The brutal reality of a life without sleep

At 3am, nobody can hear you scream


It was my fault. I had a baby. And obviously you know that by doing that you’re going to sacrifice some sleep. But knowing doesn’t mean KNOWING. And now I KNOW what it means to live a life where sleep is something that happens to other people.


I’m not, sadly, one of those people who can get by happily on five and half hours a night. Even if I had been it wouldn’t have helped, as I stared down the barrel of days that started, courtesy of an extremely confused small child, at 2.30am.

I wasn’t remotely surprised to read that lack of sleep can cause the same kind of ‘munchies’ you get when you’re stoned – a distinct preference for crisps, sweets and biscuits over healthier options.


At times I’d be tempted to pour sugar directly into my mouth, just to save the time. Doing the online shopping on anything less than five hours sleep was a sure-fire recipe for taking delivery of 47 bags of Licorice Allsorts and so many litres of Coke it had to be sent in a tanker.

I found that everything is worse on no sleep. I cried more, moaned more, whined more. Those ‘Don’t worry, things could be worse’ friends are bad enough at the best of times; to a brain deranged by lack of rest they’re the apocalypse.

I was so relentlessly committed to boring on about how little sleep I was getting and how awful it was and how it would never get better that it’s actually amazing I didn’t send myself (and everyone in a 50 metre radius) to, well, sleep.

At one point my dad gently suggested I go to the doctor if things were that bad. ‘I DON’T NEED ANTIDEPRESSANTS,’ I roared. ‘I JUST NEED TO FUCKING SLEEP!’

Nothing is more important than sleep. I only survived the famine by cutting out unnecessary chaff out of my life and getting the hell to bed as soon as humanly possible.

And it turns out almost everything is unnecessary chaff when you get right down to it. Half a year’s worth of ‘can’t miss’ TV is still stored on the Sky box because guess what? It turns out you totally can miss it if it’s going to earn you an extra hour of unconsciousness. Books – why? Eating – what for? Friends – I literally don’t care. Unless you’re a bed and I’m lying on you, you serve no purpose in my life.

It’s not just about feeling tired. You actually kind of get used to that eye-burning, dizzy, foggy sensation. It’s about the fact that it takes you 30 seconds to remember any word more complicated than… er… what is it, you know, that thing… oh god, whatever. The daily battle of hope (‘Perhaps tonight I’ll get some more!’) versus reality (‘4am FML’) and the fact that nothing really works unless you’ve had enough sleep. Not your brain, not your body, not your sense of humour. Especially not your sense of humour. And anyone who stands in the way of you and sleep – up to and including the people you’re supposed to love the most in the world, aka your husband and child – are immediately transformed to the status of mortal enemy.

Then, one day, the baby slept. Great. Except that I’m now so used to not sleeping that I don’t. It’s a real pain in the… you know, that thing… you know the word… oh, what am I trying to say? Whatever. I give up.

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