The Golden Hour

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Every single night at about 11pm I tiptoe quietly into the bedroom next to mine. I go to Hux first, who is always lying on his tummy, with his nose snuggled into his favourite smelly old muslin cloth. He has a little boy bed head and I bend down to sniff it and kiss his lovely little ears. 50% of the time his head will make it onto the pillow but the rest of the time he’ll be awkwardly sprawled width-ways across the cot. The bedclothes have always been kicked off so I try to tuck them tightly back around his little body without waking him up. The little houdini has worked out how to escape his pyjamas (and nappy!) so I’ve been putting him to sleep in vests and tshirts and I don’t want him to get cold. Raaraa is always there, as is whichever teddy Elfie has decided to gift him with that evening from her large collection.

I turn off the string of car night lights next to his bed and move over to Elfie next. I gently remove whichever object she’s taken to bed with her (last week it was a sketch book, yesterday her purse full of coppers) and make sure she has her favourite bunny within arms reach. She tells me every night before she goes to bed, ‘mummy you MUST kiss me on the forehead FORTY FIVE TIMES’, so I do what I’m told.

I scoot her over to the side of the bed nearest the wall because she has a tendency to roll herself out of bed with a thump and a wail; I shouldn’t laugh at this but it’s kind of funny. Her fairy lights remain on, and if they don’t she is happy to wake you at 5am to demand you jolly well sort it out.

When it comes to parenting for me this 11pm ritual is the most precious time of all. The house is quiet, there’s no pressure to cook dinner, make the school run on time, practice writing (Elfie, not me), reply to emails hoover up crumbs. Our days are busy and it’s time to take a bit of time to relax, reflect on the day and enjoy the silence.

There’s a quote I heard once when I first became a mother and didn’t pay much attention to, but as I travel further down this road of motherhood I come back to it time and time again:

The days are long but the years are short. 

At the moment for me there is nothing truer than this phrase. I might begin our days at 6am feeling grumpy and short-changed on sleep and finish them at midnight after ploughing through work in the only bit of free time I have but these precious moments, they won’t last forever. Looking back at just how small my babies were only a year ago it astounds me how much they’ve grown: how far we have all come.

This is why I have vowed to always take that extra ten minutes every night to stroke my babies’ chubby cheeks, enjoy their sleepy breaths and think about how much I love each little rumpled hair on their head. The days are long but the years are short.

Sleep Is For The Weak

I love sleep

…or so the saying goes. Not as far as I’m concerned… I’m not weak and I still need as much sodding sleep as I can get; eight hours if possible.

When I was mid-way through my bout of PND my mental health nurse spoke to me a lot about sleep. It’s my way of coping in bad times, and I always know something is wrong if I simply want to go to bed and go to sleep at every opportunity. When I was at my worst I would sleep ten hours at night plus an extra two if I could when they kids napped… not normal.

Anyway, one of the conversations we had that stuck with me was about our body’s Circadian Rhythm. We all have our own internal clocks when it comes to sleep and they are programmed for different times; I know that my body functions best when I go to sleep at 12am and wake at 8am, whereas someone else’s (my darling daughter for example) might run from 8pm-5.30am. Ouch.

So as mine and Elfie’s sleep patterns are so poorly matched there are a lot of tired eyes in our house. Mostly mine, in all honesty. I bitch and moan about this on Twitter a lot and am happy that I have some fellow sleep-deprived friends to empathise with. Not happy that they don’t get sleep either, but happy I’m not alone. It’s always a bit of a triumph when one of us gets more than five hours a night and I think we feel each others sleep successes a bit more keenly than others do.

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I do not know how she is so chirpy in the mornings.

When I was pregnant I didn’t get this sleep depravation thing. When people told me to “get your sleep in now, you won’t be getting much of it in the future” I just wanted to punch them in the face, because of course my baby would sleep. My baby would know how much its mama needed her 8 hours of shut eye and wouldn’t dare disturb that, would she? I thought it was that easy.

And even now when I moan about how little sleep I get I actually wonder if I’m making a big deal out of it. I wonder if child-free me would look at Work At Home Mother me and think “seriously? What do you do all day? Just sleep then”. I even wonder if I’m laying it on a bit thick and I’m being a big wimp; maybe I sleep more than I think.

