Mommy Brain explained – why you need deep sleep

Why, hello there, tired momma. Feeling a little foggy? Just realized you brushed your hair with your toothbrush, instead of your comb?

I once boiled a whole pile of dirty cloth diapers in a pot on the stove. Shhh, don’t tell my husband. He likes to use that pot to cook spaghetti in. I figure it’s fine – I sanitized it a couple days later.

Ah, welcome to life with Mommy Brain.

Want to know what’s happening in that cute little, tired head of yours?

Here goes. And bear with me. I’m about to get all science-y on you, but I promise this won’t be painful.

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Hey new mom, here's why you're walking around in a fog all the time. And can't remember what you did 10 minutes ago. Mommy Brain is real - here's the science behind it.

This is what good sleep looks like:

Let’s focus on Slow Wave Sleep (SWS) for now…Because it’s all about what you’re missing when you’re in the Mommy Brain zone. (If you’re feeling grouchy and ragey, too, check out this other post on why you need REM sleep.)

Here’s the deal with SWS. When you first go to sleep, you go into a deep sleep that should last several hours – researchers call this Slow Wave Sleep. It’s really hard to wake up during this stage. With my boys, I can clean their entire rooms or the #RockStarDad can crank up the guitar while they snooze away in oblivion.

During deep sleep, you consolidate all your memories from the day and LEARN stuff.

So that movie, Inside Out, where the marbles are memories and the little head people roll each one into storage to replay later? Yeah, it’s pretty spot-on. (This movie is fabulous, go buy it!! The kiddos might not really get it til around age 7, but I joyously cried through the whole thing.)

If something wakes you up during deep sleep (dog vomits on the rug, hungry baby, toddler with a nightmare, amorous spouse), then you’re s-c-r-e-w-e-d. Say hello to MOMMY BRAIN.

As a friend described it, the next day you pretty much feel like you had a bad night of drinking, with all the cry-ee parts and none of the fun “Woohoo!” sorority girl parts. And then you must’ve blacked out, right? Because, damn, you sure can’t remember what you did all day long.

Yep, you can kiss your memories “buh-bye.” As in marbles got flushed down the toilet. Better luck next time. Thanks, stupid vomit dog.

To be done with Mommy Brain, the secret is MORE, UNINTERRUPTED SLEEP.

Sweet, dear new mom, I hear you screaming at me through the halls of the Inter Webs: “MORE, UNINTERRUPTED SLEEP?!!!!! HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE?!!!!!!”

I have been in your shoes. I have experienced the hangover fog. And, sadly, I can tell you that getting the amount of deep sleep you need to cure Mommy Brain is pretty near impossible until your wee one agrees to sleep 4-hour stretches.

Doesn’t sound like much, right? But deep sleep is about 3-4 hours in length. So, what I’m telling you is to SLEEP WHEN THE BABY SLEEPS – and pray he sleeps for at least 4 hours.

And just think how magical it’ll be when little bit decides to sleep through the entire night. This didn’t happen in my world until I weaned each of my boys around 13 months.

Now some ladies claim their kids started sleeping through the night at 3 months. Lies, I tell you! Really, this is just another symptom of Mommy Brain: they think the kid slept all night long. They can’t remember the part where they got up all zombie-like and dream-fed the small hunger-tyrant.

When I was on maternity leave, my husband used to ask what I did all day. I would say:

Well, I took a shower, because I take a shower every day (seriously, ladies, I did. I demanded this so I could feel like a normal person.) Then the baby took a morning nap and I tried to sneak food before he woke up, like, 10 minutes later, because this is how he rolls every morning. Then we did stuff. And he took a noon-ish nap, during which I tried to sneak more food or do laundry or take my own nap, because that’s how it goes every day. Then we did stuff. And he took an afternoon nap and I tried to sneak more food. (Anyone else notice the “food sneaking” theme in your life?) Then we did stuff.

I never could remember the holes in my day, which I had simply entitled, “Then we did stuff.”

It did help that I’m a data nerd. When my boys were born, I got myself a little notebook and jotted things down all day long to figure out nursing/pooping/peeing/playing/napping schedules. So I was really cheating when I reported to hubby that I knew the little guy had napped 3x – it’s because I wrote stuff down.

Give it a try: start tracking your life. And reread those notes every day to keep a grip on reality.

For more tips on how to cope with the foggy nothingness of Mommy Brain and (maybe) get your life back, check out this post.

Good luck to ya, momma. I promise the fog will lift. One of these days. Probably when your kid goes off to college.

Leave a comment here or share your tips on dealing with mommy brain on Facebook at MothersRest.

Photo credit: Callie Morgan from Unsplash.com 

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