Sleep Deprivation – by Hollie Smith

Today’s blog is written by Hollie Smith, author of ten parenting books and whose latest book  First Time Mum was published last week.  Hollie has ten signed copies of her new book to give away.  If you would like to get your hands on a copy leave a comment below. As Netmums launches National Sleep Week, Hollie writes about how lack of sleep affects new parents.



If you asked me to recall the hardest part of having a young baby, I’d say: ‘the lack of sleep’. I’m sure many parents will feel the same.

My daughters are ten and eight now, but I can still evoke the sense of dread I felt crawling into bed each evening when they were tiny, knowing that a few hours later I’d be trying to keep my eyes open and head upright whilst administering the first of the night’s feeds in the dark.

It was a short-term difficulty; one of the numerous downsides to having babies that temper the joys they bring, and of course, we got through it – twice. Since we were too exhausted to indulge night wakings any longer than we absolutely had to, we used sleep training techniques on both of our babies, at six months. They did what it said on the tin they would, and broken nights – as a general rule – became a thing of the past.

But still, until that point my daughters both discourteously woke me several times a night. So I speak from experience when I say that sleep deprivation is a miserable thing.
I know how it feels to be roused from the depths of slumber by a cry that instinct is telling you not to ignore. Or to be lying awake anyway, tense with anticipation and poised to respond. I know how it feels to force your eyelids apart and your legs out from under warm covers, in order to do your parental duty. I know how it feels when you’ll resort to any means – even things you know you’re advised not to, or that will make your life harder in the long run – that will get your baby back to sleep and you back to bed. And I know how it feels to wake every morning for months on end, hung-over with exhaustion and ill-equipped to make it through the day ahead.

Unfortunately, there’s something that makes dealing with sleep deprivation and all that comes with it even harder: the fact that out there on the new mums’ circuit, there will always be other babies who are sleeping better or sooner than yours. How will you know this? Because you’ll hear about it, oh yes you will. A whole night’s sleep is the new parent’s Holy Grail: those who get there first are so effing chuffed about it they want the world to know.  (And yes, it may have been partly because they resisted those naughty rocking, feeding, bed-sharing habits that you couldn’t – but it wasn’t because they were clever parents. Truth is, they just got lucky.)

Anyway, the reason I’m reminded of all this is that today is  the start of National Sleep Week. And although I may be seven years past offspring-induced sleep deprivation myself, I really feel for the many parents out there who are going through it right now. According to the survey Netmums carried out to tie in with Sleep Week, only a quarter of babies have reached the magical milestone that is ‘sleeping through’ by three months, and just over a third are still waking regularly at one year. Thousands of respondents also provided detailed stories of sleep deprivation and its consequences, highlighting how difficult – and common – this situation is.

I have this advice for sleep-deprived parents. Whether you’re a knackered mum or dad to a newborn, or at the end of your tether with a toddler, there are various steps you can take – if you want to – to either pre-empt problems, or reverse them. There’ll be advice aplenty available in the Netmums sleep clinic this week: please drop in if you’re in need.
Of course, if you prefer to simply wait for your baby to sleep ‘well’ in their own good time, you should tread that path with pride. Either way, I promise, a full night’s stay in the land of Nod awaits all parents. Eventually.



Win signed copies of First Time Mum by Hollie Smith.  Simply leave a comment below and from all comments received by midnight on 31st August we will randomly pick out ten lucky winners.

There is so much going on on Netmums Sleep Week this week. Find out all about it here. Read the results of our major sleep survey, find out what funny things lack of sleep leads new parents to do and read the top tips on sleep that Netmums members would share with other mums. And if you upload a photo of your sleeping baby or child you could win a £3500 bed.

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This entry was posted in Babies, Home, Mums, Netmums, Sleep, Sleep Week and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

33 Responses to Sleep Deprivation – by Hollie Smith

  1. Lauren James (KnackeredHousewife) says:

    Did someone say “knackered”?

