Motherhood exhaustion isn’t just sleep deprivation.

I have often talked over the years about how parenting surprises me, how it is never really what you expect or what you thought it would be when you were a sour teen judging your own parents. Now, more than ever, I suppose you judge your own parents but with fresh eyes – more often than not you come up wondering if you’ll manage to do as good a job.

Earlier this week I shared some really personal thoughts on post natal depression and my struggles over the last year and a half. I’ve talked about extended breastfeeding with Edith (another unexpected parenting moment, let me tell you) and her inability to sleep, her separation anxiety… it’s all been rather tough.

This month, I teamed up with Drift who sent me the most wonderful mattress and asked me to talk about my tips for a good night’s sleep, but I’ll be honest I can’t… unless you count “pray you don’t have a non-sleeper or maintain abstinence” – I’m not sure if I can say that as a mother of three, without feeling a communal hoike of the ole’ judgy-pants from around the globe. What I can talk about (and from a vast experience) is the link between sleep deprivation, motherhood exhaustion and post natal depression.

Did you know that sleep deprivation is a well known torture technique? It’s not really much wonder that mothers (and fathers) around the world are brandishing their “but first, coffee” t-shirts and praying for wine o’clock then is it? I mean, we have a monopoly on being the tiredest group of people on the planet (unless you count those crazy guys on SAS: Who dares wins… seriously lads, why?) and with that comes struggles.


A quick google search will tell you that the vast majority of new mums who are struggling with post natal depression are exhausted, both mentally and physically… no wonder really, I mean, duh – new baby… but it’s more than that. Exhaustion transcends just having a bad night or 40, it surpasses just mere sleep deprivation and I think anyone who has ever uttered the words “I’m just so tired” over a coffee to a friend in soft play hell while tears are beckoning, will know that motherhood exhaustion is about more than just sleep. Sometimes it’s so mentally exhausting that, even when baby has only been up once – looking at you Edith – you are just at breaking point. The breastfeeding, the regret for shouting at her and making her cry when she wouldn’t stop pulling my leg and I needed to answer emails, the guilt over telling Toby I couldn’t take him out, the bloody breastfeeding AGAIN, the fact that she wouldn’t eat tea again and I know I will be wrenched out of bed again… the fact that I’m basically typing about tomorrow and the next 3-4 years of my life and that makes me want to fill the sink with coffee and dunk my face in it… and then the fresh wave of guilt.

Further to my little google analysis (I shall expect my doctorate in the post, or perhaps via email as this is google university after all) I read that sleep deprivation may be one of the leading causes of post natal depression but that PND in itself leads to an inability to get a decent sleep. You know, the kind where you wake up feeling like you can take on the world because you’ve had a solid 8 hours, and yeah, you might be getting older and feel somewhat like an iPhone with it’s dwindling battery, but you woke up on 100% and have a fair chance of getting the kids into bed before low power mode sets in.

I think all in all, sleep is a part of the struggles of motherhood but when we tell people we are exhausted, there is more to it than just sleep. How many of us have been so tired and nestled into our comfy bed (which mine is now, for the first time since we broke the springs in the mattress 4 and a half years ago) but we can’t sleep because we’re playing over the mistakes from the day? I am a firm believer in following “tips for sleep” (essential oils, supportive mattress, no screens late, no eating late) but they don’t always help if you have motherhood exhaustion do they?

H x


  1. June 20, 2017 / 10:28 am

    This was like reading my own life at the moment. We’ve been having an eating dinner strike every night for the past week, which means hes not sleeping more than an hour and a half before wanting to breastfeed again! And the leg pulling is constant.
    It’s nice to see I’m not the only one doing this right now!!

  2. Sarah
    March 19, 2017 / 1:22 am

    I have two boys under 3 who sleep really well but I have never known exhaustion like this.

  3. November 23, 2016 / 10:17 pm

    Ah I needed to read this, as I currently sit exhausted in bed after a day of a Non-stop crying 16month old and a demanding 4month old. Even after a reasonable night sleep (only 1-2 wake ups) I feel exhausted.
    I guess you never really know exhaustion until your right there in the thick of it.
    We will get through because thats what parents have to do. Onto the next day. Xxx

  4. November 1, 2016 / 9:05 pm

    As amazing as being a mother sounds one day, it does sound like it incredibly exhausting x

  5. November 1, 2016 / 11:03 am

    I’ve seen what sleep deprivation can do to parents, it’s not nice. Glad you have a nice comfy bed now though!

  6. October 31, 2016 / 5:16 pm

    J can relate to this my son sleeps through most nights but when he doesn’t its a shock to the system and makes u exhausted.

