“Can You Die of Sleep Deprivation?” and Other Questions I’ve Asked Google

weaning baby off the breast at night

When I posted this on the 25th Sept, my little family was at breaking point. Can you die of sleep deprivation became a permanently lodged dark thought in my mind. Polly (almost five) hadn’t slept through the night in months, and was often up multiple times. She started school at the beginning of Sept, and rather than wearing her out so she slept perfectly (like everyone annoyingly kept telling me would happen) she was suffering immensely. My post was circulated via Twitter and also went on the front page of the Mumsnet Bloggers page. Many well meaning mummies offered their tips and advice, and I am very grateful to each and every one of them.

Can You Die of Sleep Deprivation?

Looking for alternative therapies 

Several people recommended alternative therapies, but as we have been burnt in the past by homoeopaths I’m afraid it’s left us super sceptical. Helen from The Good Life Mum suggested speaking to the GP about accessing a sleep nanny, but our doctor does not have a sympathetic ear on this one. I looked into private options and it would cost us £400, which is a lot of money for no guarantees. Then a friend advised that giving her son a foot massage before bed seems to be the key to him having a good night. As it was free and we had nothing to lose we put it to work right away.

Lo and behold she slept through for three nights in a row (averaging 11½ solid hours)! We couldn’t believe it, and were desperately hoping this would be the turning point. According to countless ‘child experts’ three good nights are all that’s needed to form a sleeping routine. Unfortunately for us it didn’t work out that way, and the fourth night was as bad as they get. This happened a couple of times, we had several decent nights followed by a really bad one. Then we had almost a week of horrendous-ness; the worst night of which she was up seven times between midnight and 4am!

can you die of sleep deprivation

Major improvements

We had an amazing week of her mostly sleeping through; without doubt the best we’ve had all year. And now it’s all gone to pot again, and she hasn’t slept through in almost two weeks. I guess our reluctance when it comes to paying out hundreds of pounds we don’t have, is because we might achieve a weeks worth of sleep but nothing seems to last longer than that. Even when all other factors remain the same, the sleep outcome can be totally different.

It does feel like things have improved overall, and we’ve at least had some nights where she’s slept solidly – which is more than can be said of the three months beforehand. The mornings after she’s slept she is a different child. So much happier and nicer to everyone, she plays well with her sister and is a joy to be around. After a bad night on the other hand, she is a mess. She also refuses point blank to nap, no matter how hard we try and get her to. I’ve even thought of borrowing the double buggy early that my friend is lending us for when the baby is here, so I can take both girls out for a long walk on the really bad days. It’s far from ideal, but rather than go round in circles getting upset I thought I’d list my observations over the past six weeks. Just in case our story resonates with anyone reading.

can you die of sleep deprivation

Some advice for parents who are googling “can you die of sleep deprivation?”

Calm before bed: we have kept the foot massage and it’s become an integral part of our bedtime routine. If nothing else it means that going to bed is always nice and calm regardless of the day we’ve had. Here are my tips to help you through the witching hour.

Consistent bed time: come hell or high water, she is in bed by 6:30pm at the latest.

Drinks: it’s imperative that she’s had enough to drink throughout the day. We were off the ball one day when we went out and it was a disaster. She was really thirsty, drank way too much when we got home and ended up wetting the bed for the first time in ages.

Toilet: ditto ensuring she’s been to the toilet enough before bed. I get her to do a big wee before her bath, then another one just before getting into bed. The latter can be tricky, and even if she needs to go she sometimes refuses. Saying “it’s okay, if you don’t need another wee that’s fine” seems to be the best way of dealing with it, as infuriating as it can be! But keeping bedtime calm is definitely a must, and fights over going for a wee just don’t help anyone. Check out this video for bedwetting advice

Over exertion: it’s really bizarre but she just doesn’t follow the standard formula of going out, expending loads of energy, eating well then sleeping well. It would appear that what works in the main for everyone else’s kids has the opposite effect on our girl. Some of her absolute worst nights are on the back of loads of exercise, fresh air and activity. Don’t get me wrong, we do still get out every single day, but overdoing it is a big no no.