  2. Kelly darcy says:

    Help!! I have no idea what I’m letting myself in for and your your book for help and advice x

  3. Emma Grant says:

    My baby girl is 3 weeks old tomorrow and the part in your write up about holding your head up to stay awake and feed made me laugh out loud 😀 I am loving being a first time mum but am really nervous about what to expect with her sleep pattern as she gets bigger, so far she has been lovely, and feeds every 4 hours, like clock work, but some nights I find myself heading for these naughty habits that you talk about! :S Just to get a bit of extra sleep, on the nights that she doesnt sleep well. Basically I would love to win a copy of your book and hope it will give some advice on things for a first time mum 🙂

  4. Kristy Giblin says:

    Oh wow this book looks great! I’m a first time mum to be at Christmas and a little apprehensive! Where on earth do I begin?!

  5. Sam Gabe-Williams says:

    Im so glad that i’m not the only one who is always tired! Both my children have always been terrible sleepers from birth. Olivia is now Nine and is only now settling to sleep by herself and sleeping right through, apart from the odd midnight loo trip! Fred on the other hand is Three and i’m still going in and out of his room all night like a yo-yo!! I work full time and will do anything to get back to sleep fast in order to be fresh for work (I know this is where im going wrong!!). However I always fall into that trap of getting into bed with him. You’ve guessed it… I fall asleep in his room usually hanging off the edge of his bed and wake up in the morning barely able to move due to a bad back!! I’ve woken up with dead arms, legs, hands etc etc the list is endless !! The joys of being a parent.

  6. Melissa says:

    I would love my 4month old to start sleeping the night, really wish he could skip those night time feeds.. HELP!!! 🙂 lol.

  7. Dana Quinney says:

    I would school love to read this book. After having 3 children and another on the way in October I am definitely sleep deprived. Its been years since I had more than 4 solid hours of sleep!

    • lisa vann says:

      Back to work shortly with sleepless and my eight month still doesn’t sleep through so I would love to read this!

  8. Rebecca says:

    Have got a 2 year old who is a great sleeper and a 5 week old who is definitely NOT, I need your book!

  9. Danielle says:

    sleep?! whats sleep?! I have a 3 year old who still has nights where he is up and down like a yoyo. we thought we’d cracked it at 10weeks old as he slept through and then only had bad nights when he was ill which we could cope with. as soon as I went back to work at 9months, he started waking every 2-3 hours! many a night was spent sleeping on his bedroom floor, trying to sneak out the room without stepping on that creaking floor board. some nights I’d have to sleep with a finger barely touching his chest but if I moved it his eyes would ping open and the crying would stop. there was no crying down in our house – that boy could cry and would not get tired. Sleep is still in fits and starts now and so we introduced the sleep fairy at 2yrs 6mths which has worked a treat, she only came for a month and then went on holiday and she is still on holiday a year later lol. At the time it feels like the end of the world but there is light at the end of the tunnel. we are foolishly going through this again as we now have a 5 week old baby, i now have scrambled brain syndrome and have to deal with a baby screaming for food day and night and try and keep a very active little boy entertained during the day. I’d forgotten how foggy life is in those early days…
    Blimey, I cant wait until they leave home 🙂

  10. Gemma says:

    My son didn’t sleep at all for his first year. Let me tell you, I KNOW about sleep deprivation. He woke up screaming every hour for up to an hour throughout the night. It nearly killed me. I saw four doctors who all told me he was fine, not being sick, not losing weight and there was nothing wrong. They made me feel neurotic. But I knew babies didn’t cry like this. I was breastfeeding but he wouldn’t take much milk, he didn’t sleep AT ALL during the day and I was existing on three hours sleep a night. And that’s not three hours in a row.
    I used to dread going to bed, knowing that I would wake up less than an hour later. There seemed barely any point in trying to sleep.
    There were days I couldn’t drive, I felt confused, forgetful, emotional. I looked pretty bad too!
    I felt close to collapse, I forgot important numbers, I felt like I was moving on a conveyor belt and I knew I had lost my sparkle. But I KNEW I was just exhausted and not suffering from depression.
    I saw a fifth doc and was practically on my hands and knees, begging her for help.
    She finally agreed she would send him to see a consultant, I thanked her profusely and she looked at me and said: “This is so that someone above me will tell you there is nothing wrong with your baby.”
    Anyway my darling boy was diagnosed with Silent Reflux (for those unfamiliar with it, it’s like reflux but the baby isn’t sick, they swallow it back down so it double burns). They end up in a lot of pain, many docs fail to recognise it and therefore loads of babies (and mothers) suffer.
    He was given medication which helped, but sleep issues had already set in so it still took a long time to get him to sleep through.
    My son is now three. He is thriving wonderfully. But I look back sadly as realise so many happy times were blighted with my (and his) serious sleep deprivation.
    Even now he will tend to wake crying once through the night, but I am sleeping better. I am feeling so much better.
    If any mothers are desperate, I would always say to follow your instincts. I am not saying every baby has this condition, but I am a firm believer that babies always cry for a reason.
    Gem x

