sleep debt


I'm sure you're familiar with the expression? You know, the cumulative effect of not getting enough sleep. Or, that sleep debt that you have that life, however it goes from this point forward, will never repay. And it doesn't matter how damn sweet those smallies are, doesn't matter how grateful we are for them, for this life, yada yada, sometimes that sleep debt comes crashing down on us like a tidal wave.

Which happened to me last week. 

It started when I had an off-hand conversation with my Mum and my sister Suze and I mentioned, actually I think Adam mentioned, that Ivy had never slept through the night with the exception of about four or five notable instances. And that in conjunction, we'd had about a year of both the other kids getting up and waking us up at least once a night. Each. Which makes for a lot of disrupted sleep. 

This has never really affected me. I can operate well on five or six hours of sleep, I never feel like napping through the day and I've never minded the middle of the night interruptions. For the last six months of last year we were solving a chronic leg and foot pain that Henry suffered at nighttime, and then the first six months here were in a new house, I assumed the kids were unsettled. 

And then I looked at my Mum and my sister staring in horror at Adam. Suze said slowly, "you mean to tell me you have not had a single uninterrupted night's sleep in a year?" and Adam made some witty remark, offered espressos all round and changed the subject. 

Mum and Suze were of course not going to leave it there though. 

And so I've had help and some very good advice. 

Things are going to change round here. 

The first thing we did: I had a weekend off. This last weekend. I went to Sydney, I stayed with some of our oldest and dearest friends (who don't have children) and they looked after me, let me take naps and sleep in, drove me to the art gallery and walked me around some divine quilting and fabric stores. We went out for dinner, and I went easy on the coffee. It was totally awesome. 

And when I came home, I explained to the older two kids that they needed to stay in their own beds all night. We've instituted comforters, some old, some new. I've ensured the room is warm, not too warm, their beds are comfortable and that they don't nap during the daytime. So far, so good. 

My other problem is that I'm a night owl, and I blog somewhere between the hours of 11pm and midnight. Which also has to change. There's something about the sleep we get before midnight apparently. A few nights of it so far, and it does seem to help. 

I think the hardest thing about crushing tiredness is the inability to deal with the reality of small folk. 

The upside-down messy house which seems to have a littered floor no matter how often you tidy. 

The dirty washing basket which is always full no matter how often you wash.

The toilet which always seems to smell of wee no matter how often you clean it. 

If I'm not tired I might be able turn them into amusing anecdotes. Right now I'm too strung out to remember my children's names. (I referred to Tilly as 'middle child' last week, not even about her, but when I was talking to her. Dreadful. Change is coming.)

So this week I'm going to drop in with postcards, not posts. Photos only until I get back on my feet and can make sure I'm hitting 'publish' in the nine p.m's, not the wee hours. 

Any other how-to-pull-out-of-a-stage-dive-wipeout advice gratefully received. 

See you soon.



21 Comments on “sleep debt

July 11, 2011 at 9:43 pm

Proud of you for posting this before 10pm. Good start! Sleep well.

July 11, 2011 at 10:12 pm

I dont know! Im too buggered to think! I will sleep on it …

July 12, 2011 at 1:58 am

Crikey! That’s a whole world of crapola. I had no idea. Glad you’re getting it fixed. And so glad you had a wonderful weekend with the fabulous K & J. But if it makes you feel a little better I often refer to either child as “other one”.

island dweller
July 12, 2011 at 4:13 am

Glad you are getting this sorted – good on you Mum and Suze. I am living on 5-6 hrs myself but being a newborn is my little one’s excuse. My 2 others are champion sleepers except for a bit of sleepwalking. i am also guilty of the nightowl trait especially when my man is on the road. Enjoy the zzzz’s.

July 12, 2011 at 5:04 am

Our children used to all get called ‘Flo’ when we were tired. ‘Flo’ was the cat’s name.

July 12, 2011 at 6:20 am

Oh I hear you, very guilty of late night blogging – bad habit – just seems to shift my day where I get going later in the morning, I suspect if I went to bed early I’d be way more efficient in the morning. (was thinking I might set my alarm for 10pm so I remembered to go to bed then!) I also had 2 years of interrupted sleep – it’s only when you get good uninterruted sleep that you realise what you were missing. Good luck and ejoy those early nights.

July 12, 2011 at 6:21 am

I have two children, they are called NoAlina and AliNoah. Ahem. Good night!.

July 12, 2011 at 6:21 am

Feel your pain Fi ! Up at 4.30am with Eva for the day !!!! How do we survive ???

