Sleep Is For The Weak

…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.

16 Comments
  1. I always feel a bit of a shit commenting on things like this, because Ramona has always been an insanely good sleeper (to the point that I actually worried because kids are supposed to wake up more, right?). To this day, she won’t get out of bed until someone goes to fetch her, even if she’s been awake for a couple of hours. However, when she was younger she also went through a far-too-long phase of waking at 4am, which is pretty hideous for someone like me who functions best sleeping from 11-7.

    We gritted through it as we thought she was too young to really be ‘trained’, but at the time someone recommended a Gro-Clock and three different parents have told me that it really helps with getting them to stay in bed – watching for when the ‘sun’ rises, so they can understand that that’s daytime.

    So, with apologies and absolutely zero smugness, honest guv, I offer my one bit of secondhand advice in the hope it helps! Also a hug, cos they always do, right?

    1. ive always taken the stern approach of kids staying in their bedrooms till 7am .. I remember earplugs and a stairgate being the tools to do that! lol but Elfie’s older now and maybe with the new wonderful place where you guys live now .. walk her round the park in the afternoon? new routine may produce new results? more fresh air, exercise .. bath (with lavender?) then bed xx for both of you! lol xx

      1. Thanks Serena! Elf’s ok with playing in her room but now she’s sharing with Hux she wakes him up (I can hear her cooing at him which is very sweet I suppose…). Hux does NOT enjoy being in his bed when he’s not asleep and starts having a big old whinge!

        I’m definitely going to try marching her round the park in the afternoon though! x

    2. Firstly, woah, JEALOUS much?! Although you may never have experienced the absolute freakiness that is waking up to a toddler’s nose two inches from your face, it’s really quite scary.

      I bought Elfie a groclock about six months ago but the clever so-and-so worked out how to unlock it and bring the sun up as soon as she woke up. Grrr. I’ve resurrected it for the new house and she seems to be a bit more interested in it (and has forgotten how to unlock it, yay!). I will persevere :)

  2. Your nights sound very much like mine – only I have a 13 month old, and to think she will probably still be waking at night after three, is a very tiring thought in itself! Was Elfie a bad sleeper as a baby? Does she sleep better if she falls asleep in your bed..not what you want but just wondered if its an attachment thing.

    1. She used to get up at 4.30 as a baby, a time so terrible I think I have wiped it from my memory, argh! I don’t think it’s an attachment thing, she just seems to have bags of energy. Let me know how you get on with the app! It’s always interesting to see how knackered we all are ;) x

  3. Great post, Alice! SO feel your pain with this one. E’s only recently come out of a (bloody long) stint of waking at 4am. What with Js night feeds and being back at work I felt physically ill with exhaustion. Tried everything to push the wake ups later but nothing worked – I’ve a gro clock going spare if you want one ;) – until I put the stairgate up at his bedroom door. So, yeah, imprisoning my child was the way forward.
    I’ve wanted to do this sleep app thing for a while, but it feels almost sadistic – I know I get bugger all sleep, I think I might cry if I find out exactly how little it is! X

    1. Cor you poor thing, you’ve got it all going on at night time :(

      We have a Groclock but it didn’t work (she’s a clever bugger and worked out how to unlock it and make the sun come up. At 5am.) but I’m warming towards the idea of an extra stairgate!

      I’d recommend the sleep app if only because I now feel totally justified in moaning about how little sleep I get ;) x

  4. Ouch, poor you Alice :-( have you considered drugging her…!?! Joke! But seriously, it must be tough. My two girls are on the whole very good sleepers (sorry!), Allegra more than Claudia, but Claudia is still pretty good considering she’s only just shy of 10 months. On an average night I might have one or two “get-ups” with Claudia, just yelping and needing her dummy to drop back off again – usually this is teething related – but I’m lucky enough to have frequent no wake up call nights and while we’ve had the odd v early morning with Claudia, generally we make it to some time between 6-7am. So… this isn’t helping YOU is it?! – am guessing Elfie doesn’t nap in the daytime any more (if she does, cut that straight out!), so all I can think of is the usual: wear her out running around in the day, lavender bubble bath/Johnsons bedtime bubble bath, slightly later bedtime to stretch her to slightly later the next morning maybe, and you could try giving her one of these to snuggle up to…http://www.amazon.co.uk/Cloud-Plush-Sleep-Sheep-Pillow/dp/B003B1ZWO4 – it seems to be a hit with Claudia. Good luck! xx

    1. She actually does still nap in the day… I tried to drop the nap as she went to pre-school but her sleep at night became even worse and she turned into a raging monster! I’m not sure if it’s because her body works that little bit harder with her health problems or if she’s just a sleepyhead like me but she does seem to need it. I limit her to an hour though (she could happily go for 2.5!) and I am going to try to get her to burn a bit more energy. She goes to bed 30 mins after Hux now (at 7.30), I reckon I could stretch her til 8pm but that’s when I start wanting to go to bed as well ;)

      Love the look of that lavender sheep cushion. Father Christmas might be bringing Elfie one of those this December! x

  5. Sleep deprivation is such a hard part of parenting. If only they can out sleeping eight hours a night, life would be so much easier! My little boy is nearly eight months and last night I had five hours sleep in a one block for the first time in months! I wasn’t getting more than 2 hours at one stage, which went on for months. It makes life so much harder but I keep trying to remember that I will miss it one day, especially when they are old enough to go out partying, doubt I will get any sleep then! x

  6. ARE YOU SERIOUS??? OMG, I’d never left the stage of extended baby blues behind me if this was what my nights looked like. If you somehow can afford it, get a sleep trainer to help Elfie sleep through soundly. Waking up during the night is really really bad for you – and for the kids. I really feel for you, this sounds like proper torture! xxx
    PS: When L would get out of bed at night (without a real reason) or early mornings, I would tell her off big time. I made it pretty clear that getting out of bed before Mummy (7am) gets you is not an option. I am doing the same now with the Pea.

  7. I feel your pain. My nearly 2 year old girl has always woken up through the night. I’ve tried everything. I think I have to accept that’s just the way it is, also I’m a naughty mummy who likes to stay up late, if only I could go to bed early maybe then I would feel less grumpy. I was an early riser until my teens years and my mum (who was a landlady at the time) couldn’t bare 5/6am wake up calls, so early morning tv was the answer. It’s not ideal but teach her how to go to the living room without disturbing anyone and watch tv (not a great suggestion I know but tv never killed anyone) – hey, mum gets an extra hour – everyone’s happy! X

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