When I posted this on the 25th Sept, my little family was at breaking point. Can you die of sleep deprivation became a permanently lodged dark thought in my mind. Polly (almost five) hadn’t slept through the night in months, and was often up multiple times. She started school at the beginning of Sept, and rather than wearing her out so she slept perfectly (like everyone annoyingly kept telling me would happen) she was suffering immensely. My post was circulated via Twitter and also went on the front page of the Mumsnet Bloggers page. Many well meaning mummies offered their tips and advice, and I am very grateful to each and every one of them.
Looking for alternative therapies
Several people recommended alternative therapies, but as we have been burnt in the past by homoeopaths I’m afraid it’s left us super sceptical. Helen from The Good Life Mum suggested speaking to the GP about accessing a sleep nanny, but our doctor does not have a sympathetic ear on this one. I looked into private options and it would cost us £400, which is a lot of money for no guarantees. Then a friend advised that giving her son a foot massage before bed seems to be the key to him having a good night. As it was free and we had nothing to lose we put it to work right away.
Lo and behold she slept through for three nights in a row (averaging 11½ solid hours)! We couldn’t believe it, and were desperately hoping this would be the turning point. According to countless ‘child experts’ three good nights are all that’s needed to form a sleeping routine. Unfortunately for us it didn’t work out that way, and the fourth night was as bad as they get. This happened a couple of times, we had several decent nights followed by a really bad one. Then we had almost a week of horrendous-ness; the worst night of which she was up seven times between midnight and 4am!
We had an amazing week of her mostly sleeping through; without doubt the best we’ve had all year. And now it’s all gone to pot again, and she hasn’t slept through in almost two weeks. I guess our reluctance when it comes to paying out hundreds of pounds we don’t have, is because we might achieve a weeks worth of sleep but nothing seems to last longer than that. Even when all other factors remain the same, the sleep outcome can be totally different.
It does feel like things have improved overall, and we’ve at least had some nights where she’s slept solidly – which is more than can be said of the three months beforehand. The mornings after she’s slept she is a different child. So much happier and nicer to everyone, she plays well with her sister and is a joy to be around. After a bad night on the other hand, she is a mess. She also refuses point blank to nap, no matter how hard we try and get her to. I’ve even thought of borrowing the double buggy early that my friend is lending us for when the baby is here, so I can take both girls out for a long walk on the really bad days. It’s far from ideal, but rather than go round in circles getting upset I thought I’d list my observations over the past six weeks. Just in case our story resonates with anyone reading.
Some advice for parents who are googling “can you die of sleep deprivation?”
Calm before bed: we have kept the foot massage and it’s become an integral part of our bedtime routine. If nothing else it means that going to bed is always nice and calm regardless of the day we’ve had. Here are my tips to help you through the witching hour.
Consistent bed time: come hell or high water, she is in bed by 6:30pm at the latest.
Drinks: it’s imperative that she’s had enough to drink throughout the day. We were off the ball one day when we went out and it was a disaster. She was really thirsty, drank way too much when we got home and ended up wetting the bed for the first time in ages.
Toilet: ditto ensuring she’s been to the toilet enough before bed. I get her to do a big wee before her bath, then another one just before getting into bed. The latter can be tricky, and even if she needs to go she sometimes refuses. Saying “it’s okay, if you don’t need another wee that’s fine” seems to be the best way of dealing with it, as infuriating as it can be! But keeping bedtime calm is definitely a must, and fights over going for a wee just don’t help anyone. Check out this video for bedwetting advice.
Over exertion: it’s really bizarre but she just doesn’t follow the standard formula of going out, expending loads of energy, eating well then sleeping well. It would appear that what works in the main for everyone else’s kids has the opposite effect on our girl. Some of her absolute worst nights are on the back of loads of exercise, fresh air and activity. Don’t get me wrong, we do still get out every single day, but overdoing it is a big no no.
Although it is technically possible, it’s highly unlikely you’ll die from child-induced sleep deprivation. In my experience though, it’s one of the hardest things about being a parent, and should never be dismissed. Sending lots of love and sleep vibes to those in need today.
“Can You Die of Sleep Deprivation?” and Other Questions I’ve Asked Google