep decreases libido, which means a despondent farewell to mom and dad’s sex life. Maybe it’ll return in 2-3 years, right?
Don’t let this discourage you. I mean tons of couples get through this period in their lives and continue on with their happy and healthy relationship. I am definitely not suggesting that sleep deprivation means that a couple’s happiness cannot stay intact. I am saying that relationships can be hard, becoming a parent can be hard, and sleep deprivation can make those things even harder.
Babies are amazing. I can’t think of anything that can compare to the feeling of creating a little miniature human with another person. It’s a period in your life that deserves to be cherished. It’s just not so easy to do (cherish those moments) when you and your partner are constantly fighting or irritated because one or both of you isn’t getting the sleep that you need.
There are so many reasons to make your little one’s sleep a priority when it comes to their well-being, health, and happiness, but I’d suggest that you also take a little selfish detour for a moment and think about what better sleep would mean for you, and your partner. What better sleep would mean for your relationship.
So instead of continuing to think that it will get better eventually, or you get into one more heated (maybe one-sided) fight about the nail clippers, try taking a week to commit to getting your little one sleeping through the night, or at least sleeping better, and see how you feel once you’re getting the sleep that you need.
The results, I promise you, will be nothing short of amazing for not only your little ones, but for you and your relationship.