Sleep: Not Just For The Selfish

No one looks back on their life and remembers the nights they had plenty of sleep. – unknown


If I were on my deathbed tomorrow, I could tell you about the great sleep I got in Nashville at the end of February, when I was sleeping in a hotel WITHOUT CHILDREN.

But, okay, I get that I’m missing the point of this “inspirational” quote, and I doubt it’s in direct reference to parenthood to begin with.  It brought up a good bitching speaking point for me, though, because too often lately I’ve seen or heard comments directed to (but mostly about) sleep deprived parents (like me).

“It’s such a short phase of your life. You have so many more years to get sleep.”

“Motherhood takes SACRIFICE.”

“You think YOU’RE tired? Hah. I get 2 hours of sleep a night, and you don’t see me complaining.”

“This, too, shall pass.”

While some of these comments come from a good place (and others are downright judgey and rude) they all convey one thing:

Sleep is not important. You can get by without it. You just have to deal. That’s part of motherhood. 

Granted, sleep deprivation is very much a part of motherhood that’s incredibly hard to avoid. But that doesn’t mean we have to be okay with it! That doesn’t mean we should just get over it and put on a f-ing happy face about it, cherishing every exhausted moment, knowing one day we’ll look back and long for sleepless nights with babies in our arms because they’re all grown up and away at college playing beer-pong.

Sometimes a momma’s just tired as hell and there’s nothing anyone can do about that. 4 hours of sleep when one once got 8 does NOT a glass-half-full make. So take your optimism and judgement elsewhere, and let empathy or just silence fill it’s place.

Food, water, sleep. We NEED these things to SURVIVE. You’d never tell a new mom to just get used to the hunger and dehydration that can easily set in those first few weeks home with a newborn when she can hardly find time to pee, let alone shove a granola bar in her mouth. No! You’d tell her to take care of herself, get help, make time to eat and keep water with her at all times.

So, please, don’t tell a mother to just “deal” with a lack of sleep. It’s not selfish to need rest. It stems from one’s desire to STAY ALIVE, which happens to be pretty crucial when it comes to keeping small children alive, it turns out.

Beyond just being annoyed by all the judgement that is slung around when it comes to this, I come at this after months of struggling with postpartum anxiety, knowing now how DEEPLY I’m affected by not getting enough sleep. It’s not about just wanting these bags under my eyes to go away, it’s about wanting to function day to day, about wanting to be a good mother while I’m awake.

The next time a mom says to you how tired she is, shove all that anecdotal optimism and judgement deep down into your gut and, instead, maybe offer to watch the kid(s) while she takes a nap. Also, make sure she’s eaten in the last 3 hours and has a jug of water with her at all times.


50 Things to Do Before You Deliver: The First Time Moms Pregnancy Guide
Available now: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

  • 1.4K


  1. It was three days straight of not sleeping that made me finally feel crazy enough to call my doctor about my PPD/PPA. I could literally feel myself going crazy, and the more I wanted to sleep the harder it became. It’s DEFINITELY just as important as you are saying it is.

  2. It is so very important, and you make an excellent point. NO ONE would tell you to deal with hunger or thirst. I do think most mom’s get support in the first month or two with lots of offers to help, but it’s in the subsequent months that you’re truly losing your mind because YOU WERE TOLD IT WOULD PASS. I’m glad those days are behind me at the moment, but I have a baby on the way set to arrive in September and I will be so screwed all over again. This time, I won’t be afraid to ask if I can just go take a nap instead of having a bleary eyed conversation about c sections and engorgement.

    • Yes, I think it gets worse as the baby gets older and people are all, “You’re STILL not getting any sleep?” like it’s a personal problem. Good luck to you!

  3. I think that people telling exhausted moms to shake it off is one of the few remaining ways our species has to cull the herd. We have to make sure that only the fittest survive SOMEHOW, so what better way than letting the dim ones throw themselves in front of the barreling semi of mama-bear anger that results from “Well I used to pull all-nighters in college all the time, and I was fine”?

