Maternal mental health is often overlooked, but so important for many reasons. Charlotte Hillyard is a Sleep Consultant with Sleepy Lambs and is passionate about helping mums to improve their sleep and mental health. We asked her to share her experience with us, and help explain why sleep is so important for mums too.
One of the things I was told when I fell pregnant with my daughter in May 2019 was that I had better get used to very little (or no) sleep when baby arrives. Now I LOVE my sleep, like REALLY love my sleep, so this thought alone filled me dread. I don’t function very well on little sleep. I’m not fun to be around on little sleep. Heck, you may want to avoid me completely. But the one thing I wasn’t prepared for was the impact on my mental health as a direct by product of sleep deprivation.
Sleep is a biological need that shouldn’t be ignored. The body seriously needs to sleep. There are a number of things that happen when we sleep, but to name a few, cells are repaired, our immune system is strengthened, the risk of health problems is lowered, it helps us maintain a healthy weight, our emotional and mental wellbeing improves and much, much more.
For me, lack of sleep presented several physical and mental challenges. My body constantly ached. I felt like I was permanently hungover! I also couldn’t recall things, it felt like life was passing me by and I was existing in a dream like state. My concentration and ability to hold a conversation was tough. I became vulnerable and withdrawn and this was not the mother I so desperately wanted to be. I clung to the idea things would improve, but with no idea how, I reached a breaking point and knew I needed to make a change. This change for me came via seeking help from a Sleep Consultant and I was SO glad I did. It transformed me, but most importantly, it transformed my daughter.
Being a mum is tough, but it’s even harder when you are sleep deprived. As mums it’s so important we prioritise our sleep. It can feel tempting to stay up later once the kids have gone to bed to have that all important ‘me time’, and that’s not a bad thing at all. However, it’s important to moderate this long term so this doesn’t lead to chronic sleep deprivation. When we are tired, our reaction times are slower, which can mean everyday tasks like driving, can pose a risk to ourselves and others. It can also have several knock-on effects, both physically and mentally, making it harder to function both at work and at home.
Sleep really is an integral part of self-care. It’s about consistently prioritising your sleep where you can. There will always be occasions like illnesses, holidays, events etc where this isn’t possible and that’s okay, real life has to and will happen. But on the days you can, do. Insufficient sleep will generally only make it harder to regulate your emotions, cue frustration and irritability, which isn’t a great combo when you have young children around!
Charlotte Hillyard is a Sleep Consultant with Sleepy Lambs and she is passionate about helping mums to improve their sleep and mental health. Based in Essex, Charlotte helps mums via her 1-2-1 support package services, Sleep Clinic sessions and on Havering Mind 'Mums Matter' programme. She also runs a free Facebook support group called 'Sleepy Mummas Support Group', where she posts regular tips and tricks to help mums'.
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