No doubt, moms don’t get enough sleep to support our hectic days and busy minds. Sleep deprivation and “mom fatigue” in motherhood feel brutal and can have real consequences for our health and quality of life.
Sleep deprivation. We’re warned about it when pregnant but never fully understand it until we’re experiencing it. And, especially in the early days, there’s not much we can do about it. Chronic exhaustion can be a very draining, debilitating feeling.
With this in mind, sleep deprivation is not the only reason moms are tired. There are so many other factors involved in the deep-seated exhaustion of motherhood.
Did you know sleep deprivation is a precursor to perinatal mood and anxiety disorders? Learn more in our Postpartum Mental Health Guide.
That’s why it can be confusing for moms who sleep through the night and still feel worn out and run down. And why there can be some guilt and shame for moms who don’t feel better after a one-off much-needed (relatively) long stretch of rest.
A closer look at mom fatigue
You might be someone in the throes of postpartum sleep troubles who feels that your exhaustion is self-explanatory (hello, new baby). Or you might be someone who seems to be getting more rest than others wondering why you still feel so darn tired.
Wherever you land on the spectrum of “rested,” I can assure you that feeling tired, fatigued, drained, or exhausted has an entirely logical explanation that goes far beyond sleep.
Nine reasons why moms are always so tired
Here are some of the most common reasons why moms suffer from exhaustion. The reasons listed below are often challenging to explain to those who haven’t experienced them for themselves.
Not every mom shares all these, but most moms experience a combination of a few.
1. We don’t get enough sleep
Let’s start with the obvious. Are you getting 7-8 hours of uninterrupted deep sleep each night? Ha!
If not, you’re probably not getting the optimal amount to help your body heal from pregnancy and birth or to support you through postpartum recovery.
2. The sleep we do get is surface-level and interrupted
We always have one ear out for the baby and a busy mind full of worries, memories, and lists. It can be challenging to let our bodies and minds shut down into deep, restorative sleep when we get an unexpectedly long stretch of rest.
3. Motherhood is 24/7; it’s a relentless job
Yes, we’re up at all night hours, but we’re also on the go all day.
In the past, if you were exhausted, you could duck out of responsibilities to rest. That is rarely a possibility as a mom. Your babies still need food, fresh air, fun, and attention, no matter how worn out you are.
4. We don’t have control over our schedules
We don’t get to choose when we wake up in the morning, get a break in our day, or get uninterrupted sleep. Not responding to our bodies’ needs in real-time takes a significant toll on our energy levels.
5. Our hormones have been through the wringer.
This is a big one. You might have great sleep habits and a solid self-care routine, but your hormones are still inevitably reacting to pregnancy, birth, and your postpartum experience.
Thyroid imbalances, adrenal fatigue, liver overload, and blood sugar irregularities are all common for new moms and contribute significantly to feelings of both exhaustion and hormonal imbalance. Fun stuff, huh?
Read next: A Closer Look at Your Postpartum Hormone Timeline
6. Our bodies have been primed for depletion
We’ve stepped straight from pregnancy and birth into the most physically and mentally demanding phase.
With no recovery period between carrying a baby and caring for a baby, our bodies are set for depletion. It takes time and works to replenish and nourish ourselves adequately through this phase.
The book The Postnatal Depletion Cure dives deeper into this topic and outlines a plan for your recovery from depletion.
7. We’re likely battling nutrient insufficiencies and imbalances
This is another big one. As a holistic nutritionist, I think about nutrition first, but most of us are not trained in-depth on this topic.
Energy levels are significantly influenced by the nutrients you consume in your daily diet. I encourage you to test your vitamin D levels, iron levels, vitamin B levels, and so on if you’re feeling tapped out; there’s a lot at play in a new mom’s body.
8. We probably have gaps in our diets
In that same vein, our diets significantly impact how tired we feel. 99% of the moms I work with feed their families incredibly well while not prioritizing their nutrition.
Get back on your priority list, and eat the delicious, colorful, nourishing food you’re serving to your family. It will make you feel better.
Read next: The Five Pillars of a Nourishing Postpartum Recovery Diet
9. We’re carrying a heavier mental load than ever before
The anxiety that accompanies parenting is unlike any other type of anxiety. It can be incredibly draining and a significant factor in why you feel as tired as you do.
Read next: Take This Postpartum Anxiety Quiz
More thoughts on motherhood exhaustion
I hope this list around motherhood exhaustion validates how you feel and empowers you to get curious about supporting yourself. If necessary, speak up and have the crucial conversations to bring you the help and support you deserve.
Other resources you might find helpful.
Olivia Kelava is a Mom and a Registered Holistic Nutritionist in Vancouver, BC. She specializes in postpartum wellness, as well as stress and burnout, helping new moms to prioritize themselves and create lasting healthful changes in their diet and lifestyle.