  4. Thank you. I truly needed to read this. Jamie is four in November and Harper is 16 months and I have not gotten more than probably three nights of truly good sleep since Jamie’s pregnancy in the beginning. That would be almost five years ago. I have been telling myself many of the things you said in your post and am probably guilty of saying them to others as well. In my own defense, I AM perpetually sleep-deprived though. *yawn*

    Some days I feel like I am going to lose my mind. You have prompted me to try to figure out how to get more rest. We all need it.

    Love you!

  5. To all those people who say stupid and/or judgy things…. If you can’t offer to help like Jill suggested, which would make you a huge rock star! Try saying this when we butch about being tired, “you poor thing, I don’t know how you do it, you really are a super mom, your kids and husband are so lucky to have such an awesome mother and wife.” 😉

    And to all you other sleep deprived moms, whatever the reason, you are super moms and you rock! Especially you Jill! You somehow manage to put coherent sentences together that help us laugh and cling to what little bit of sanity we have left!!

  6. I wanna hug you. YES YES YES. This was the root of my PPD/PPA. Luckily I figured it out with the help of my awesome doctor. I didn’t need Zoloft…I needed Ambien and a patient husband and mother in law willing to take time off work to let me sleep. I look back and remember how AWESOME I felt when I DID get enough sleep. How you would get up and think your could tackle the world. I go to bed at 10pm every night. People laugh at me. Yeah I don’t get the best blog posts in or finish my amazon order but ya know what? I am not falling asleep at my desk at 3pm and that means I can spend my evenings PLAYING with my kid and not crashing.

    High fives for this post.

  7. I think the problem is that judgemental individuals equate the desire for sleep with a lack of love for one’s child. Our youngest didn’t sleep for a few months. Ever. I was beyond exhausted, and it was 100% making me an insane crazy person. And I also had a 3-yr-old to care for. My youngest has made my heart swell so big I feel it’s going to come out of my chest some days, quite literally. I love her to the moon and back and back again. But I needed sleep. It had nothing to do with not appreciating her, seeing her as the blessing she is, or being incredibly joyous that she was a part of our family. Love and need for sleep are not mutually exclusive.

  8. Yes!

    And don’t ever, ever, ever let her hear you utter the words “I hope you’re getting some sleep since you actually have to go to work tomorrow” to her partner. I’m lucky I didn’t get charged with assult when a relative told my husband that repeatedly after my son was born. I probably would have, but that would have meant getting out of the recliner and would have just taken too much energy.

    Also, I swear anyone who has told me “sleep now before the baby comes” (I’m 34 weeks pg with my second) has never actually been pregnant. My 3 year old, however, now repeats things he hears me say in regards to such comments which is starting to make them more bearable. He told a lady who offered that advice in the grocery store Sunday “My mommy doesn’t sleep, she just pees all night, but thanks”

  9. When my daughter was maybe 5 months old I went to my doctor and told him I was having a nervous breakdown. He asked a couple questions and said, “”My dear, that’s just sleep deprivation.” And then – miracle of miracles – he reassured me that it’s normal, it sucks and gave me options. I’m still sleep deprived 5 years later, but I have ways to deal with it – even if one of them is bitching about it. 😀 This post is perfect!

  10. It DOES pass. So did WWII and Vietnam. It doesn’t mean that while you are actually GOING THROUGH sleep deprivation, it’s not hell on earth.

  11. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. Lack of sleep is one of my BIGGEST triggers for a depressive episode. It is not just a luxury for me. It is a necessity.

    Thankfully I have a husband who understands I need more sleep than most people.

  12. You hit the nail on the head, Jill. Food, water, and sleep are essential to survival. For all of us. For our kids and also for us. Nobody downplays the importance of being nourished and hydrated, but if a mom complains about being sleepy, it’s just “part of the deal” and its like we “asked for it”. Look at what happened to Michael Jackson and Heath Ledger for cripes sake! They both wanted to sleep so bad it killed them. Sorry to say it, but it’s true. Sleep isn’t selfish, it’s essential to our mental and physical well-being.