So I decided to carry out an experiment. A week ago I downloaded a sleep tracking app that monitors your sleep cycles using the accelerometer in your iPhone. It’s a pretty cool piece of kit that is able to tell when you’re awake, when you’re asleep and when you’re in a deep sleep. It then processes the date into loads of charts and graphs that tells you what quality your sleep was that night. Or, in my case it’s able to tell me what time I went to sleep, what time Elfie woke up and how many times she got up during the night. It’s such a regular occurrence for Elfie to be up and down at night time that I tend to forget what’s transpired in the night and I thought it could be interesting to see exactly how much I’m sleeping.

Here’s my Week Of Real Sleep:

Friday:
5 hours sleep. No wake-ups, Elfie got up 5.30.
Saturday:
5.5 hours sleep. 3 wake-ups: 1.15am, 3am, 5am, Elfie got up 6.30.
Sunday:
6 hours sleep. 1 long wake-up, from 1.45am to 2.30am, Elfie got up at 6.30.
Monday:
5.5 hours sleep. 2 wake-ups: 3.30am, 5am, Elfie got up at 6.45 (A LIE-IN!).
Tuesday:
5.5 hours sleep. 3 wake-ups: 3.30am, 4.45am, 6am, Elfie got up at 6.45.
Wednesday:
5.5 hours sleep. 3 wake-ups: 1am, 4am, 5.45am, Elfie got up at 6.45.
Thursday:
6 hours sleep. 2 wake-ups: 3.45am, 5.30am, Elfie got up at 6.45am.

So, in a nutshell, to function properly I could really do with 56 hours of sleep a week. I seem to be getting 39 hours of sleep, a deficit of 17 hours. My weekly sleep deficit is slightly over 2 nights sleep. Ouch.

And that’s not taking the nightly wake-ups into account, which I swear affects me more than the actual sleep deficit itself. We had 14 of those this week. You know some animals sleep all winter, and if you wake them when they’re deep into hibernation it’s really really bad for their health? Yeah, that’s me. Only I like to hibernate each and every night.

So how do I get my child to sleep more? I kind of think this is just a (bloody long) phase and she’ll grow out of it eventually. In the meantime I’m taking steps to improve my diet and exercise so I’m in optimum health and more ably equipped to deal with the tiredness. Bring on the teenage years when I have to force her out of bed in the mornings.

Buying A Mattress Online

pile of mattresses

One of the most important changes I’ve been making to my life lately is changing my bedroom around. You may laugh, but being newly single and still sleeping in the old marital bed feels kind of weird, and to be fair it’s old, a bit lumpy and MASSIVE. It’s a king-size bed with a large lip around the outside from IKEA and it just dominates the room. I’d purchased my new bed and have started giving it a makeover so it was time to look for a mattress.

Having done a lot of research on mattresses it seemed that the best deals can be found online. But being able to lie on a mattress before you buy it is, you know, kind of important, no? Not so much: it takes 4-6 weeks to ‘break in’ a mattress so the comfort of one in a showroom is completely dependent upon how many people have laid on it.

Here’s a compilation of some of the best information I’ve come across to help you navigate choosing a mattress without seeing it:

- Most mattresses contain a spring interior system inside consisting of either a coiled or pocket sprung unit. In simple terms the fillings provide the comfort while the springs give support and generally speaking the more springs and filling the better.

- It is possible to place a new mattress upon your existing base, however you should ensure your base is either platform top (firm base) or slatted and the surface is completely flat.

- You should never place a new mattress upon an old sprung base. Although it may look in good condition, the internal springs will have worn in the same predominant sleeping areas as the previous old mattress. Which means the new mattress will sink and follow the contours of the worn areas. This will not only permanently damage the new mattress, but also give you an uncomfortable sleeping unit and may invalidate the guarantee.

- Medical-sounding terms like ‘orthopaedic’ and ‘posturepaedic’ usually just mean that those mattresses have more springs than most, giving increased support. A 2003 study published in medical journal The Lancet found that a very firm bed mattress isn’t always best for bad backs, and that a moderately firm one may be better.

Open spring mattress
- The most commonly-used springing system in the world for budget-priced mattresses
- Border rod or wire gives the mattress a firm edge and helps retain its shape
- Sides are machine stitched rather than hand-stitched.

Pocket spring mattress
- Recommended if there’s a size difference between you and your partner, as it minimises the risk of you rolling towards each other during the night
- More luxurious, with individual small springs housed in separate fabric pockets.
- Springs work independently to respond to individual body weight.
- Stitched sides for strong, stable edges – hand stitching is a sign of craftsmanship and quality.