  11. Kate says:

    I have a three year old and a 1 year old and have had very little sleep over the past few years! My three year old wakes once a night at the moment and the little one takes an hour to put to bed with screaming fits… I must be doing something wrong and need help!! I know its not forever and don’t want to wish their babydom away but seriously shattered!!!

  12. Hannah says:

    My daughter is nearly 5 months now and I haven’t had more than 3 hours uninterrupted sleep since she was born 😦


    Does the book come as an audio book> with not a single solid nights sleep in the last 3 years I only ever manage to read a couple of pages of a book before passing out in a drooling mess! Please help me get some sleep! I miss reading, and being able to string a sentence together, and being able to see out of non slitty eyes. x x x

  14. Natalie says:

    I definately need this book, not only am i propping my head up to stay awake in the night feeds i am wedging my feet inbetween the metal poles at the end to stop me falling out of bed! With my partner quite happily able to sleep with a brass band playing in the room i am waking at every murmour and snuffle and I cant take anymore! My LO is only 8 weeks old and I want to beable to enjoy her not wish her babiness away until she is old enough to sleep through.

  15. jessica says:

    most people i speak 2 their baby sleeps all the way thru the night, my lil pickle however likes 2 wake me up every 2 hours at least, hes 8 months old and breastfed, always been the same i had a full 6 hours where he slept one night but i kept waking most of the night checking on him as it was worrying as he never did that! not 2 sure i remember what sleep is lol

  16. t.smith says:

    I definitely would like to have a night of unbroken sleep ,and for my 14 month old to be rested in the morning, as the poor wee thing sometimes looks like he has dark circles under his eyes.

  17. jan says:

    27 YEARS AGO!!! and I still remember the feeling of sleep deprivation if only I took the advice…. sleep when the baby sleeps (not easy when there are other children) and when someone you trust offers to look after the baby…. sleep or at the very least lay down and close yours eyes with ear plugs if necessary and think… you’ll be soon be laid awake waiting for them to come in from a night out!!

  18. colette norris says:

    Hi we have a baby girl 3months old she sleeps about 5 hrs a night. I would really love a copy of your book we had given up on getting a good nights sleep ever again but your book has given me hope that light is at the end of the tunnel.

  19. Oh no don’t remind me of what’s too come! Expecting baby no.2 in December and I am dreading the lack of no sleep, I am such a grouch if my two year old wakes unexpectedly in the night. I am also dreading the fact I won’t be able to just lie in, in the morning after a bad night like I used to with my son, as I am sure he will be bounding in any time from 6.30am demanding some breakfast!

  20. Tellie says:

    My son is just over two and has never slept through. Initially this was due to poor sleep habits interrupted by epilepsy. However, he now seems to wake up really itchy-probably eczema but he may have a rare genetic/metabolic condition (awaiting results). We’ve resorted to dummies as he seems to be in pain / distressed when he wakes. Any advice on itching? We’ve tried olive oil, creams, piriton and other gels. And occasionally we use hydrocortisone on his face …

  21. Lynne S says:

    I think when you are sleep deprived you feel like you are the only one in the world it’s happening to so its nice to read other mum’s comments and know i am not alone. My daughter is 7 months old and not a good sleeper. Some days I cry at the slightest thing as am so tired. I love my daughter so much and don’t want to wish away her babyhood. Would love to read the book for tips.