  13. Thank you, THANK YOU for writing this post. I am emerging (only JUST) from the worst string of sleepless nights with my 8 months old, after not getting nearly enough for the previous 8 months! I often joke to people that I have not been blessed with children who sleep well. My lack of sleep was making me crazy. It is ALL I want to talk about – different techniques to try to help my darling children sleep better (side note: I’ve never been able to leave them to ‘cry it out’). What could it possibly be tonight? Is he hungry? Teething? Tummy troubles? All of the above? Everyone in my life is sick to death of hearing about it and yet, I couldn’t stop! My father telling me not to let these things run my life. EXCUSE ME?? Pardon me for struggling after only 2 1/2 hours of sleep! It has effected my ability to enjoy my children. I have been the short tempered, yelling, nagging mother I have never wanted to be. And YET after just a couple of days with more sleep (ONLY getting up two/three times a night!) I feel like I am emerging from a fog and am beginning to feel myself again. *deep breath*

  14. Phoenix- 2009. We went to see Conan on his tour. I slept 10 hours, woke up, went to get free breakfast in my PJs, then came back and took a 2 hour nap. That’s a beautiful day I’ll
    Never forget. You’re not alone!! 🙂

  15. I needed this post today even if it did make me cry big ole crocodile tears into my coffee! My little dude was in a rough way last night thanks to a random virus pulling the train on our house. I think I managed 2.5 non consecutive hours of sleep. His big sister just got over it so this is night three of no sleep. I feel slightly deranged and want nothing more than to throw some cereal on the floor in front of some cartoons for the toddler and snuggle the (now sleeping) baby. Unfortunately, the girl child can’t be trusted and she would certainly tear the house apart the second she saw my eyes close! So I will nurse my coffee and try to soldier on until the husband comes home…..but God help him if he even thinks about saying how tired he is!

  16. I wasn’t sleep deprived with my first and now at 2 1/2 I realize just how incredibly lucky I was to have such a great sleeper. My new one isn’t so bad either but they get up so early now! I have been having an incredibly hard time falling asleep at night, despite skipping a desperately needed nap and cutting caffeine off by 3 pm. So I have been getting maybe 3 hours of sleep a night. Yesterday I got incredibly sick–which has happened to me since I was little. My brother and sister get sick too when we are tired. I have decided that if I’m still not going to be able to fall asleep by midnight I might as well take a nap with the kids. It totally takes away my ‘me’ time but I need sleep! My cousin is constantly telling me that ‘sleep is for the dead.’ it pisses me off.

  17. This is exactly why I quit my job. I worked rotating shifts as did my husband. When I asked my boss for a more regular schedule so that I could give my son on a more regular schedule, he suggested that I take a leave of absence or get a nanny. A few weeks later I turned in 2 weeks notice and both my son and I started sleeping much better. He still woke up several times at night, but he went down quicker and we didn’t have to wake up at o’dark 30 to get to work and daycare on time. The elusive sleep will come back, but it will probably require a change on your part.

    • Wow. I wish I could have quit me (2) jobs when my 9 month old baby started NOT sleeping. Unfortunately, I don’t think that is quite the resolution most moms can rely on, definitely not myself.

    • Yeahhhhh… I don’t really know how much more we can “change” and adapt around here, short of having my husband quit his job, which is totally not an option. Glad you were able to figure something out, though.

  18. AMEN! I need sleep. If I don’t get it I am cranky and operate in a fog. Last night my alarm went off before either of my children woke up, and I feel like a new person. I only got about 6 hours of sleep, but it was uninterrupted and deep. Some nights I have to just hand the baby off to my husband and say “your turn” and roll over and go to sleep. It’s no coincidence that sleep deprivation is used as a torture technique. It really has a detrimental effect on us.

    • Lisa, to my face, a lot of it comes from a good place, I think. But, online, there is so much smack talked about moms who are “selfish” for needing sleep. Maybe it’s just the Facebook pages I like, but I see something posted nearly every day along those lines.

      • OMG I’d start unblinking those pages.

        I immediately unfollow any Pinterst boards with stuff that makes me cranky, too.