Visco-elastic mattress (memory foam)
- The mattress moulds and re-moulds to your body’s contours as your body heat softens it
- Provides support and enables natural movement during sleep
- Helps to maintain correct posture and align spine horizontally when lying on your side
- Hypo-allergenic with anti-microbial properties.

Mine’s coming next week… I’ll let you know how I get on!

Introducing MAMA

 

FACT: kids know that when you have something supremely important to do it is time for them to STOP SLEEPING. Like last night. I went to bed at 10pm with a cold and a head full of thoughts (a lethal combination) and just as I was dropping off to sleep at 1am Hux woke up for a feed. Fine, I got up and sorted him out, it’s always lovely to have a baby cuddle no matter how late it is.

But then Elfie woke up. First she wanted a drink: water, no MILK! no, water mummy. No, in my Peppa cup. Oh it’s on my pyjamas. DON’T LIKE THOSE PYJAMAS. Don’t like my pillow. I’m cold, brrrrrrrrr. Where are my slippers? Where’s my hat? The rain is too noisy! Is it morning?

And before I knew it we’d reached 3am with no sleep and I was ready to combust with the thought of the busy day I had ahead of me.

(you should never see 3am unless you’re in a bar with a cocktail)

Luckily I appear to have completely underestimated the power of Monmouth coffee and have powered through the day with the speed of something really really fast, launching my new project into the world only one hour later than anticipated. Take that, sleep deprivation. Take that, insomniac kids. Take that, 3am.

So here it is! The project I’ve slogged long and hard at over the last few weeks: MAMA, The Magazine For Modern Mums. I’d love for you to hop on over and take a look, maybe follow MAMA on Twitter or Facebook.

But for now I’m having a big glass of red and a long sleep.  See you on the other side.

Sleep

Before I had a baby I never thought much about sleep as a commodity. It was something I loved to do (and would do as much as possible) but if I ended up at a party on a Wednesday night until 4am it was no big deal. I could sleep at the weekend, right?

Oh, how I laugh at my poor naive selve. In the golden-sleep days I didn’t start work until 10am. 10AM! Living round the corner from work meant I had the morning routine down and didn’t have to get up until 9.10am. So I could get to bed at 3am and still get six hours sleep… which I did more than I’d like to admit. I obviously did not realise how good I had it.

When Elfie was young nightfeeds weren’t a problem; I’d prepared myself for the onslaught of sleepless nights and my life revolved around us both sleeping at the same time. The problem is now we have a semblance of routine, work to do and errands to run. Sleep deprivation is hard when you have to be doing stuff that normal adults do, like have meetings, go to the supermarket, clean the house, blog and cook dinner. This is all very difficult if you are cruising on three hours of sleep a night.

So the recent night time teething has been massively tough, as has the arrival of a new neighbour who gets up to work at 5am, always waking the baby. Now Elfie can be up 2 or 3 times during the night with her teeth and then for the day at 5. This is not what I expected from a fifteen month old and I am slowly going round the bend through lack of sleep.

We’ve had a word with our neighbour, have practically bought shares in Bonjela and my work schedule has eased up so I can nap. We’ve been on the lookout for our Country House Of Dreams (the rental market round here is insane, houses will go within 5 hours!) and we think we have somewhere in my parent’s village that is charming, quiet and will mean lots of lovely sleep. I know this is probably ‘just a phase’ she’s going through and it will improve, but until then please forgive me if the blogging is a little on the light side.

I’m going to bed.

Photo: baby E as a newborn. Aww. 

 

Sleep Regression

This post originally appeared at my old blog, www.the-alice.co.uk.

My gorgeous, lovely, slept-through-the-night-since-six-weeks baby girl has become a nightmare.

Last night she woke up at 3am for the day: in the last week we’ve had a couple of 5am-ers but that was the absolute worst. I’m guessing she’s sliding into the four month sleep regression stage?

I’ll put this into context: before this week Elfie was happy to go down for the night at around 7, feed at 11 and then sleep til 8. It was blissful! I have been launched back into the world of having a newborn, of not being able to go to do things before 2pm because I am way too exhausted and dreading going to bed at night because I’m scare of being woken up so soon after. On a positive note, this means I’ve almost finally finished the Twilight series as I’ve spent so much time in bed.

I took the monkey for a little walk to run errands followed by a swim this afternoon in the hopes it would tire her out for this evening (sidenote: seeing acquaintances at the gym when you have been awake since 3am and not wearing any make up is BAD).

She’s been down and quiet since 7.30pm, tonight I’m trying a new approach and will dream feed at midnight. Hopefully this will work.