The Fifty Stages of Sleep Deprivation

While my pregnant self had entertained the thought that baby number two would be my “easy” baby, my “sleeper” baby, I regret to say, I was wrong. “I know how to swaddle!” I thought. “I know The Happiest Baby techniques!” “I know about white noise and overstimulation. We’ve totally got this!” BAH… HA. The only thing I’ve got is an eight month old kid who never sleeps. Not swaddled or wrapped, not in his “last resort” car seat or even in a stroller. I have the kid who watches absolutely everything and lifts his head up to look around when a floorboard creaks, even if he’s been up for hours on end. I’ve got the kid who can fight sleep like no one I’ve ever met in my entire life, conk out for ten minutes, then party all night. I’ve got the kid who wakes up screaming the second a nip slips out of his mouth or his body touches something that lacks a pulse. Having gone through an intense period of sleep deprivation with this child, I now know how important sleep is. Sleep can seriously make or break you. Not sleeping for months on end can tear your life apart and leave it like that crap in the bottom of a hamster’s cage- shredded.

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Here are the fifty stages of sleep deprivation as I know them:


  1. You start taking your kid to school without your bra on, regardless of the fact that your breasts are literally everywhere.
  2. Showering becomes either obsolete or the only thing you do in your day that brings you back from the brink. Until everyone starts screaming and you realize it was completely not worth it.
  3. Everything your husband does annoys you.
  4. Everything your husband doesn’t do annoys you.
  5. You begin to understand how horses sleep standing up.
  6. Falling asleep on the toilet seems like a very legitimate option. Until, again, everyone starts screaming at you.
  7. You unload half the dishwasher before realizing your cupboards are filled with gross, dirty dishes.
  8. You have a stack of eighteen sleep books next to your bed.
  9. You’re too tired to read any of them.
  10. You tell yourself that all the Angelina Ballerina your daughter has been watching is educational.
  11. You contemplate hiring a “sleep coach” but hang up when you forgot who you dialed.
  12. Out of desperation you let your baby scream approximately one time while you sob and guzzle half a box of wine.
  13. You become so guilt-ridden at letting your baby cry that you stay up all night anyway thinking about his cortisol levels which are no doubt, off the chart.
  14. You begin texting, emailing and Facebook messaging anyone (even total strangers) who had a similar struggle for encouraging words.
  15. You eliminate “getting dressed” from your daily tasks.
  16. Thirty-two people a day tell you they have a “great sleeper.”
  17. Twenty-eight people a day recommend “wearing your baby” and look at you with crazy eyes when you tell them he doesn’t like to sleep that way since he was four months old.
  18. Twelve people a day tell you to let your baby “cry it out.”
  19. Fifty people a day tell you to “enjoy every minute” even when you can’t quite put your finger on what “minutes” are.
  20. You install The Wonder Weeks App on your phone thinking perhaps it’s just a developmental milestone.
  21. You delete The Wonder Weeks App when you realize it’s not a developmental milestone that’s keeping your baby awake. He’s been awake since birth.
  22. After your fifth hysterical phone call, your sister who has gone back and forth in the past finally decides to never have kids because “hell no, I can’t deal with that.”
  23. You email a “gentle sleep coach” just to see what the deal is.
  24. You tell your husband nothing will ever work and this is all your fault because you were too stressed during pregnancy and also sometimes ate brie.
  25. You give up ever putting your boob away or trying to get the baby to sleep anywhere but on you and recommit to cosleeping completely.
  26. People tell you you’ll never get the baby out of your bed, he’ll be nursing till he’s in middle school and that you’ll get divorced.
  27. You tell your daughter to be quiet 18,564 times a day.
  28. She resents this, starts whining all the time and begins her own personal sleep-regression.
  29. Your entire nights are made up of trying to get people back to sleep only to be so wired from the constant waking that you completely give up on sleeping yourself and begin starting your days at 3 am only to feel like it’s midnight by 7:30 am.
  30. You give up co-sleeping AGAIN when the baby sleeps very poorly this way, literally suckles and bites you all night as you lay awake morphing your body into exceedingly more and more uncomfortable positions.
  31. Feel like you’ve been through the washing machine at six am and want to close your eyes so badly just when you’re supposed to be starting your day.
  32. You fantasize about nothing other than sleep.
  33. People tell you co-sleeping is really the best for the baby and it always worked for them.
  34. You start gathering doctor’s phone numbers so your husband can go ahead with his vasectomy.
  35. Drinking coffee makes you feel like puking.
  36. Not drinking coffee makes you feel like puking.
  37. You start praying on the regular.
  38. You overhear your husband praying also.
  39. You tell yourself “this too shall pass” twenty-five times a day.
  40. You make plans to go to yoga even if you’re tired.
  41. You cancel plans to go to yoga when you’re way beyond tired, bordering on incoherent and no amount of downdogging will get you anywhere close to feeling sort of okay.
  42. You stay over at your mother’s house when your husband goes out of town for work AGAIN, so that you can maybe, possibly avoid calling him in the middle of the night and ugly crying into the phone.
  43. You try to distract yourself from the fact the he’s sleeping soundly in a hotel bed with no one pulling at his teet or yelling in his ear.
  44. Consider taking up day drinking but realize you won’t be a fun drunk like you used to be anyway so what’s the point?
  45. You finally check your email and write back to the “gentle sleep coach” and feel a shred of something that resembles hope.
  46. Have a kind of okay night with the baby and consider cancelling the coaching appointment and saving all that money that you really don’t have in the first place.
  47. Have a horrible night with the baby and shell out the dollars.
  48. Get the baby to sleep and stay asleep for the first time ever and think it was the best money you ever spent.
  49. Celebrate by pouring yourself a huge glass of red wine but fall asleep before you can drink it.
  50. Sleep for three uninterrupted hours and feel as if you can take over the world and wonder how it’s even possible that you weren’t a way more productive person when you were sleeping for an astonishing seven or eight hours A NIGHT on the regular.