July 12, 2011 at 7:15 am

I had 4 sons in 5 years. the last 3 all woke up every night until they were 2. That was a lot of years of getting up 4, 3, 2 or once every night!!!

July 12, 2011 at 7:16 am

I should’ve added… now it’s school holidays and they sleep in till 11 or 12 every day.

July 12, 2011 at 7:46 am

Hooray for you! Hooray that through the sleep induced fog, you were still prepared to take a stand and make a change- that is very tricky to do when you are so short on sleep. And a quick chat to Henry and Tilly: stay in bed my loverlies- its so much nicer than toddling down a cold dark hallway (no matter how wonderful Mummy and Daddy are)!
Fi, just a reminder- the kids will (hopefully) adhere to this new routine this week and next but just watch for the “check up” visits. At some point, kids will often revisit the old habits just to “check up” that its still not allowed. Don’t get sucked in. Just expect it at some time in the future and hold the line. You’re doing awesome!!

July 12, 2011 at 8:06 am

Hurrah! You’re looking after yourself. A strong and healthy mother is the key to many wonderful family days.

Val@mental chew
July 12, 2011 at 8:08 am

Oh I am jealous. A teething 7 month old does not allow for good nights of sleep….yet. I will get there I know and I congratulate you on making it a priority for yourself! You are so important.

July 12, 2011 at 9:01 am

So glad you got a weekend off, although I bet you missed the kids terribly. I was thinking about sleep and lack of last night as I sat with my sick boy between 1 and 3 am. My 3 and a bit year old has sleep through the night only a handful of times. Most nights she ends up in bed with us, which is not great. Of course last night, when I was up with the sick kid for hours, she slept right through. Sigh….

July 12, 2011 at 9:33 am

Your weekend sounds luxurious. I was also once a night owl. I’d happily stay up till 1 am, and yes writing at that time of night is so much easier isn’t it. My Dad once told me it was because everyone else’s minds were quiet, leaving an uncluttered space to think.

But I’m not good at sleeping in (nor is Little Eco) so I was ALWAYS tired.

A wise ayurveda consultant I saw recently told me to try and be in bed by 9.30 and asleep by 10.30. I reluctantly tried it (saddened that I was losing my most productive hours in the day) and enjoyed jumping into bed with a book. It works, apparently it’s something to do with our sleep rhythms. If we miss the 9.30 – 10.30 start of the sleep cycle we get a second wind and can go for a few more hours.

So I say jump into bed early with good book or some knitting and enjoy it 🙂

Good luck x t.

Sarah B in Newcastle
July 12, 2011 at 9:49 am

I agree with SB’s comments, you need to be feeling strong to actually stick to the ‘new world order’ with the older kids. I understand the overwhelming feelings of not being able to cope, that come with long term sleep deprivation. Thankfully I am now beyond it, but there were times when I really wondered if I had postnatal depresseion, but really it was lack of good sleep. Lack of good sleep makes EVERYTHING harder, including being a half decent mother. So I found that I could be ‘tougher’ with making the older kids stay in bed, but knowing that I was a better, more patient and more reasonable mother, once I had more sleep on board. Good luck and be strong…..

July 12, 2011 at 11:56 am

Ahhh, we are mid-battle with the ‘sleeplessness’ of our five year old this last week. In the early days, a dear friend and I oft wondered if lack of sleep could kill us. Obviously it hasn’t, but it hasn’t made us stronger either! If it makes you feel better, which it probably won’t….I refer to both my children by their last name on occasion. They think it’s endearing….when it’s just a disguise for my confusion and random laziness…

July 12, 2011 at 12:38 pm

Sending well wishes for catching up on that sleep — oh so elusive! Will look forward to the postcards! 🙂

Secret Water
July 12, 2011 at 10:55 pm

The sleep deprivation is as much about snatching that precious “me time” staying up later than we should to do the things that make us feel alive and individual in addition to being a parent, as it is about being woken up by the wee people in the wee hours. I can so relate. On arrival of my second daughter the offspring are referred to as “This”, “That”and “The Other”. The Other is the dog 🙂

July 13, 2011 at 11:22 am

… sleep deprivation is seriously bad …

hope you’re catching up on some much needed zzzzs and that the family are moving forward with their self-settling techniques… ;)_

P.S. Love the daisy postcard..

July 14, 2011 at 9:54 am

our middle child didn’t sleep all night for the first 3 years, finally 14 years later I think I have caught up on the sleep backlog and he won’t get out of bed!
i feel like going into his room every night with a drum and waking him up as payback!


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