The idea of torturing new mothers is mind blowing, but it is occurring without notice. Everyone from doctors, nurses, and family members do it. No new mother is safe from this kind of torture, and it is the norm for postpartum mothers. I am talking about sleep deprivation torture.
Sleep deprivation torture has been used for 500 years. It is still a very popular torture method and is used at Guantanamo Bay. The difference between the torture of prisoners and mothers is that mothers are not being abused on purpose.
Anxiety, irritability, disorientation, anger, and psychosis are all side effects of chronic sleep deprivation. Puerperal psychosis among new mothers is not too common, but can be very dangerous. Many attribute to lack of sleep to postnatal depression and posttraumatic stress disorder.
Chronic sleep deprivation occurs when one does not have the opportunity to make up for lost sleep. Acute sleep deprivation is when one loses sleep for one night without catch-up. Severe sleep deprivation can also cause mental health issues.
Sinead Willis, a mother, states, “When I got back to my home the pattern of not sleeping continued. My mood then started slipping very badly. I stopped caring about anything or anyone which is not my normal personality as I care very deeply about people. I lost the drive to function and live life and the only way I could describe it was like someone had taken the batteries out of me, like a child’s toy. I was walking about in a big heavy body that was an effort to move even, and I was expected to take care of a baby who needed me and needed 24-hour care. I think my mind just shut down, and I gave up.”
It was once thought that anxiety and depression caused disturbed sleep, but new research has shown that the lack of sleep is a primary cause of anxiety. New mothers are always full of worries. Is the baby eating enough, am I a good mother, am I hurting my baby? These are very common anxieties on both new and seasoned mothers.
A mother’s sleep in a hospital is constantly interrupted by staff, baby, and noises; however, it is not much better at home. A mother is sent home to a busy home with a baby needing them 24/7. If they are lucky, they have a husband who gets paternity leave. But usually, that is not as helpful as one may think. The father is also tired, and the leave only lasts a short amount of time.
For me, I was so scared when my husband went back to work. My anxiety rose to dangerous levels because I was all alone taking care of this new life. With each given night, my lack of sleep caused my anxiety to rise.
What can we do to help our mothers? In other countries and cultures, mothers are given more time to rest. In Korean culture, “Korean women are advised not to take a shower for a week or more. They are not allowed to put their hands in cold water. For the first three weeks after childbirth, getting out of the house is strictly forbidden”. The new mothers are allowed to relax and heal. They are even fed seaweed soup with cleanses and detoxifies the body. The seaweed also contracts the womb and increases breast milk production.
Allow a new mom to rest, help with the baby and the chores. New moms need to ask for help from family and friends. With me, I have a hard time asking for help. I thought I was superwoman and could do it all. I soon realized that my postpartum OCD and anxiety had gotten so bad, I needed help. Even if they do not ask for it, mothers need assistance to stay healthy themselves.
Sleep is a big issue for everyone. It is time to be real about it!