        I do get the well-meaning dotttering old bitties, at least. Senility seems to have robbed them of the memory of what it’s really like.

  19. I too hate the “sleep while you can” comments during pregnancy. I always wanted to say “oh, right, like I’m a bear hibernating through winter?” sleep is necessary but you can’t store it up to access later. I also think it sets the mom up to be worried / anxious about this lack of sleep which is just soooooo helpful.

  20. Omg I could talk about this for hours. My daughter has never been much of a sleeper. And I’ll be damned if people don’t quiz me on what I’ve tried to get her to sleep better. It takes all of my energy not to tell them how much I LOVE not being able to concentrate, or how it just rocks my world to be so tired some days that I won’t drive anywhere. Yes! It is truly a dream come true and therefor I have tried nothing at all to try and improve the sleep situation.

    I will admit that I get a little stabby when people tell me how exhausted they are because their kid woke up sooo early – at 8am. By 8am I’m already dressed and fed and an hour deep into playtime.

    The worst part for me though is that if I get more than six hours of sleep a night I toss and turn the next night. Cruell cruell cruell!!

    • I will say that sometimes 8 am is tough for us, but that’s because a lot of times the only way I can fit in any work is by staying up until midnight or one (which is when Leyna’s one night feeding is, so I just stay up until she wakes most nights), and then between the dogs and the kids, sometimes we’re woken 3-4 times before 8. That makes any time of the day feel like a rough time to wake up, you know? But yeah, I’m super grateful my kids aren’t rolling out of bed at 5 am.

  21. Amen, sista friend! If I don’t get enough sleep, I get all sorts of weepy/moody/depressed. It’s pretty damn ugly and I get pretty damn mean. Needless to say, the first 5 months of my son’s life was not all cuddles and rainbows and butterflies. I now refer to my small closet as “the cry room” because I spent so many “breaks” sobbing tears of exhaustion. Trust me, I do (and most likely will not ever!) miss those moments.

  22. I’m not even a mom yet and I f’ing love sleep. I can definitely spout off some of the most glorious sleep moments I’ve ever had.

  23. If they can use it as a torture method, then I think it’s pretty safe to say we should try to avoid it 😉 Sleeplessness does tend to be a part of early motherhood, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t FIGHT it! I think moms tend to sacrifice sleep to get other tasks done (and we do it in the name of being a good mother, which almost makes it worse! We’re CONDONING it by doing it to ourselves!) Sometimes you need to say, “Screw it. The dishes will get done some other time. I’m buying some paper plates for now!” and just get theyself to bed!

  24. Lack of sleep and being overwhelmed pushed me over the edge into ppd/ppa when my son was about 6 mos old and dad was away most of the summer for work. Baby was taking 45 minute naps during the day. I was losing my mind, quite literally. I’m still struggling with resentment about it because I thought I’d skated by the ppd/ppa this time and it caught me off guard. And I’m still struggling to heal. Sleep deprivation is really dangerous for me and many many other women.

    “It’s no coincidence that sleep deprivation is used as a torture technique.” OMG, I say that to my partner ALL THE TIME.

  25. Why is not sleeping considered glamorous? The human body can go almost 30 days without food before dying. The human body can go 8 days without sleep before meeting the same fate. Hmmm.

    • This is so true. My husband is a neuro-scientist and he’s always talking about the importance of sleep. After three days of literally no sleep someone is considered clinically insane. Human beings can not function without sleep. You can not properly care for your children if you are too deranged from a serious lack of sleep. I have a 2.5 year old who has been waking up at 5:00 am and a 6-month-old that I still nurse twice a night. I definitely notice a difference in my mood when I don’t get enough sleep. Which is why I often go to bed by 8pm, just so that I can get the most consolidated sleep possible.

  26. Thank you! I hate to bust some peoples bubbles but sometimes it doesnt get better! My second daughter is 4 and she has NEVER slept thru the night! And all her doctor says is “It’s normal. Maybe she is just one of those kids who don’t sleep thru the night til there 8.” 8!?!