Although it is technically possible, it’s highly unlikely you’ll die from child-induced sleep deprivation. In my experience though, it’s one of the hardest things about being a parent, and should never be dismissed. Sending lots of love and sleep vibes to those in need today.

“Can You Die of Sleep Deprivation?” and Other Questions I’ve Asked Google

25 thoughts on ““Can You Die of Sleep Deprivation?” and Other Questions I’ve Asked Google

  1. So gutted for you that the foot massage didn’t last that long 🙁 Does she have a night light? We swapped the blue light for a red light and got 6 am wake up instead of 4.30 🙂 I’ll tweet you the link to my blog post. Does she show any signs of sleep apnea also? I second pink oddy’s sensory diet – lots of play doh, sand play, construction lego etc help calm our boy x

  2. Thanks so much Debs, we’re definitely finding that things are improving but it’s a long process… just keeping everything crossed for major improvements before baby #3 comes along! You’re right though, there will always be something. Good luck for Miss Belle xx

  3. I can relate to this. Miss Belle isn’t the greatest of sleepers. She’ll go to bed around half seven, and from half twelve to around four thirty would be up every half hour. Either gurning, wriggling, wanting a bottle…there’ll always be something. Its exhausting. But I reckon I’ll try the foot massage thing, can never hurt to try!

    I so hope your LO sleeps through soon! We all need those snoozes to recharge don’t we!! Thanks for linking up with #MMWBH xx

  4. Oh you poor thing… I have a horrible feeling this is going to be something we just have to live with too, but as long as it’s just one out of the three we’ll cope. You’re so right about becoming immune to a full nights sleep. On the rare occasion I get 8 hours sometimes it will make me feel worse than an horrendous night does… Sometimes it’s bliss though 😉

  5. My eldest only really stared sleeping properly when he was about 8 I’m afraid. Even now he seems to come to life at night and doesn’t go to sleep till way after 10. It’s not too bad now he’s older (12) but has always been an issue for us. My younger two have slept better but my little man (5) will still wake in the night often. I think I am so immune to a full nights sleep now, it doesn’t affect me. Hope you get it sorted.

  6. A couple of people have suggested this Emma, but I just can’t bring myself to do it. The thought that we could be sacraficing our good sleeper for our bad one just fills me with dread, especially with another baby on the way. I’m just not confident that my daughter wouldn’t be waking up her little sister the whole time. Perhaps we should try it though, and if we do, I will give you an update…

  7. Thanks so much. SPD is something we are researching at the moment, she could be on the spectrum to be honest. Do you have any particularly useful websites you could direct me to?

  8. Could she have sensory processing disorder at all? I think it was since we started looking at a sensory diet for our youngest it helped with his sleep. Don’t get me wrong he doesn’t sleep through every night, but he’s doing a lot better than he was.

    Best of luck in getting to the bottom of it all.

  9. Oh my goodness, I feel for all of you. And I dearly wish I could offer some help. My only suggestions would have been a massage or foot massage/reflexology (my mum’s a reflexologist and I’ve been amazed that it actually works!). And then, as you’re doing, keeping the bedtime routine calm and consistent. Maybe the key is more about what happens when she gets up? What interactions she gets then? So sorry I can’t help, and really hoping that someone can xx

  10. Gosh that’s a fair journey. I think by the end of it all you might be a sleep expert yourself! I have no answers unfortunately but I’ve heard sleep experts like Wendy Dean and Jo tantum (on twitter) have had a lot of success and they may be worth a try?

  11. I’m of the same opinion Denise, three nights shmee nights! The handful of sleep through nights were amazing… But right now I’m back to not seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. Bumped into a friend of 4yo’s from nursery at the park yesterday, and was chatting to his mum. Apparently her daughter was the same, and at 7 and a half has only been sleeping well for about a year. We also have a neighbour whose 12yo still doesn’t sleep the whole night. My biggest issue is how utterly miserable my little one is when she’s this sleep deprived, and how much happier she is when she’s slept. I know you can empathise 🙁 How is your girl getting on now? You said last time that she had great success with the Sleepio program.

    On the plus side a newborn baby will probably be a doddle in comparison!

  12. Three good nights to form a routine? I dunno, that sounds a bit optimistic… But they must have been a blissful three nights for you.

    Hope someone comes up with a suggestion that works.

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