  7. francesca
    October 31, 2016 / 2:32 pm

    Sleep deprivation is the worst!!! My two boys didn’t sleep through for a while and I was constantly up breastfeeding my second! Its tough but its all worth it in the end! Its definitely a form of torture though!

  8. October 31, 2016 / 7:57 am

    You’re doing a great job! We’re doing extended breastfeeding too and sometimes it can get overwhelming at times.

  9. October 31, 2016 / 1:21 am

    While motherhood sounds incredibly rewarding, it sounds incredibly exhausting too. Thanks for an insight for a none mother xxx

  10. October 30, 2016 / 10:39 pm

    I can totally relate to this!
    I miss my full night sleep! But I do think a good mattress helps (kind of)
    Motherhood eh?! haha.

  11. October 30, 2016 / 6:32 pm

    Sounds like a catch 22! My mummy found that she couldn’t function without sleep. And everything seem magnified and worse when she was over tired.

  12. October 30, 2016 / 4:28 pm

    Sleep deprivation is horrible, I’m an insomniac and some days I’m like a zombie but I’ve got to keep going x

  13. Hannah
    October 30, 2016 / 11:44 am

    I can’t imagine how tired you must be! A good mattress is so important x

  14. October 30, 2016 / 10:14 am

    Oh yes I’ve been there. It’s hard to explain to people that haven’t had kids, and the tears make you feel so guilty for not appreciating the gift of the child. But my god the exhaustion is hard. there were many times I wished I could just get into a “minor” accident and be forced to stay in hospital for a few days just to get some uninterrupted rest. And that’s a ridiculous thought!

  15. October 30, 2016 / 9:56 am

    Sleep is sooooo important regardless of children. I think having routine really helps actually… means you can unwind and relax… very much like a child has before bed.

  16. October 29, 2016 / 10:57 pm

    Great to hear you have a new mattress. I agree, if your a mother you will always be exhausted. I am!

  17. nicol
    October 29, 2016 / 6:33 pm

    people always associate exhaustion with the lack of sleep but there is more to it! looking after children does sound exhausting

  18. October 29, 2016 / 4:31 pm

    Parenthood really is exhausting. I suffered PND and I really believe lack of sleep played a vital part in how I felt. Nothing relieved this for me, no oils etc, it was only when Max started sleeping through the night things got a bit easier, but the exhaustion is still there, who knew it would be so tiring looking after a tiny human. Jo x

  19. October 29, 2016 / 1:22 pm

    This is so spot on! I don’t like it when people say ‘oh but is your child sleeping through the night? atleast you’re sleeping properly’.. Cant wait for them to have babies so that they can have a taste of what 24/7 exhaustion feels like! I suffered from post natal depression and no on actually believed me. It was tough over coming it on my own, but I did it!

  20. October 29, 2016 / 9:21 am

    A good mattress makes such a big difference. We recently bought a new one and I’m sleeping so well these days! Wish I could sleep later than 5 am though….

  21. October 29, 2016 / 12:05 am

    I can totally relate I’ve had three I am so tired it’s beyond a joke now. I can’t win at the moment mini man keeps waking up, it’s a nightmare.

  22. October 28, 2016 / 10:31 pm

    There’s definitely a lot more to being exhausted than just hours of sleep. Getting a full night of restful, uninterrupted sleep did always seem to make a difference for me though.

  23. October 28, 2016 / 10:26 pm

    A good mattress is so important for a good nights sleep! Thank you for sharing!

  24. October 28, 2016 / 10:13 pm

    It does not surprise me that sleep deprivation is the main cause of post natal depression as I know how grumpy I get without sleep and that’s without a crying baby to contend with x

  25. October 28, 2016 / 9:11 pm

    I agree whole heartedly. I don’t now how you do it. You are a fabulous Mummy and your children are so lovely- all because no matter how tired you are, you still give them everything you have of yourself. I hope you get a bit more sleep and rest…..until then, coffee for the win

  26. October 28, 2016 / 8:51 pm

    My husband has spent the past 39 years in a job that has an odd shift pattern. He knows all about sleep deprivation and is always looking for tips on how to get a good night’s sleep.

  27. Dannii
    October 28, 2016 / 5:47 pm

    I have all this to look forward to, as my first child is due in 8 days. I am already struggling to sleep.

  28. October 28, 2016 / 4:02 pm

    I can’t imagine how exhausting it is with children, but I agree with your tips on a good nights sleep, no screens and no food late at night work for me too x

  29. October 28, 2016 / 11:50 am

    I definately agree that a good mattress is key to having a good night sleep. I recently bought one and the difference is amazing!

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