The joy of sleep

Those first few weeks with a newborn are always tough. Ruth has been a very good baby — no colic, eating well — but even good-tempered babies can’t go more than a few hours without eating. So you get to know numbers on the clock that you usually don’t: 1 a.m., 3 a.m., etc.

sleeping babyBut then, things slowly start to get better. The baby sleeps for 4 hours straight and — if you’re smart — so do you. Then that long stretch of sleep becomes longer. Getting my older kids to bed has always been a battle that means I couldn’t immediately go to bed if Ruth went down at 8:30, but even so, if I was in bed by 10, those first nights where she slept 6-7 hours straight meant I could sleep for 5, which starts to feel like a full night (especially when supplemented by a good long “nap” from, say, 4 a.m. – 6:30 a.m.). You slowly start to feel human again.

Then, over Christmas, she started sleeping through the night on a regular basis. A long night of the sort I could never get from my other two kids — 8 p.m. to 7: a.m. Wow! It’s like the universe’s little gift to me that my third child is an awesome sleeper. And so, as my own gift to myself, I’ve been trying to change a few other things about my life to enjoy at least a few nights of really solid sleep per week.

First, I go to bed early. I like staying up, puttering around and reading, but I’ve decided reading isn’t a huge priority in my life right now when it’s not books for work (reviews or books I’m being asked to blurb).

Second, I stop drinking water early. If the baby isn’t up at 3 a.m., why should I be up anyway, going to the bathroom?

Third, I’ve decided to spend some nights in my “own” bedroom. This was a harder idea to get my head around, but my husband stays up later than I do, and I’d often wake up when he came to bed. Our 4-year-old sometimes winds up coming into the bed as well, and that would wake me up. My husband doesn’t seem to mind it as much — he’s a deeper sleeper.

Anyway, I don’t do that every night, but if I really want to sleep, it’s an option. And sleep I do. There have been a few nights over Christmas vacation when I slept 8 hours straight with no wake-ups for the first time in ages. It feels wonderful. Like I can conquer the world! It’s especially important as a way to neutralize the truly lousy nights of sleep that are always possible when one has little kids. We spent New Year’s Eve at an Embassy Suites in Washington D.C. It was a 2-room suite (the hotel’s major selling point), but with 5 of us in there I assumed things would not be great. Even so, I didn’t anticipate how bad. The baby only woke up once, but my 2-year-old started screaming randomly and incoherently (because he was still half asleep) three separate times during the night. I spent a stretch of time between 6:30 and 7:30 a.m. with my two older children sleeping on top of me while I was lying on the couch. Yikes.

But what made me relatively calm about the experience was knowing that I could sleep the next night. So last night it was into my own room at 10:15 p.m., waking up, sans alarm clock, at 7:15 a.m. Beautiful.

How do you maximize your sleep?

flickr image courtesy of xlibber

9 thoughts on “The joy of sleep

  1. My 20 month old son has finally over christmas started sleeping through – although not consistently enough yet for me to relax enough and not wake up through the night anyway. As the mother of a boy who had never slept longer than 4 hours (and more often less) I am giddy with the prospect of a full nights sleep!

    Long may it continue for all of us x

  2. When my son was a newborn, my husband and i alternated nights which meant that every other night one of us would get a full night sleep! I just really loved it when it was my turn, i would go to bed early, closed the door and would be out until the next morning. (whoever had the night off, got rhe bedroom and the other one slept in the guest room, so it was a true night off)

    It was extremely important to me to get my son on a good schedule as soon as possible for my own wellbeing as well as his own . He is 2 now and goes to bed at 7:30 which gives me a lot of me time in the evenings. I think it worth a bit of pain at the beginning for the long term gain. People expect their kids to somehow become good sleepers while they continue to live their own lives. I was lucky to figure out early enough that for kids below 2 years of age you have to live around them. So to preserve proper bed time we didn’t go out past 5 pm (his bed time was 6pm), we rarely had him nap on the go, etc. A quiet evening at home was worth it to me more than a night out with an overtired child who wakes up at night. So many people make that mistake, it really baffles me. Or maybe a long evening rest and a good night sleep is not as important to them. Or maybe they want to gave it both ways?

