How Humour Helped Me Survive Sleep-Deprivation - And Why I Wrote A Book To Help Parents See The Funny Side

09/06/2017 12:05

For many parents, sleep-deprivation is an unavoidable aspect of having babies.

When your bundle of joy is spitting in the eye of sleep - all you can do is stock up on coffee and hope that everyone is right - 'this too shall pass'.

Living on barely any sleep is tough. It can make you forgetful, clumsy, prone to talking rubbish and a lot of the time you will wake up feeling like crap. In many ways, it is very similar to being drunk. Except being drunk is largely more fun.

But aside from all this, can tiredness be fun too? Ok, maybe not... But, that doesn't mean we have to let it take us down. Let's be honest, some of the things that happen while under the influence of extreme exhaustion are pretty funny. For instance, I remember the day I told the postman I loved him.

He had just handed me a parcel containing a multi-pack of muslin cloths and I blurted it out it right there and then. Not because I was actually in love with my postman, but because my sleep-deprived baby-brain somehow got 'thank you' mixed up with 'love you'. To make things worse, I had made exactly the same mistake with the same postman the week before. And even worse still was that this time I accidentally had my lactating left breast on show.

'Great, another stupid mistake,' I thought as I slumped down against the wall in shame. 'The first time he probably wrote off as a mistake - but now he probably thinks I'm a randy desperate housewife..."

This incident happened during a particularly bad bout of exhaustion. I hadn't had a full (or even half full) night's sleep in more than two years. I had two children under two and my house was a mess, I looked a mess and my mind was fast becoming a mess. I was surviving on reheated coffee and half eaten toddler biscuits. I didn't even feel human any more, but like a big blob of human flesh stumbling about in the dark, existing but not living. My new baby woke up every half an hour on a bad night, every hour on a good night and on a really bad night she would not go down at all. My toddler refused to nap or leave me the hell alone for long enough for me to get her sister to sleep! My life was chaos - crazy, relentless, exhausting chaos.

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(Picture: Author's Own)

And to top it all, the bloody postman probably thought I fancied him!
There was only one thing for it. I'd have to move house, or kill the postman, I told myself before realising there was another option available to me.

I could get over myself and find my sense of humour.

Before I had babies, I had always tried to find the funny side of any difficult situation. Like many people, I used humour as a coping mechanism during tough times. Laughter is a powerful force. It is scientifically proven that when we laugh, our bodies release endorphins and dopamine, which are nature's feel-good chemicals. So it makes sense that I would always feel better after a good giggle. It helped me cope better with stress, find hope, and look at my problem from a different angle.

"Quite frankly, when it comes to parenting if we didn't laugh, we would cry. A lot. And possibly never stop."
- Emily-Jane Clark


Since the beginning of time, humans have used comedy as a way of dealing with hard times. Gallows humour can be a way of coping with even the darkest of days. You just have to check out the #ThingsThatLeaveBritainReeling and #BritishThreatLevels hashtags on twitter to see how we can laugh in the face of even truly horrific events.

However, somewhere between the sleepless nights, growth spurts, postnatal depression, teething and toddler tantrums I had lost that part of myself. But now it was time to get it back.

I decided to try to stop focusing on how tough things were and instead look at the comedy in the sheer ridiculousness of being so utterly shattered in charge of two small children. I accepted the fact that I was going to be tired for the foreseeable future, but I didn't have to let it define me. I would laugh in the face of exhaustion by laughing at myself. I wasn't going to die from lack of sleep. My babies were happy and healthy. I would simply have to chill the hell out and see the funny side.

I decided to do this through writing and started by launching a blog Sleep is for the Weak about the trials and tribulations of being a sleep-deprived mother. It was shortly after this that the idea to write a book was born. I penned Sleep Is For The Weak: How To Survive When Your Baby Won't Go The F**K To Sleep as a way of bringing hope, humour and inspiration to exhausted parents struggling to see the light at the end of the tunnel - just like I had. It would be an antidote to all the 'expert' advice, and instead of telling parents how to get their babies to sleep, I would talk about how NOT to sleep through the night and survive.

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(Picture: Author's Own)

So these days when I tell the postman story I focus on the humour not the despair. I talk about my comedy 'Postnatal Attraction' moments rather than about the time I was so tired that I couldn't get anything right.

They say laughter is the best medicine but it was only when I became a mum that I realised just how true that is. Humour not only helped me survive the dark days but it helped me gain confidence as a mother and connect me with so many parents who were experiencing the same things as I was. I even went on to leave the actual house at night time (a major achievement in itself) and make the finals of Funny Women Comedy Writer Awards 2016.

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(Picture: Funny Women)

If you want help finding your funny then Funny Women run workshops to help women find their funny and improve their communication skills and confidence in professional and personal life through comedy. Stand Up To Stand Out is not just for budding comedians but for anyone who needs a good laugh!

Sleep is for the Weak: How to survive when your baby won't go the f**K to sleep is available at all good bookshops and on Amazon.

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