Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Sleep, What Else?

Moxie has a post today about sleep, and Cinnamon Gurl, at Write About Here (one of my favorite bloggers) had a post about sleep (or the lack thereof) earlier this week.

I could say that this has gotten me thinking about sleep, but that would be a lie, since I think about sleep a lot. One of the unexpected things about becoming a mommy has been my new appreciation for sleep. I used to almost resent sleep- it was keeping me from doing more interesting things, like sitting in a pub drinking beer and talking with my Hubby until all hours or watching some halfway funny comedian on Comedy Central. You know, the important stuff. Now, I appreciate sleep for the joy that it is. I luxuriate in the rare mornings when Pumpkin lets us sleep in (i.e., until 6:45 or 7). I love a good nap. You get the idea.

Anyway, as anyone who has been reading my blog or talking to me in real life knows, Pumpkin is not the best sleeper. She is not as bad as some, but is nowhere near as good as others. For almost a year, I struggled with this. I tried techniques from books. I scoured websites looking for new ideas. Hubby and I formulated plans and held sleep experiments. We were doing everything "right"- she had an early bedtime, a schedule that we stuck to, low key evenings, she didn't fall asleep nursing etc, etc. But still, Pumpkin did better sometimes, and sometimes worse.

Finally, I gave up. I accepted that Pumpkin will sleep "well" when she is ready to sleep "well". Or she will go off to college and appreciate the extra studying time that her sleep habits provide. Whatever.

I redirected the energy I had been spending searching for a way to make Pumpkin sleep better to thinking of ways to get myself and Hubby more sleep. This is not to say that I don't continue to try new things to improve our sleep situation. I still do that. Recently, I got Pumpkin to start going down into her crib awake by introducing a story that I tell her. I start the story while she's in my arms, and by the end, she's in her crib. Some nights, I have to repeat the story a few times, but most nights I don't have to pick her up again. This has made bedtime much easier, but hasn't noticeably changed the number of nightwakings. We are also considering trying to move her bedtime earlier again, although this seems to be a losing battle- we move it earlier, and she slowly moves it later again. She seems a bit overtired by bath time, though, so I'm considering rejoining the fight. I'm trying to figure out if we can use the upcoming time change to help.

Pumpkin is now 18 months old, and has only slept through the night a handful of times. Most nights, she wakes up once or twice. She nurses one of those times, the first time she asks for it. This is usually sometime around 1 or 2 in the morning. Occasionally, she has a bad night (or she's sick) and I end up nursing twice. She sleeps until about 6 a.m. most mornings. Sometimes, she wakes up at 5 and we bring her into bed with us, and then we all sleep until 6 or 6:30. Well, we all try to sleep. She often chooses to snuggle so aggressively that one of us can't sleep. On those mornings, I try to remember that when she is off in college, I will miss those aggressive snuggles.

So, how do I stay sane? Sometimes, it doesn't feel like I am staying sane. But there are several things we do to help keep me from going completely crazy from sleep deprivation:

1. My parents come over periodically and give us a night away. They stay in our house with Pumpkin, and we go sleep in a hotel with enough stars to guarantee a comfy bed. We use Priceline or something similar to find a good deal somewhere in Southern California. These nights also give us a chance to have dinner without interruption, to talk, and to have a drink or two. They are priceless, and we're very thankful for them. In fact, next weekend, we are going away for two whole nights, and we're both really looking forward to it. Amazingly, my parents are looking forward to it, too!

2. If Pumpkin is going through a particularly bad phase, I often find that even when she is asleep, I can't sleep. I lie there waiting for her to wake up. This occasionally leads to a night where she sleeps great and I still get little sleep, which is incredibly annoying. To combat this, I take Tylenol PM. The Tylenol alleviates the aches and pains that I always have (does that mean I'm getting old?) The "PM" is just Benadryl, which is quite safe, even while nursing. Benadryl really knocks me out though- I never could take it as an actual allergy medication. In fact, my ob/gyn told me to take it while I was pregnant, when I was having trouble sleeping. It has its downsides- I wake up very thirsty, and the sleep isn't of the same quality as I get when everyone is sleeping well. But the pluses outweigh the minuses for me.

3. Hubby usually gets up with Pumpkin on the weekends, so that I can sleep another hour or two. If we're both getting up a lot during the night, we trade off weekend sleep in days, but when Pumpkin is in an "only Mommy will do in the middle of the night" phase, I get both weekend days.

4. I try to nap at least one of the two weekend days. However, she has an annoying habit of waking up and needing to be resettled when she naps on the weekends, and she usually decides to wake up about 10 minutes after I fall asleep, whenever that is. If I really, really need a nap, Hubby takes her out for a walk or run in her stroller while I sleep.

And of course, I go to bed early. So it is 9:30 now, and it is bedtime!


  1. It is so frustrating isn't it? We've finally gotten out of that nasty sleep spot you're describing, I think she just hit a stage where being alone in her crib was ok instead of a disaster. Still, there are occasional nights (or strings of nights) where the sleep starts deteriorating and I start to panic. Because that trick of waking up 10 minutes after you've gone to sleep? Oh yeah, that killed my ability to get to sleep on my own. Sounds like you're doing an awesome job of coping.

  2. We've gotten a few month full nights of sleep than you have, but our girl is not a good sleeper either. We do 3 and 4 also. I wish we could do 1, and when my MIL is in town, she does take the night shift in place of us (she begs to!). I should look into number 2. That's a good idea.

    Oh, and per your suggestion, I've started telling her stories when she wakes up screaming in the middle of the night. It doesn't work to put her to bed, but it has worked to calm her down in the night, so thanks!

  3. Oh oh oh. I hear you on this. I take Gravol (dimenhydrinate -- I don't know what the brand name is in the US, and anti-nauseant) instead of Tylenol PM. I also wear earplugs. It's tough to imagine that we can continue to function on so little sleep, and yet, there it is.

    Sounds like your turn from trying to make her get more sleep, to trying to get you more sleep is a very good one. Great attitude.

  4. @caramama- I'm glad the storytelling is helping. I have been amazed at how well it works for us. It had to be the right story, though. The first one I made up frankly sucked, and she wasn't impressed. The new one is better.

    I only cope well about 90% of the time. I reserve the right to freak out about my crappy sleep situation for the other 10% of the time.


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