When you need more sleep
I’ve written a few posts now on what heinous sleep thieves my two children are. My very first blog post was about how to get through the day with kids when you have had zero sleep the night before. And whilst I recently gave my tips on coping with early risers, I haven’t yet told you about how I get through the (long) nights with these tiny terrorists. This post is my tried and tested advice on how to get more sleep when your kids won’t sleep…
People regularly say to me ‘I don’t know how you do it’ when we chat about my kids baby ‘parties’ and frequent night wakings. On a good night I get 4 .5 broken hours of sleep. On a bad night it may be less than 1. I’ve been doing this now for 5 years. That’s right, my almost 5 year old still doesn’t sleep through the night. And of course you don’t sleep well when you are pregnant so make that 5.5 years of sleep deprivation. My eye bags have bags and I regularly forget what I’m going to say as I’m about to say it. It’s a miracle I can write this blog to be frank.
When my friends say ‘I couldn’t do it’ I always tell them, you could because you would have to. You get the kids you are given and you just have to survive the best you can. However, sleep is obviously super important so you don’t accidentally kill yourself or someone else so here is how I do actually do it.
My 8 top tips for maximising your sleep when your kids do not sleep
- My top tip is definitely bed-sharing. I like the bed to myself. I hate sharing my space but my kids do not sleep if they are not in contact with my body somehow. They don’t mind if it’s their arse in my face or toe in my ear. As long as they can feel I am there. If contact breaks then their sleep thief alarm goes off and they alert (aka scream) until we snuggle again. When my eldest was a baby I did not know better. We tried to put him in his cot for 17 months and he would always wake in 20 minute intervals or less which drove us insane. We ‘gave up’ at 17 months and started bringing him in with us and it was the best thing we did. We regretted not having done it earlier. We all started to get more sleep. When my daughter came along we could tell immediately that she was the same (after hours of her waking every time we tried to put her down) so I bed-shared with her from the first night. She may sleep even worse than Arlo but its more manageable because I’m not trying to force her to go against her own nature. People say you’ll never get them out of your bed and you know what, I don’t care, I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it. Right now, I’m just trying to make it through another day.
- Have realistic expectations about what is normal biological behaviour from children with sleep. It might seem that every person you speak to has kids that sleep 7-7 but there are just as many, or more people out there who are up all night. You aren’t doing anything wrong. It’s not you. The sooner you stop agonising about why they aren’t sleeping, the better you’ll actually sleep when they do.
- Go to bed when they do – at least some of the time. If you have kids that not only get up several times a night, sometimes for extended periods and then also get up at 4/5am everyday (I know, I’m blessed right) then sometimes you’ve got to go to bed at 7pm with them. It just helps. Yes you don’t have a life but it’s a short period of time in the grand scheme of things (or so they tell me). You can binge watch Stranger Things when they eventually sleep better.
- Ask for help – if you can have family take them for a sleepover occasionally so you can just catch up a little then do it. One night of no sleep for them is manageable – you can only go for so long until you burn out.
- If you have a partner then share the burden. I categorically refute the claim that if you are breastfeeding then there is nothing your partner can do. I’ve breastfed both my kids and their dad has always pulled his weight at night. They can change nappies so you don’t have to get out of bed. You can take turns or do shifts (and hope you don’t get the crap shift). Up until my daughter was 19 months old she slept in her dad’s arms or the babycarrier every single evening. I would nurse her, then go put my son to bed and go to sleep for a few hours then when she woke to nurse again around 11 or so, he would bring her to me and then I would bed-share with her the rest of the night. It really helped them to stay bonded and helped me to stay sane. When there is a will there is a way.
- Lie in – in my house I deal with our toddler at nights alone so once the kids are up around 5 or so I go back to bed if I can, even if it’s just for 30 minutes, it all adds up. Especially if you only get an hour or two in the night. When I say a lie in – I’m usually back up at 6.30am but it’s all relative isn’t it.
- Nap if you can – sometimes a ten minute power nap can do wonders. Now I hesitated in putting this one in as my kids tended to only ever nap in my arms or in the baby carrier if I paced round so I’ve rarely been able to nap when they nap but there have been a few occasions where I’ve been able to nap with them and it has been delightful. Of course, there are always those times you drift off and then they immediately wake up and it’s the worst feeling in the world but if you do achieve it, it’s the holy grail.
- Buy whatever equipment or gadgets you need. If you bed-share and can afford it then get the biggest bed you can – but don’t make the sleep deprived mistake that we did and order a super-king that whilst it will fit in the room you measured, it will in no way fit up your stairs that you did not measure. I’ve heard good things about the poddlepods, sleepyheads and arms reach co-sleepers. I even saw this crazy shaky basket the other day that is very controversial but I can see why people would use them. I have friends whose babies wouldn’t sleep so they sat up at night in adjustamatic riser recliner chairs (be careful of safe sleeping for SIDS though). Whatever helps you get more rest, just go with it – in the words of Enid from the Walking Dead ‘just survive somehow’!
So when people say, ‘I don’t know how you do it’. This is how I do it. It’s all that we can do to make it through. I do get envious of parents whose kids sleep great in their own beds and they still have a great social life but I know we have the rest of our lives for that and I’ll never regret the love and closeness we have during the night. I know I’ll miss it when its gone, as I look back well-rested through my rose tinted binoculars.
So follow these easy tips and you too could achieve the pinnacle of 3.5 hours broken sleep – you’re welcome.
If you are in the market for a new mattress then you can’t go far wrong with the Emma Mattress (affiliate link). We treated ourselves to it when the kids started sleeping through the night, a reward if you will. We’ve now been using it for 2 years and here is our full Emma Mattress review.
Do you have any top tips for maximising your sleep when your kids are frequent wakers? I’d love to hear them in the comments – we need all the help we can get! If you enjoyed this post, please like my Facebook page so you don’t miss another post.
If you liked this post then you might also like:
- How to get your child to go to sleep on their own
- The ultimate guide to surviving when your kids don’t sleep through the night
- How to make your child sleep in longer…
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