Since P went back to school at the beginning of the month, sleep in my house has gone from pretty poor to absolutely horrendous. She’s been up to her old tricks – messing around at bedtime and dragging it out as much as she can, no doubt stirring up the stress hormone cortisol just beautifully. The knock on from this is of course night wakings, along with getting up for the day at the crack of dawn. You can only imagine how knackered she is, and the effect this has on her ability to keep her natural urges to pinch people and scream in their faces under control.
Somewhere in the midst of all this, my worst nightmare became a reality. 3½yo C who slept through from 10 weeks old and has always been our solid sleeper (even through sickness or cutting her molars) has started copying her big sister. She has only slept through the night twice in the last fortnight, and it’s taking even longer to settle her than it is P. Add to the mix a 19mo F who is sleeping and eating WORSE than just before I weaned him off the breast in a desperate attempt to turn things around last month, and we have ourselves a recipe for trouble in the most exhausting, torturous of ways.
Sleep deprivation has been a huge feature the entire time I’ve been a mum, during which I’ve been offered lots of well meaning platitudes, which offer little in the way of comfort. While I don’t want to be bitter about my lack of zzzz’s, it can be impossible to not get annoyed at some of the things people have said to me.
I’m sure she’ll start sleeping better when she’s 3/4/5/6…
I’ve known for a long time that there was more to P’s sleep problems than just her being a tricky kid, and now we know that she has high functioning autism. It explains a lot, but also fills us with dread for the future. The poor girl has incredible difficulty switching off her thoughts, and if she’s hyped herself up during bedtime it becomes even harder. She is not going to outgrow autism, and start sleeping twelve hours a night. It does not work like that. I gave up waiting for that ‘magical turning point’ when she was about a year old. She’s never followed the text books, and I can’t see she ever will.
Some kids just need less sleep than others
No no no! I do not buy this one at all. I have yet to meet a child who is getting significantly less than their recommended 10-12 hours who is a joy to be around and copes wonderfully with life. Children need their sleep. End of.
My baby was a nightmare for the first x months
Newsflash: all babies are a nightmare for some part or all of their first year! This is a fact that’s been shared so much by parents to non-parents, that I’m astounded it even comes as a small surprise to new parents. Although I can empathise with how hard it is at first, because it’s all so new first time around, unless you have twins or more you can always offset a bad night with a chilled day and nap if you’re on maternity leave.
Why don’t you just ignore her when she’s screaming her head off or put a stair gate on her room?
Mainly because I have two other children to consider, plus the teeny tiny fact that she’s six years old and could easily unlock it. This may work for some people, and that’s just great, but it would have never and will never work for my family.
My little brother was a terrible sleeper, it was a killer for my mum (or something along these lines)
For the most part people just want to be nice when they relate your experience to their own, I’ve done it myself many times. BUT unless you have had at least five years of sleep-hell caused by at least two children, then I’m afraid you really can’t relate to what I’m going through.
What you could do instead
Next time your friend cries on your shoulder about the dreadful time they are having due to sleep thievery, rather than offering up a platitude just let them cry and vent, and get it all out of their system. Preferably over a large cup of coffee!
Offer to have your friend and their kids over for a playdate, and do the bulk of the childcare while they get to enjoy a hot cuppa. Rest assured that this small gesture will go a long long way.
If you’re feeling really generous you could take one (or more) of their kids for a sleepover, which will give your friend a small chance of getting a little bit of extra rest 🙂
Many thanks to Charlotte at Mummy Fever for her fab piece about the difference between being tired and sleep deprivation for inspiring this post!