17 thoughts on “The Fifty Stages of Sleep Deprivation”

  1. My second to a T. He’s 20 months and finally sleeps in his own bed, without clutching my face and screaming because it isn’t my boob, and through the night (if you call 5:00 morning). I’ll take what I can get.


  2. Oh I laughed so hard, this was so me when my younger one was 7 months. He is now 2.5 years, hence I can laugh rather than just sob that someone understands. It is so awful being so tired. I ended up such a mess but I survived! Both my kids were horrible sleepers. When the second arrived I thought all I’d learned with the first would mean I wouldn’t make the same “mistakes” everyone told me were the reason I had such a bad time. I did everything differently and got the exact same result. Number two was a skin-to-skin junkie and there was nothing that would persuade him to relinquish his mama. I felt such a failure. The low point was 7 months and I got a gentle coach and improved things to a tolerable level. Things improved again with the “sleep shuffle” at 14 months (as the older one had) but the magic number is 2.5 years. Now they sleep and it is wonderful (I was only awake for 5 years, and the psychological scars are fading already). It seems like a distant land but it will come. Be gentle with yourself in the meantime. Good luck. PS I have written a note to my future self to never ever tell mothers of babies to “enjoy every minute”


    1. You are awesome! Somehow this gave me a little relief and hope. I have a 7-month old who is waking hourly and am trying to find a coach. A tolerable level would be good enough for me. I swear I’m just hoping for 2-hour stretches at night.


      1. 7 months must be roughest! and i know exactly what you mean bc i scoured the internet for ANYTHING that would make me feel a bit better. i’m glad i could help a tiny bit. please check back soon because i’m going to write ALL about our coaching experience. minor regression the past two days but overall it has been AMAZING. sleeplady.com and find one in your area! 🙂 no crying it out involved and they will cater it to what makes you most comfortable, too!


  3. Have you been hiding in my closet? Also. You cannot write about a successful sleep coach thingy and not tell us who it is. I’m desperate. And tired.


    1. hahaha- i will write more about the sleep coach, i promise!! look into “thesleeplady.com” though because they have them in most areas! hopefully one in yours 🙂


  4. I am going on 4 years of sleep deprivation. I can completely relate. I only have one, no way I could survive if I had two non sleepers. My daughter woke every thirty minutes for the first 16 months. She is currently up to two hours, she is almost four. We did a sleep study, should have results in a few weeks.


  5. Thank you so much for writing this! It’s my life 100% …well without the second child and i haven’t used a sleep coach….yet. although I’m sorry you are also having sleepless nights I’m glad I am not alone. My lo is 7 months old and will NOT sleep anywhere except my bed and insists on having my boob in his mouth at all times.
    I will keep looking for updates and advice. I don’t know how much longer I can do this.

    Tired mama!


    1. kim! hang in there! i’m writing a post soon on my experience ok? check back. also, look into “sleeplady.com” by author kim west. see if there is a gentle coach in your area. i’m not kidding you when i say a week ago i was DESPERATE and my baby slept for six hours last night. no crying it out. no terribleness. just helping him learn to go to sleep and stay asleep. it’s amazing. there IS help i promise!


  6. I have 6 week old twins and feel your pain. Both will only sleep cuddled up to me. Amazing how happy i am if i get a total of 3 hours sleep! Hoping it gets easier…


  7. This was posted on my WTE board and I can completely relate to and appreciate your raw honesty. Thank you for being so real!

    My 8 month old stopped sleeping at 4.5 months old when he stopped nursing because of my low supply. He was supposed to be my sleeper.

    I have a four year old who takes up to an hour to fall asleep each night and I work full time. I m completely overwhelmed.

    I look forward to reading more of your posts.


  8. So funny and so true on so many levels. At points I wanted laugh, cry and sigh of relief all at the same time. This is a rare club that we are apart of; not many mothers can truly understand unless they have gone through it. I applaud your courage for writing this because to others it may seem extreme but to a few of us it is “point on.” The image of a sleeping baby attached to you suckling all night is hilarious when I think about it but I’ve spent many a nights like this. I wasn’t laughing then but it cracked me up just now. Oh, and I finally called the gentle sleep coach yesterday but will hold off….again…


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