Sleep Deprivation and How to Survive

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Elizabeth Dilts

Have you ever met those super annoying parents whose kids never seem to sleep and they always want to fill you in on how excruciating their past week of sleep has been? Oh, you have had a conversation with me in the past five years? Then I am almost certain that I found a way to interject into the conversation that I had not slept through the night since my first was born. Now that I am coming out of the black hole of child induced sleep deprivation, I need to apologize to everyone who has to listen to my incredibly detailed accounts of a typical night in our house. Thank you for lending kind ears and sympathetic faces.

For anyone else who may relate to being in a state of CISD (yes, I made it up, even though I am technically not allowed to do so since I do not have the proper title in front of my name), I have listed below a few tips that helped us survive…though I have to caution trusting in any of these tips, since getting children to sleep is more like playing the lottery than a scientific formula. You may be wasting your sleep time reading this!

Tips to help survive sleep deprivation:

#1: Find people who will tell you this is okay, this is a phase, this is life, this is parenthood, or possibly, this is NOT okay.

I know there wasn’t a week that went by without my mom or mother-in-law asking about how the sleeping, or lack of sleeping, was going. And if you are or have a been a young mother with children, you know that anyone who takes interest in your personal well being is basically a guardian angel, sent to stabilize your mind and feelings. Being able vent to someone about our sleep problems who really cared about our sleep problems, was an energy booster. Suggestions about eating or not eating at night, levels of quietness, air temperature, mattress firmness and many others flew back and forth through the air waves and text messages, along with lots of prayers and encouraging words for mama. I also found it was much easier to take advice from a trusted source who was actively involved in our situation, than the misleading Pinterest posts promising a full night’s sleep in three easy steps.

#2: Sleep whenever you can and don’t feel badly about not having a schedule.

Okay, so I ¬†probably can’t get any more subjective than that, BUT it has been helpful to me over the course of having children. My nature is geared more toward routine, jumping out of bed at the first alarm, not ever backing out of what I agreed to do. Needless to say, my nature has changed a lot. Almost every day, I sleep until my kids wake me up, because I will most likely have been up a few hours during the night trying to get one, or all three at different times, back to sleep. When I had newborns, I slept instead of doing laundry or other chores. It was painful to my ever-so-slight OCD nature, but the days I tried to push through and be the supermom, I ended up in a complete emotional and physical mess. So, if it is in your ability to sleep early, sleep late, sleep in between, DO SO. Your body needs it.

#3: Don’t stop trying new techniques!

About four months ago, I had almost given in to the ridiculous notion that our kids would never sleep through the night in their beds, that they would always wake up and come to our room, and that I would never see a solid eight hour night again. And I thought those people who say their kids sleep twelve hour nights were probably sticking a bit of whiskey in their milk cups. But, I noticed that when we went to my parent’s for Thanksgiving, the cough my kids had all winter went away the first night there and came back the first night we got home. I went straight to Target for the best humidifier I could find and, except for the occasional cold, the coughing has stopped! The creeping out of bed lessened! Next, we bribed them with a bunk bed. If the two oldest went ten days without getting out of bed, we told them they could have one. The youngest struggled a little, but our older one did perfect. The bunk bed seems to have also given them more comfort as they sleep; maybe the room doesn’t seem so big, maybe it feels cozier, maybe they hit their heads and fall back to sleep in the middle of the night…whatever it is, we are on the path to living again! So if you hear of some crazy method (that isn’t harmful) to help you child sleep, just try it. You never know when you’ll hit the sleep lottery!

One of the most important lessons parenthood has taught me is that I can actually deal with a lot more than I believe I can. Got only a couple hours of shut eye in last night? It is irritating, but I am still capable of keeping myself and my family alive and I can usually manage to throw some loads of laundry in and whip up PB & Js for everyone. Long term, I can tell that it hasn’t been great for my health, emotional behavior and mental stability, but looking around, I can see mothers who suffer through worse and so much better than I do.

So my last, and exceptionally cheesy tip is

#4: You will survive and forget.

It is already hard for me to recall clearly what life with a newborn was like and my youngest is only 15 months old. At some point, I believe I will start going to bed without the dread of what the night has in store for me, and I won’t even question whether my kids will sleep through until morning. Many people tell me I will miss the young years, but I plan on enjoying the relief for a little while first.

Let me know if YOU have been going through similar trials with your own wonderful progeny and share any tips that have worked–I am almost certain we aren’t out of the woods yet!

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