Sleep Deprivation Is A Real Thing

Alan Riley

When my daughter was born, the doctor made a comment to me about how long a newborn baby sleeps.  He stated it was completely normal for a baby to wake up every two hours, and that this was the norm for the first couple of months of a new baby’s life.  My daughter, however, never fell into this norm.  For the first 2 weeks, she slept four hours a night without waking up. From 2 weeks until about 6 months she slept around 6 hours a night, and eventually 6 hours turned into 8 hours, and 8 hours turned into 10 hours without me having to sleep train her or really follow any special advice.   By 9 months she was completely sleeping through the night, and we had zero issues at night with her.  When I heard other mothers complain about how they were not getting sleep because their baby didn’t sleep, I simply thought, “Hmm, that’s strange.”  Even more, when I heard parents of toddlers and preschoolers comment on how their little ones would not go to sleep at a decent time and how they often crawled into their beds every night, I thought, "Hmm.  That will never be me.  I like my bed without my kids, and I like my sleep.  It is so easy with a baby, I can't imagine why it would be difficult with a toddler to get them to sleep."  I admit I was a little judgmental.  

Fast forward 15 months later when our twins were born, and I soon understood what sleep deprivation was.  One twin was always waking up the other, and they woke up every hour or two hours for what seemed an eternity.  By 7 months, they were sleeping about 4-6 hours a night which might seem promising but they were still waking up before 3:00 am.  In addition, my daughter was up until about 8:30 pm to 9:30 pm every night, and when she would finally lay down she would get out of bed several times before actually falling asleep, in addition, she often cried because she did not want to go to bed.  It was right around this time that I knew I could not continue to go about my day and night without proper sleep.  My husband and I were completely sleep deprived, and really never had any time for just us at night.  I felt that my lack of sleep impacted my relationship with my  husband, my ability to be a good mommy, and to be the career woman I am.  I felt crazy on the inside, and looked exhausted on the outside.  It is was at this time that we took two big steps to help improve our household and sleep habits for our little ones.

  1. Establish a bedtime routine: This can include dimming the lights, reading a story, turning on the night light and a noise maker, as well as singing your favorite baby songs.  It is important to remember that a routine can involve a number of things to get your little one ready for bed, but it is important that the routine is consistent with the same activities and time every night.  This will help establish with your little ones that there is an established bedtime, and everyone in the house follows it. 
  2. Make a commitment: It is easy to say such things as, "Well, it is Saturday.  We don't really need to follow the routine tonight."  When adjustments are consistently made to the bedtime routine, it is no longer a routine.  It is important that both you and your partner agree to the bedtime routine and stick to it no matter what.  

Once my husband and I made steps to establish a bedtime routine, as well as make a commitment to it, our little ones began to go to sleep at a decent time, and sleep through the night.  My twins were in their cribs by 7:00 pm, and my daughter was in her bed by 7:30 pm without the crying and yelling of going to bed.  There are, of course, many steps parents can take to support their children's sleeping habits, but these are just two that certainly helped our household. 

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