For the past five years I have been preoccupied by sleep. I have been deprived of sleep off and on for that period of time. I can be obsessive about how much sleep I am getting, how much sleep other people are getting and about methods to maximise my sleeping potential. My first baby was not a sleeper and this is when the torture (sleep deprivation is a recognised method of torture) of being awake for hours on end started. I am still haunted by memories of those nights of pacing the floor for hours on end so desperately tired. Then there is the going to sleep – how long am I going to get before he wakes up and it starts again? That is also a horrible feeling. The whole “sleep when your baby’s sleeping” thing doesn’t work. You never know if you are going to get one minute or one hour. You also have stacks of washing, cooking and cleaning to do.There are a few nice wee memories in there of being awake with my wee baby in the wee small hours feeling like the only two people in the world, but jeez the impact of so little sleep was agonising. When we got past the worst of it, we moved on to the really early morning rising. Prior to this, when I was in the thick of the continual night time waking I had thought “I don’t mind if I gets up really early, as long as I can get a decent stretch of sleep. ” Turns out I was wrong, I do mind. Getting up at 5am to start your day isn’t fun. The other thing, is never getting a long lie. There are no weekends.
Billy was slightly better with the “sleep while your baby is sleeping thing – Baby 1
As I prepared for the arrival of baby number two, I had fairly low expectations. I did not expect to be getting much sleep. We definitely have not hit the depths of sleep deprivation brought on with baby one, but the sleep tank is often running on empty. We go through phases when we get a couple of good nights and I think we have turned the corner then it is back to being wakened every two hours. The other hard thing is that I have often just managed to get baby two sleeping and the big one decides that today is the day for a 6am rise – after I have been awake with baby two for the past two hours.
The impact of sleep deprivation is interesting. I often find I have good ideas during the nights. My big problem is remembering them the next day. I also make plans which seem great in my head at the time, but not so great in the cold light of day. The worst side effect of sleep deprivation is short-temperdness. I unreservedly confess to this. I am definitely more forgetful and find concentration more challenging. The physical effects are not pretty. I have way more wrinkles and bad skin, hair loss, less energy, shattered nerves…There is also a temptation to eat unhealthily and load up on caffeine. Sleep is definitely an obsession and ironically something I rarely thought about BC – before children. My latest fantasy is of escaping to Narnia for a year, sleeping in Mr Beaver’s house and then returning to this world only a few minutes later. I recently watched a Michael McIntyre sketch about how life changes after kids. He talks about childless couples saying “Goodnight darling, sleep well.” “I will” replies the partner. When you have children, you turn to each other at night and simply say, “Good luck.”