Tips for coping with disrupted sleep

I started this as a joke post:

  1. Sell your car. You are not safe to drive.
  2. Use the money to stock up on your preferred stimulant. Mine is chocolate, but I’ve also heard good things about cocaine.

But too tired to creatively think of more jokes. And I do have some genuine tips, which are making things easier this time, won from hard experience over the past two years.

  1. Go to bed earlier. When the little dude was a small baby he would feed at around 8.30pm then again at around 11pm. I used to feel like there was no point going to bed after the 8.30 feed because I’d be up again soon. That was stupid. In the same way, but reversed, stay in bed later. If the baby drifts off to sleep after a feed at 6am but the toddler won’t wake til 7am, stay in bed. It all counts.
  2. Try and learn to fall asleep more quickly (easier said than done). Before the little dude, I’d routinely take half an hour or more to fall asleep at night. That was fine – I didn’t mind, I would lie in bed thinking about things, and when I decided I was ready to fall asleep I’d try and relax into it. Half an hour once at bedtime was ok, half an hour four times throughout the night is two lost sleeping hours. The longer it took me to fall asleep after 4am, the worse it would be, I’d start to worry that I wouldn’t get back to sleep at all. Guided meditation podcasts helped a lot.
  3. If you can’t sleep, let yourself rest. Resting is still better than nothing. Lying in a dark room without stimulation isn’t as restorative as sleep, but it’s more restorative than any other activity. So don’t worry if you can’t sleep. The resting is good.
  4. Have a shower in the evening. This does two things. First, it helps you feel relaxed for sleep and therefore get to sleep easier. Second, it means that if you have a bad night and a bad morning, you can throw clothes on and leave the house without feeling manky.
  5. If you have a really bad night, leave the house as soon as you can in the morning. This is the opposite to what you’d do if you didn’t have kids – but when you feel like you’re losing it and you still have to truck on and look after small people, leaving the house provides a great circuit-breaker. Even if it’s just throwing the kid in the buggy and walking round the block.
  6. Learn to nap. If there is a window for sleep, even only 40 minutes when both children are asleep during the day, grab it. Lie down in a dark room with your eyes shut (remember – even if you don’t sleep, resting is good).
  7. Try and eat well, and try and eat when the kids are awake so that you can sleep when they sleep. Eating proper meals can be hard when day and night are all out of whack and there’s a toddler, so stock up on healthy snacks.
  8. Figure out a sustainable way of sharing night shift. Mr Daddy can’t be sleep deprived at work, so more of the burden will fall on me – but having someone to share at least part of the load makes life so much easier. Our current system, which works fairly well, is for me to check out at 5am. If he’s lucky, my husband might get a whole night’s sleep. If things go badly, he will be up for the day at 5am. That’s ok, he can still do a decent day’s work with an early wake up. And it means that no matter how badly the night goes for me, I’ll get two hours solid sleep from 5am til 7am and will start the day with enough sleep to cope until I nap.
  9. Don’t try and keep proper track of how much sleep you get. Don’t add it up. It’s depressing. But do “sleep bank” – nap even if you had an ok night, for example, because the next night might be terrible.
  10. This list is aspirational. Do whatever you can to survive.

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