    I always hated nap when the baby is napping advice. It put me under so much pressure and I dont know how people do it, i mean i cant just drop to sleep when he is asleep and esp that i never knew how long he would sleep, esp when he was very little. I would wake up more tired than i was in the first place. So i made sure i have my nights uninterrupted.

    I still make sure I get 8 hours at night most nights although i love to stay up reading or watching movies with my husband.

    I never knew how important a good night sleep was for me until i had my child. Before sleeping seemed like such a waste of time, but i had the luxury of sleeping in on the weekends, which i don’t have anymore. I must say that i enjoy my ealy mornings after 8 hours of sleep more than sleeping in in the mornings. Everything has its perks!

    1. @Stela- sleep is certainly nice. Two things to keep in mind though with the choices different parents make. One, all kids are different. There is no power on earth that can make my 2-year-old go to bed at 7:30. Believe me, we have tried. He will stay up in his room until 10. On the plus side, he also sleeps later. I prefer a kid to be in bed at 9 and wake up at 7:30 than in bed at 7:30 and up at 6! Also, you can try to revolve your life around the kid’s sleeping schedule… but once you have more than one kid this becomes a lot harder. Should you not bring a 2-year-old out to the park for a beautiful morning because the baby has to sleep in his crib for exactly 90 minutes at 9:30am?

      1. I couldn’t agree more with your comment that all kids are different.I’ve beaten myself up so much over the last year and a half about why my son won’t go to bed at 7pm when all the other babies do. Now I’m realising that he’s just not made that way and if I go with it there’s every chance he’ll be asleep by 8.30.
        The advantage of this is that it means we can do the odd late night for family events and he’ll take it in his stride.

      2. Unfortunatelly, as many parents dont seem to realize, good sleepers are made, not born. Wehave tomake it possible for our kids to sleepand most people i know dont seem to want to ‘suffer’ through it . My son was a horrible sleeper, nothing like infants who can do 6-7 hour stretch or your baby who goes that long without feedings. But beware, infant good sleep means nothing for their future sleep. They dont just turn into a great sleepers without us having to do anything at all ( and ifsome babies do, great, buti havent met any) Seeing myfriends bed struggles with their kids of all ages makes me be,ieve that after good health, your childs good sleep is the second most important thing for both mom and child wellbeing.

        My son is up at 7:30 every morning. I think he wakes up a bit earlier than that but seems to like lying down until he wakes up. His former bed time was around6 to 6. It is a common misconsception that if they go to bed laterthat they will necessarily sleep later.( definitely not true for majority of kids pre 18 months) In fact, the more the sleep, the more they sleep.

        About taking your2 year old out whenyour baby isnapping – no idea. I only have one child so far. Kudos to you for having 3 so close in age and when you seem to be the only one getting up at night!

        Sorry about misspellings, on my phone,,,

        1. @Stella – I don’t want to get into a sleep flame war here! I have read the various sleep books out there with various pronouncements like “sleep begets sleep” and the like. I think they’re like diet books. They work for some families (especially those who only have one kid and can be fundamentalist about sleeping in the crib at certain times), and then the parents become evangelical about them. They don’t work for others, but as with diet books, the majority of people who it doesn’t work for just assume they did something wrong or weren’t committed enough. Maybe. Or maybe it just doesn’t work for everyone because kids are different.

          1. Ok. I just wonder how come most kids are such crappy sleepers! (only children or multiples) No need to get defensive.

    2. I concur with Laura about the poor sleepers. Also, I found that my children would sleep for 5-6 hours (and I had a 23 month old who mostly slept at night) If I put them to bed at 7 PM, they would be up from 1 AM to 5 AM. I decided midnight to 5 AM was my “block of greatest need.”

      I have adult friends who only need 5-6 hr sleep. I pity their mothers.

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