When you first have a newborn what’s the one thing you’re told over and over and over again? “Make sure you sleep when baby sleeps!”. Now in theory that sounds pretty sensible, but when living in the real world it’s actually fairly impossible. Think about it, where did your baby sleep? Kiddo slept in the car whilst I was driving, while I pushed him around the supermarket, and in the middle of me cooking dinner (gas hobs alight and on the go). I don’t know about you, but I didn’t fancy whipping out a sleeping bag in the middle of the cereal aisle and catching forty winks while kiddo snored away in his stroller… although I’m not saying I wasn’t tempted once or twice.
This piece of advice used to drive me up the wall. What drove me even more bonkers was that I actually heard myself start to give that advice to other mums! I quickly retracted it of course as soon as that look of “seriously? You think that’s actually possible?” swept across their face and I realised what words were coming out of my mouth.
But this past six months, I have found myself listening to that advice more and more. My situation has now obviously changed and kiddo barely sleeps at all. At one point I found myself on the edge of a nervous breakdown with sleep deprivation. I had the shakes, hot sweats, high blood pressure and was incapable of thinking logically. Sleep deprivation can cause chronic illness and impairment of judgment. Don’t be fooled, it’s totally debilitating.
We did everything to try and help kiddo sleep. You name it, we’ve done it. Routine, warm bath, herbal remedies, essential oils, white noise, exercise before bed, fresh air before bed, melatonin. We are now at the point where kiddo’s learning disability Nurse has told us just to keep him calm at night rather than try and get him to sleep. Because we have tried everything and the only thing that works is sedation. And that’s a route we only rarely go down for safety reasons. We are still attempting the keep calm at night thing, yesterday he was running (literally running) around the house screaming “MINIONS!!!” at the top of his lungs with pure delight and joy. That’s ADHD for you!
When we reached breaking point as a family from lack of sleep, kiddo’s Dad and I had a long chat to try and find a way to survive. We knew kiddo would sleep from 7pm to midnight with the help of melatonin. Those exact hours. No more. It didn’t matter if we moved his bedtime later, he still woke between midnight and 1am. We clearly had to embrace those hours that kiddo was able to sleep. Remember this is not his choice, he physically can’t sleep. Kiddo is exhausted and running on fresh air alone most of the time.
Then he said it. My husband said those words I always dreaded hearing four years ago. “I guess we have to sleep when he sleeps”. My blood ran cold at the thought of this. But then I started to think outside the box. Of course, it was simple. I had to adapt my body clock to survive. For this is a game of survival people, make no mistake. Severe sleep deprivation is used as a method of torture and intimidation for a reason.
So we started a routine of hubby putting kiddo to bed, whilst I myself got into my pjs. “This is ridiculous” I thought. “I can’t sleep at 7pm?!” Next thing I knew it was midnight and I had had five hours of glorious slumber. And after a few weeks of repeating this I had finally caught up enough to start being able to enjoy some of the daytime again.
Time has passed and now my body clock has adjusted. It’s 4am as I write this. My brain is clear and I’m awake as if it’s daytime. Not every night is like this of course, after a tough day I trudge through the night shift as though wading through thick mud, just praying for kiddo’s little eyes to close and that peaceful wave of sleep to cross his face. On nights where we sedate him I still wake between midnight and 1am. I just lie there enjoying the pure comfort and bliss of my warm bed, allowing my full body weight to be carried by the mattress. Hubby often laughs when I say “I couldn’t sleep, I was too comfortable”, but it’s true! I appreciate time in my bed that much.
So if you’re struggling at the moment, maybe think back to that annoying piece of advice you were once constantly given. Because it may just save you.
And to those of you who know me personally, this is the reason I can’t come out to play in the evenings after the kids have gone to bed. It’s my only chance to close my eyes and give my body a chance to repair itself. Boring I know, but that’s my life. And I embrace it everyday.
Thanks for reading,