Lost sleep: How much sleep have you sacrificed since becoming a parent?

Lost sleep is characteristic of parenthood.

Parenthood is synonymous with lost sleep. In the baby years, it’s practically de rigeur to bemoan how little sleep you’re getting. “I only slept a total of four hours this week,” another mum I know posted on Facebook recently. As responses from other sympathetic mums mounted up (along the lines of, “I feel your pain! I hardly slept this week too”), all I could think was, “How are you even lucid enough to type a post on social media if you’ve only slept four hours total in a week?” Seriously.

I’m not accusing anyone of exaggerating the amount of sleep they do or do not get, having children, but I do suspect there are some mums out there who wear their kid-induced sleeplessness as a badge of honour. And I am here to tell you that not getting enough sleep sucks, and we shouldn’t be proud of how little we are surviving on.

I recently stumbled across a twisted little online tool called the Lost Sleep Calculator for Parents. You input your children’s ages, press a button, and it tells you how much sleep you’ve lost since kids entered your life. Of course I did it, because I am a glutton for punishment. And learned that I’ve experienced 8,190 hours of lost sleep — 341 days, or 11 months total. And counting.

This little gem of a website doesn’t stop at telling you how much sleep you’ve lost. Oh, no, it rubs salt in the wound by reporting such delightful little accompanying factoids as, “In that time, you’ve changed 14,760 nappies” and “You’ve read 610 bedtime stories.” When I read that last figure, I snorted, because clearly this website does not know my kids. I’ve read at least one bedtime story a night since Miss 11 was a baby. That’s over 4,000 bedtime stories, not a piddly 610.

The website also mentions strange things parents have done while sleep-deprived. Putting their mobile in the fridge and wearing odd shoes were top of the list. Well, I’ve done neither of those, but I have done one of the other things they mentioned: I’ve put my clothes on inside-out. Frankly, my merino jumper is more comfortable that way, so I’m going to just say it was done on purpose. I’ve also put my bra on inside-out, which may seem improbable but it was black and I was getting dressed in a dark room and look, you’re lucky I remembered to put on a bra at all, okay?

Lost sleep is no laughing matter, especially for parents. We know what happens to our kids when they don’t get enough sleep: They become feral, fractious little beasts who cry at the drop of a hat. They can’t function. And although we adults are arguably better at hiding our own grumpy feelings which stem from sleep deprivation, the truth is, when we’re not getting enough sleep, we can’t function, either. At work, at home, in the community. Everyone suffers when a member of their family isn’t sleeping enough.

I think we should declare next month Sleep September. I’m not really sure how to pull this off, because I’m a bit sleepy from being up with Miss 11 Months all night, but I know it’s a good idea. Maybe once I catch up on my sleep, I could think a bit more about how to make it happen.

Katherine Granich

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