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Sleep Deprivation and Mental Health: Why I Became a Sleep Consultant

This week is Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week.

People often ask how I became a sleep consultant. The easy answer is that my baby did not like to sleep. But the story is so much deeper than that. The real reason I became a sleep consultant is that I was struggling immensely with my mental health post-baby. I honestly don’t even know that I knew the extent of my struggles at the time. What I knew was that I was overwhelmed and exhausted. 

Not the normal “I had a long week” kind of tired, the “I am so tired that I am crying in the bathroom feeling so stuck in this situation that I can’t change and I don’t know what the hell to do” kind of tired.

My delivery and recovery were riddled with complications. I was not physically healthy for weeks after my delivery. Add to that the fact that I had a baby who wanted to eat every 1.5-2 hours and nurse for a good 45 minutes each time, I felt as though I had no control over my body or mind. I needed help. I honestly didn’t have the energy to figure out how to get that help. My doctors did not screen me well (or at all) for maternal mental health issues even given my past history. It was up to me to figure out how to handle it. And to juggle being a new mom. And to worry about my impending return to work. I felt out of control.

For the first four months of my baby’s life, I felt like a shell of my old self. I didn’t even want visitors.

Each day revolved around trying to get my baby to sleep, marathon feeding sessions, and keeping myself sane enough to take care of her properly. Taking care of myself was last on the list. Simply put, I wasn’t enjoying motherhood. That made me feel even worse. I sought the help of my therapist, but it wasn’t enough. I needed sleep.

There are many studies that connect sleep deprivation to maternal mental health issues. I knew that sleep was critical to my mental health.

Reading the sleep books I’d purchased was too exhausting. I needed a plan, clear guidelines for my cloudy mind and a cheerleader to help me through the process of teaching my daughter to sleep. I was at my lowest of lows and while my husband was helpful, he knew nothing of infant sleep.

Hiring a sleep consultant is still, today, the best thing I have ever done for my family. We gained a predictable schedule and rhythm to our day, something we all needed. As my daughter’s sleep improved, mine followed shortly after. The clouds parted and I could think clearly again. Sure, I was still up to feed her once or twice a night, but that paled in comparison to our previous situation. And, perhaps more importantly, I gained a confidence in myself as a mom. With someone cheering me on from the sidelines, I was able to catch my stride.

So yes – I became a sleep consultant because my daughter didn’t sleep well. But really, I became a sleep consultant because I wanted to help the clouds part for moms in my exact position; to be a cheerleader for those struggling to string together a few hours of sleep, and for whom sleep deprivation does not bode well for mental health. 

For more information on maternal mental health, please visit Postpartum Support International. There is help. If you’re struggling with sleep, there is help for that, too.

 

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