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.
But 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