Monday, August 11, 2014

10 tips to survive the sleeplessness of parenthood

A few years ago Samuel L. Jackson did a fabulous narration of a very vulgar story book entailed Go The Fok to Sleep.  You can catch the youtube here.   Do not listen to it with your children around.  Or your parents.  Or any CPS workers.  But if you are sleep deprived and have headphones handy, it may make you laugh until you cry.

I clearly remember the time when I first realized that I wouldn't ever sleep like before.  I had a 6 week old baby and I was sitting at the kitchen table talking on the phone. That was before texting, when friends actually talked on the phone.  I asked my friend, who had a 1-year old and a 4-year old, how soon I could expect to get some sleep.  She laughed and told me she had been up the night before too.  What??  Wet beds, sick kids, nightmares, dry throats, shadows on the walls, whatever.  Parents don't sleep.  I was shocked.   Really I was.  She only had two kids!  I was so unprepared for that.  I cried.  I really did. I sat at my kitchen table and sobbed.   I just wanted 8 hours of sleep.  Was that so hard?



It is actually impossible most nights.

Babies get up in the middle of the night, little kids get up, big kids get up.  Then your kids enter the teen years and they sleep and sleep and sleep, but they don't go to sleep until later, robbing you of any 'alone time' to decompress with your spouse.  Or you are up late waiting for them to come home.  I am told that this is precisely the age when we parents are up worrying about them rather than being physically out of bed.  Supposedly that continues through life, until you switch to worrying about your own parents.  There are also all sorts of other things that ail adults and keep us from having a good night sleep.  Some are self induced like too much caffeine, or alcohol rebound; others just part of aging -changing prostates and achy joins.  My newest nemesis's are the barking dog next door and my 8 year-old's night terrors.

So how do parents cope?  

1- Redefine your normal.  A normal night
of sleep for parents is not 8 hours.  That is recommended, but unrealistic.    Don't EVER expect, or even hope, to go to sleep at 10pm, sleep all night, and wakeup at 6am fresh and ready to start your day.  That MAY happen every few months, but that will be a GIFT.  Not normal.  Sleeping through the night is really just 6 hours.   If this is news to you, I am sorry.  Someone should have told you sooner.  If you happen to have a mutant child (like my 3rd) who is a super-sleeper that is a GIFT too.  Relish it.  Recognize that you are LUCKY (rather than me being wrong).  But don't expect your other children, or other people's children to be like that.  

2- Work out a system for weekends.  It doesn't have to be formal.  One couple I knew would trade off weekend mornings -one got to sleep late on Saturdays, the other on Sundays.  In our house, if one of us was up in the night, they get to sleep a little later if possible.   Often you can't sleep-in because your body is programed to get up at a certain time.  But at least you can just lay there for a little while, think, read, and enjoy not having to be somewhere doing something.

3- Develop a plan for the rougher times.  There are going to be nights or weeks when it is harder than average. Teething, illness, nigh-terrors  growing pains.  Strategize how to survive that time.  Do some research.  When we had a problem-sleeper-baby, one of us would take first shift - about 9pm until 1am, and then the other one would take 1 to 6 am.

4- When things get bad, stop and evaluate what you are doing and implement some strategies to make things better.  Do you need to switch things up in your children's room - night lights? warmer PJs? sound machine? For help with nightmares click here.

5- Recognize that your kids need good sleep too.  You aren't being selfish by making them go to bed at a regular time,  expecting  them to stay in bed all night, and encouraging naps.  It is what is best for them TOO.  Click here for recommended sleep times.

6- Acknowledge your failings as a night-time parent if appropriate.  I am not a good night-time mom.  As I have gotten older, I have gotten worse, but luckily my husband has gotten better.    I am working on it.

7- Snatch a nap when you can.  I know it seems impossible at times, but there are three types of naps outlined (click here) by the sleep foundation.  I thrive when I can get a 5-12 minute nap.  I love those.  Research says to shoot for a 10 minute nap.  Any longer than 30 minutes and they can leave you feeling groggy rather than alert.  Make sure your kids are safe or sleeping first, then crash out for just a few minutes.

8- Caffeine.  Disclaimer - I don't drink caffeine because I get migraines, but with or without a 10 minute nap, caffeine may be just what you need after a tough night or an even rougher morning.  I recently heard a doctor refer to it as the 'perfect drug'.  So drink responsibly.

9- Don't be to hard on yourself (or your kids) when you are dramatically sleep deprived.   We have a code phrase set up for dealing with those days.  I tell them Don't poke the bear.  The kids know mamma needs a little more space those days. Be a little more lenient, let them watch a little TV, pick your battles more carefully with them those days.

10- When all else fails and you find yourself up in the middle of the night try to find SOMETHING good about it.  Maybe the quiet, maybe the peace, maybe the extra cuddle time.  Think about all the other parents who are up as well and say a little prayer for those who are really struggling.  If you feel yourself getting desperate then plan out a time during the next day for a little nap.

Thanks for stopping by and good night!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...