  22. sam says:

    im a first time mum and my little one is 14 months old and is keeping me up at night due to him teething and gets up as he wants to play i would really like a copy of your book for some tips for me

  23. Suzanne says:

    My 6 year old has always been in the same room as me until last September when we moved to a larger house and now he has his own room but still I cannot get him to sleep on his own, I have to lay down with him when I put him to bed then in the night he still constantly calls me!!!! I fall asleep and am there all night I want to go back to work but I can’t like this i have not had a full nights sleep since he was born. Help!!!!!!!

  24. My two year old still wakes up during the night, sometimes settling self sometimes not. My eye bags are the size of a holdall and still aim achieve that extra 5 minutes each morning beyond 5am. As a first time mum i was surrounded by mums who’s cherubs were sleeping through by 6 months and flat out in 2 seconds for naps. Beating myself up on doing something ‘wrong’ became the norm, and I explored every option, book and technique we decided that parents instinct rules and accepted lack of sleep came with the package! Since then as hard as it can be (and it is!) I am much happier in the fact that I now refuse to succumb to the pressure to have the perfect sleeper, perfect baby etc.. yawn..Zzzzz!!!!

  25. Kathleen says:

    Need some advice! My daughter is 11 years old and for about 1 year, she is battling to stay asleep in her room all night. She has to have a night light on in her room as well as the landing light. I often have to stand in her room for about 1hour until she falls asleep. At about 2am, she wakes up and comes into our room with her duvet and sleeps on our floor. I need this to stop! What can I do?

  26. Kirsty Jenkins says:

    Please enter me, it would be a godsend! x

  27. Donna says:

    It’s so nice to read other mums comments and know that you are not alone. My other half could sleep through a tornado yet my dd moves in her cot and I’m awake. I’m a second time mum with 6 1/2 years in between. With my first dd being quite premature I thought this time round going 2 weeks overdue it would be much easier having a full term baby…. Haha!! I’m sure my dd’s motto is ‘ sleep is for the weak’ ‘. She’s nearly 5 months and wakes in the night for no reason, sometimes it’s after a feed and she just won’t go back to sleep and others it just seems to be waking for the sake of it. Going from living on my own with my eldest dd to moving in with my partner and his 2 boys and then a new baby in less than a year my head is in a bit of a spin and a decent nights sleep would definitely make me feel slightly more sane.

  28. Jennie says:

    Need this book pleeease!! I have a nearly 3 year old and a 5 month old. My 3 year old has neverbeen a good sleeper which I wouldn’t mindit if wasn’t for thetantrums and whingy behaviour the next day, because of tiredness. I have tried everything to get her to go to sleep at bedtime but nothing works, its like she can’t switch offi and is the lightest sleeper ever. Your book would hopefully help me so much :)))

  29. Wow – my 6 month old will just not sleep at night no matter what we try….we are loosing our will to live (in the best possible way of course) I have tried everything to get him to sleep but he just keeps waking up every hour until 7am…..i just dont know what else to try……..aaarrrggghhh

    • Tellie says:

      I’ve just bought a glo plus light for my son’s bedside and it helps him find his dummy by himself?! It gives off a lovely glow and your child can also play with it safely…mind you, you probably don’t want to encourage playing during sleep time?! Yes, unfortunately I think some of us are destined not to have children who sleep well…I suppose by the time they’re teenagers we might struggle to get them out of bed, so maybe we should just look forward to that! On a more serious note, I did speak to a Sleep lady at one point who had some good advice – you can get these folk to come out and spend a night with you. So, if you were wanting to try the crying out method, she would actually talk you through it each step of the way (and you would just need to make sure you were consistent – I think it can take up to 10 nights so you would need to be patient, but it can take as little as 4 nights). I haven’t personally tried this as my son has a range of special needs, but I’ve heard my friends say it works? Worth a try?

  30. Leah says:

    Would love to read any tips that will help me when my baby is born!

  31. Sarah turner-Baogt says:

    I think that i’ve read about this sleep thing but i’m not too sure what it is! 😀

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