A new mom’s account of being repeatedly woken up by her husband has incensed the internet, sparking a discussion about deliberate sleep deprivation as a form of abuse.
In a viral post on Reddit’s “Am I The A ** hole” forum, user u / assholeamithistime asked whether she was wrong for reacting against her husband’s behavior. Her story racked up over 13,500 votes as of Monday morning.
The 29-year-old woman claimed that several times a week, her 37-year-old husband fully woke her up in the middle of the night to ask her the time.
“Both of us sleep with our cell phones charging next to our beds,” she explained. “So, it’s just as easy for him to reach out and check the time on his own phone as it is for him to wake me up and ask me.”
While her husband said she was “making a big deal out of nothing,” the woman felt it was “selfish” and “needlessly insensitive” of him to keep waking her up for such a trivial reason, when it would take less effort for him to check the time himself.
“We both work full time jobs and have an infant,” she added. “I do 100% of the nighttime baby duties because my husband commutes farther than I do. So, he says it just makes sense for me to let him sleep since he has to be out the door before I do in the mornings.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has described sleep deprivation as a public health epidemic, with more than a third of US adults getting less than the recommended seven hours of sleep per night in 2016. The COVID-19 pandemic only worsened the problem, with stress, anxiety and fears over the financial and health effects of the virus driving up rates of clinical insomnia.
Long-term sleep deprivation can lead to numerous health issues, including inflammation, obesity, Alzheimer’s and an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. A lack of healthy sleep also undermines the brain’s ability to rejuvenate, effectively accelerating the aging process.
Reddit users were furious about the woman’s account of her husband’s actions. Several even questioned whether his deliberate, continuous interruption of her sleep constituted a form of abuse.
“She’s already getting so little sleep because she’s doing ALL the baby duties and he’s taking even more sleep from her. Sleep deprivation is literally a form of torture when it’s extreme enough,” one comment noted.
“My ex used sleep deprivation on me as one of his abuse tactics,” another reader said. “This post has me screaming inside.”
A third user agreed, “It’s a form of psychological abuse if you’ve asked him to stop, he continues, AND you are the caregiver to an infant. Him having early meetings [has] zero bearing on kid rearing. He needs a massive wake up call. “
Inflicting sleep deprivation is an under-recognized form of abuse, according to DomesticShelters.org. In addition to the physical health effects, denying a person sleep can make it more difficult for them to leave an abusive relationship. The longer they lose sleep, the greater their risk of depression, hopelessness and even a sense that they are losing their mind.
Newsweek reached out to u / assholeamithistime for comment.