Dealing With Lack of Sleep

I feel like I'm awakening from a deep sleep. There's still a haze in my mind but my awareness grows by the day. I'm recovering from a debilitating combination of broken sleep and general sleep deprivation. You wouldn't wish this on anyone else.

You see, my youngest is almost two and she's only just now sleeping through most of the night. And she has two slightly older siblings who also kept me up at night when they were younger. I still get a wakeup or two but my youngest resettles quickly now - most of the time.  So, now I'm getting more uninterrupted sleep and I'm feeling much better for it.

I had no idea what life would be like as a parent. Friends and relatives warned me about this and that but I didn't realise the harsh reality of life with babies and toddlers. Everything suffers when your sleep does. Motivation dies, hobbies are neglected, diets get abused and anything outside of core day by day living gets ignored or sacrificed on the altar of early parenthood. I wouldn't have had time to write this this article six months ago let alone had the wherewithal to contemplate it. I'm told sleep deprivation or relentless broken sleep, has the equivalent effect of being drunk and sometimes even depression.  My wife can attest to the latter.  As a result everything suffers.

Below are some ways I coped with going without sleep. Now, while I may be no stranger to the effects of broken sleep, I'm no expert in strategies to cope with it. So keep in mind that these tips are just anecdotal and worked for me. And while most of the suggestions are common sense I feel they bear repeating.

1. Get sleep when you can. 30minutes here, 45 minutes there. When the baby sleeps, you sleep.

2. Prioritise house work and sleep appropriately. Washing up be dammed. Some things can wait until you get some shut eye.

3. Ask for help. Swallow your pride and ask the neighbour/sister/visitors/whomever to watch the kids if you need to sleep. If you are a parent of multiples you'll have no shortage of visitors arriving to see the babies. Give them a job to do first and make them deliver on any promises to help. Finally, if you need professional help from a doctor or support health department services just ask for it.

4. Be flexible with your sleeping arrangements. If you need to sleep on a mattress/couch in the nursery, go for it. I've had to do this for all my children for periods of time.

5. Sick babies mean broken sleep patterns. If bringing the baby in with you when they are sick means you both get more sleep, do it.

6. Take the day off. I'm lucky enough to have some sick leave up my sleeve. When I've been up all night I use it without reservation.

7. Sleep programmes aren't infallible. Remember every child and their personal development is different. You will need to adapt a program to suit you, your child, and your situation. We've had to 'ignore the book' sometimes for our sanity's sake.

8. Follow a bedtime ritual.  This really works! I've often seen how a skipped or broken bedtime ritual has led to a poor night's sleep for our children.

9. Be self-aware. The symptoms of sleep deprivation and broken sleep can often be negated by just realising you are tired or realising why you are reacting in a certain way.

10. Take time to enjoy life. It's cruel that the very years that you have so little sleep are the very years that will be most precious in your memories. Walking the driveway with your baby at 2:30am is both extremely frustrating and a precious experience, rolled all in one. If possible take time to smell the roses.

11. Establish a daily routine.  Planning and working with my wife provided us with pockets of time to sneak away and have a quick snooze when we really needed it.

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