Perchance to dream… unlikely

Hush little baby, don't you cry... that's mummy's job.

SLEEP is for the weak, they say, so it’s hard to admit how I miss a decent eight hours of uninterrupted shut-eye.

Since I fell pregnant with my first child in February 2006 I have not slept through an entire night. Yes people, for more than FOUR YEARS I have Not Slept Through The Night.

It started with pregnancy bladder and now it’s courtesy of two children. A good night for me these days is only having to get up two or three times: once to the toddler who takes a bit of effort to get back down; and twice to the baby who just wants her dummy.

But then there are the bad nights, nights when one of them is sick or has a nightmare (last night for example – trying to shut up screaming child, sensitively of course, to prevent other child from waking and having to conduct a Simultaneous Rock Back To Sleep Hour, the most frustrating tandem exercise ever).

The last horror night was when my son fell ill with croup. I sat up with him till 2am, cradling, rocking and soothing him, and when he finally drifted off, I got to sleep for a full hour before he woke coughing and crying again till 5am. At which point I crawled back to bed and slept till 7am when he and the baby both woke up, ready for the day.

What ensued was four nights of waking up every hour to help him cough, have a drink, maybe try some medecine and then be soothed back to sleep. In the morning I would grunt at my husband to “not test me today” as I was not in the mood and liable to throw my hot cocoa at him. Bless him, he always had a cocoa ready for me!

And in the evenings, I would give a tearful prayer that tonight wouldn’t be so bad.

At ungodly hours I have been found: sleeping on the floor beside my son’s bed; walking into walls where I thought a doorway was; sleeping on the steel bar of my son’s bed (since the kiddy mattress couldn’t hold me and sank beneath the scaffolding!); waking up unsure where I’d fallen asleep this time; sleeping beside the cot with bar-marks squashed into my forehead; and, worst of all, sleeping sitting up on the couch whilst feeding a baby.

When I first brought my son home, I never knew how frustrated his sleeplessness would make me. He was such a beautiful boy, I couldn’t imagine ever being annoyed or angry with him and I was mortified when I found myself grinding my teeth and trying to force him into submission with lullabies. It wasn’t meant to be this aggravating. I was in a lovely, lemon yellow-check rocking chair designed specifically for rocking my newborn son, I should have been a picture of motherly glow. Not weighing up the pros and cons of putting a little nip of rum in his milk (I jest!).

At least now I can deal with the sleeplessness without emotional turmoil (not until the next morning anyway). Perhaps all those waking hours have worn down that steely resolve which was so provoked or maybe I’ve just learnt to let it roll over me.

But my weak-willed nature on all things sleep made me question just what else this sleeplessness might be doing to me.  I discovered… daa da da dum… there is an evidenced link between sleep deprivation and psychiatric disorders according to a Harvard study in 2007. Yikes, I know.

Using MRI scans they found that sleep deprived participants were “incapable of putting an emotional event into the proper perspective and incapable of making a controlled, suitable response to the event”. 

My husband could have told them that for free. I’m definitely more “unhinged” than I was as a working woman who slept through the night. Or perhaps I was just better at disguising it then?

I started to consider the sleep-time routine I have with my children. Undoubtedly people will disagree, but I can’t bring myself to use controlled crying. Not only is it logistically difficult to keep putting him back in his bed (as I’m also feeding the baby while reading stories to my son), I can still recall the sting of being left to cry in my own childhood. I don’t harbour any resentment over this, but neither do I feel it made me stronger and if I can do it differently, I will.

And despite the appeal of a full night’s sleep, watching my children sleep soundly – their arms wrapped tight around my hand, foot, neck, whatever appendage they can wrest away – is more reward than I dreamed possible.

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Parsing Nonsense
    Jun 20, 2010 @ 23:29:57

    Oh jeeze, that study you read definitely doesn’t make you feel any better about your mental state while sleep deprived, does it? Now, not only are you exhausted, you’re more likely to turn into a psycho! Terrific!


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