  27. Yes! And you know what the sad part is, it’s that moms say theses things to other moms – you’d think we’d all know better. But I digress, you’re the one who always writes what most moms think but never have the guts to say. Thank you Jill, this is spot on!

  28. “The Nazis used sleep deprivation,” is what I’ve told my husband on more than one sleepless night. No one gets used to torture and they shouldn’t be told to.

  29. Amen sister friend! I think you need to book yourself a night in a posh hotel and snooze 12 hours straight in a king size bed! You deserve it.

  30. Pingback: Happiness is: Girlfriends

  31. Pingback: Pregnancy Brain…..What Happens to People When They Are AROUND Pregnant Women | The Un-Coordinated Mommy

  32. PREACH. Mine had her night-day mixed up like most newborns do but it took her FOREVER to get it straightened out. She didn’t start sleeping through the night until she was about 18 months old and putting her to sleep required an act of Congress. Thankfully, she is finally gifting us easier bedtimes but just like everything else, this too is a phase and it will no doubt pass. Sleep is important to your health and anyone who says ‘get over it’ needs to be smacked in the face.

  33. I think I love you!

    I wish people would stop telling me I should be used to being tired by now and that my kid should be sleeping through the night. Makes me want to stab someone. Yeah, she’s 19 months old but I can’t make her sleep for more than 2 hours at a time, it just doesn’t happen.

    You don’t get used to being tired, you just get more worn down until one day you just can’t function and manage to get your husband to wrangle your kid for maybe an hour or 2 while you collapse into a death-like slumber in the middle of the day that will let you just manage to get by until your next crash and burn episode.

  34. Thank you…. Its been 9 months with no sleep for me. My husband tries to help but he works a lot! If one more non helping family member or so called never around friend tells me I wilk miss him being a baby… I may just strangle them! Im so tired it hurts. My body aches for rest. I dont care if his infancy passes by quickly because im so miserable from sleep deprivation!!!! I will welcome being rested and enjoy my precious little baby when Im not so exhausted! Some days I feel like I’m being slowly tortured!!! HOW WOULD ANYONE MISS THIS????? Thank you for making me and all of the sleep deprived mommies out there feel validated!!! Muah!

    • One more thought…….. dont “ask for help” like these baby magazines suggest! It would be a cold day in hell if a friend or family member ever offered me any help. Karma is a real bitch thats all I can say!!!!

  35. Sherrie Goddard-Hammond on

    two dirty little words nobody talks about……SLEEP NANNY!! Its a nanny that comes at night and takes over all the nighttime duties so mommies can sleep. Usually available through most agencies or try for a less expensive background checked version.

  36. Pingback: - 6 Tricks to Make You Look More Awake

  37. Karen Wruble on

    LOVE THIS! After I had my first kid, I struggled with postpartum depression as well as started experiencing panic attacks that felt like heart attacks. I’m also bipolar so that didn’t help. My Dr put me on anxiety meds and the side effects were horrible… 30 minutes after taking, it would knock me out, and then the whole day I would be exhausted as well as other side effects. I could not physically or mentally function. I needed a lot of help from my bf with our son who was just 3 months old at the time. It was super hard, especially dealing with judgement from my mother in law and the guilt of not feeling like I was able to be my best. Dr never could get my meds right so I got sick of it and I’ve been off all meds since the past few years. One of the things that helps me manage my conditions without meds is meditation and SLEEP! My mother in law judges me for napping while my kids nap. I am also in nursing school so have a very heavy difficult workload. I find the days I nap I’m much more productive and am more patient and energetic with my kids. A really good fellow mom in nursing school really helped put it in perspective for me.. She asked me, “Are your kids going to DIE from watching too much TV or eating mac n cheese and hot dogs? No. But your patients WILL die if you don’t learn what you need to in nursing school.” This perspective can be applied to any mom’s situation.. We NEED to take care of ourselves to be the best moms we can be. Some days we are “better” than others, but just know that if it is your best for that day, it is enough for your kids.

  38. Pingback: Baby Rabies | Can This Baby Monitor Change The Game With Our 4th Baby?

Leave A Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.