The six phases of sleep deprivation

(Pic: Stuart Miles/
If there's one lesson we quickly learn on the other side of parenting, it's that we're never going to sleep again. Expecting parents are often warned to anticipate very little sleep in the near future, but if you're like me, you shrug it off by thinking, "That's just going to last a few months, a year at most." Well, then, buddy, you and I are in for a rude awakening!

I used to be one of those people who thrived on eight hours of sleep, and would become physically sick and unable to function when sleep deprived. So, motherhood was like a slap in the face of that! I don't know if I ever slept after it, especially when you define 'sleep' as 'uninterrupted rest'. In fact, as I write this, I have survived a night of awakening for God-knows-what reason. The only reason I'm still sane is because I stay at home and can catch up on my sleep in the morning.

By now, I am wise enough to understand that this isn't a temporary glitch in the scheme of things. I'm going to be sleep deprived until they go to college! Friends and family with older kids are enough evidence. So, I am giving it to you straight. Sleep deprivation among parents isn't just a phase, it has its own phases - six to be precise. (Warning: If you have a newborn, don't read further unless you want to have a nervous breakdown.)

1. Hazy phase - This one hits us the hardest. There's a newborn at home, who can only communicate by crying, and waking up every ten minutes. The first weeks are always hazy in our minds. We know we got through it somehow, but don't ask us how! All I remember is waking up in the dead of the night, hearing a baby crying that was only in my head, and realizing that I had only been asleep for twenty minutes.

2. Developmental phase - This is like the 'hidden sleep deprivation' phase because no book will tell you about it. Babies often go through sleep regression at four months. Then they start teething, which takes forever. Oh, did I forget to mention that any new stage of development such as crawling, walking and talking brings sleep disturbances? Basically, you're sorted for the first two years of your child's life.

3. Tantrum phase - Toddlers, what can I say about them? Strong-willed and smart as they are, they fight sleep as much as they can. Then, they wake up to show off their latest screaming skills. Dealing with a tantrum is hard enough, but when you're half-asleep ( half-dead is what it feels like), it becomes all the more potent.

4. School projects phase - I remember my mother staying up late at night to help my brothers with the school projects they only 'remembered' to do at the last minute. Or homework that was forgotten. Don't even get me started on tests and examinations. It's like a never-ending all-nighter for parents with young kids in school.

5. Enthusiastic phase - Tweens are probably the best age kids. They are independent, fun and live life to the fullest. They're not grumpy teenagers yet. They are so enthusiastic about everything, which is great, except that they want you to be part of it too. So, be prepared for middle of the night wakings for booking a Justin Bieber concert ticket (this inside information was shared by a cousin)!

6. Worry phase - Like it or not, they will turn into teenagers and they will make you a worry wart. You will lose sleep worrying about how they are partying, who they are dating and what they want to do with their lives. This is probably the stage where most parents develop problems like a high blood pressure.

As my analysis above breaks down for you, forget about sleep for what may be the healthiest part of your life. After that, it will be acid reflux and painful joints that keep you up!

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Kim Carberry said...

hahaha! Great post!
With my girls being 5 & 10 I'm somewhere between the School projects phase & Enthusiastic phase....I long for sleep...Maybe in about 15 more

Tarana Khan said...

That's probably a very good guess!

Gina Jacobs Thomas said...

So true! I don't think I'll ever sleep like I did before kids. Even when I'm away from them, I wake up to phantom noises, or to my biological clock waking me up too early because I'm used to being woken up at the crack of dawn by small kids. Well, at least we had a decade of great sleep for a while in our teens and 20's!

Tarana Khan said...

Right! Even if we had uninterrupted time, we wouldn't be able to sleep through it!

Erica Price said...

I can't sleep in any more even when I have the chance. Would love a lie in, but it's not going to happen for a while.

Tarana Khan said...

I think our minds can no longer accept it!

Unknown said...

Great list. They should warn you ahead of time that you will never sleep as soundly as you did before you were a parent. Ever.

Tarana Khan said...

That's a fact, you know!

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