Sleep is somewhat eluding me these days and I don’t care how the old saying goes, the only thing this early bird gets is an increased caffeine consumption and suitcases under the eyes. I’ve written about sleep (or rather, the lack of it) before in my column a few years ago but as Elijah is currently going through a phase of waking up for the day between 5 and 6am and the big two are going to sleep later and later due to the light evenings, sleep is somewhat preying on my mind. Last time I wrote about the competitive side of parenting, of praising a child’s ability to sleep through the night and bemoaning those that haven’t quite managed it.
The lengths that people go to to encourage their children to sleep might seem crazy from an outsiders perspective, especially when you consider that many adults don’t sleep through the night without waking for one reason or another. But when you’re in that situation, with a small person who keeps you up all hours and then needs you to care for them in the day, you’ll try a whole host of techniques if there is even a glimmer of an hours more shuteye. Three kids in and I haven’t found anything particularly works. Every child is different and they all reach the milestone of sleeping through the night in their own sweet time (Isaac at 4.5 seems to have finally got there in the last month or so, Sophia did at around 18 months and Elijah, well, he’s got a way to go).
I really don’t think we fully appreciate the effect of sleep deprivation. It affects us physically, mentally and emotionally. When I haven’t been getting enough sleep I feel sluggish and slow and I’m disinclined to exercise, I get funny aches, pains and headaches. I get confused and can’t think clearly, mixing up my words and forgetting things. But perhaps the thing I struggle most with when tired, unsurprisingly, is remaining calm and engaged with my parenting. I say all this, not in a bid for sympathy or attention. I’m hardly the only one…heck, probably 80% of the people I know are in the same position of imitating walking zombies! Rather, I thought I’d revisit this topic to reassure those in the midst of it that is normal to feel low and agitated when suffering sleep deprivation and to ask those fortunate enough to be getting a bit more sleep to be kind to those that aren’t! And to those with wee ones interrupting your beauty sleep, don’t forget…all is a state of impermanence and this too shall pass. I promise!