Sunday, October 12, 2014

Sleep. Or lack, thereof.

This is what I've been doing a lot of, the past few nights.

I gotta tell you, if this was my first, or maybe even my second baby, I wouldn't last that long. But because she's my baby, she gets the royal treatment around here. Which is probably why we are having these problems to begin with!
Sleep deprivation is one of the hardest aspects of parenting. If we aren't getting good sleep, it's almost impossible to be a good parent. Likewise, if our children aren't getting good sleep, it's difficult for them to be well behaved during the day.
I can't tell you how many people have balked at us when we tell them how early we put our kids to bed. Most nights, Brylie is down at 6:30pm, Molly at 7pm and our boys at 8pm. I do this for several reasons. First, mommy needs a break!!!! Being a parent is non stop and without a break at night, I might go crazy. Which is why I feel like I"m going a little crazy these past few days. Brylie has been going through a bad sleeping streak (having trouble falling asleep and waking at least once in the middle of the night), leaving Adam and I ZERO time to ourselves. In the middle of the night is when I feel like the worst parent. I have no patience, I am crabby and all I want is for everyone to sleep.
The second reason I put my kids down early is because they seem to sleep better that way. I promise. When we keep the kids up late, they don't seem to sleep much later the next morning, or if they do, then they won't nap well, which throws the rest of the day off. Sleep begets sleep. Keeping them in a good sleep routine seems to make them better sleepers. In fact, adults could probably benefit from kids sleeping habits, because the best way to feel rested is to go to bed and wake up and the same time every day. Yep, even on the weekends. My kids have all read that article because they are pros at this. 7am on the weekend and we are all up. Except for our 9 year old, who would sleep his morning away if we let him! Even one weekend night of them staying up way too late, results in crabby kids for 24-48 hours. Not fun.
A couple other sleeping tips that worked for me:
1. Put them to bed early. <See above>
2. Have a routine at night. We go through the same things pretty much every night, bath or shower, brushing teeth, going to the bathroom, reading a story, scratching back, turn on music and leave. For the most part, it works well. But there are nights, or weekends, where something interrupts that pattern and what is typical goes out the window. And that's when you'll find me rocking and singing and shushing and pulling out every trick in my book.
3. Dress them for the climate. When my kids (especially as babies) are cold, they don't sleep as well! I found that the warm summer nights made for excellent sleep. Kids tend to kick off covers and if they get cold, instead of pulling on blankets like adults do, sometimes its enough to wake them and then yell for you. Or just come in your room. Like mine do. Yeah, there's that. 
4. Be flexible. I think the bottom line for all sleep related issues is that we ALL need sleep. So while it might not create the best habits, mommy needs to sleep, so climbing in my bed at 2am so we can all sleep, is A-Okay with me. I know some people co-sleep for a long time, and I'm totally cool with that, but once my babies become toddlers, I can't do that on a nightly basis. I'm a light sleeper and they keep me up! I am a huge co-sleeping advocate with my babies, although I know there is controversy with that, and I'd encourage any mom to make sure to co-sleep safely. I just can't do toddlers, or big kids. Last night, my very large 6 1/2 year old climbed in our bed at 3am because he had a bad dream. He fell right back asleep, but I, on the other hand, tossed and turned for 45 minutes before convincing my husband to carry him back to his room because I wasn't sleeping. Bottom line, do what works for you, but make sure it's not at the expense of you getting some shut eye.
5. Use siblings for assistance! Both of my boys have reading homework--they are supposed to be reading 20-30 minutes, nightly. Starting as soon as I had a solid reader in the house (when Jake was 5), I had him read to his brother at night. They shared a room, so this worked perfectly. Jake was getting his reading time in, while his brother loved to listen. Now, we'll have the boys trade off, reading to their sisters. The girls love this time and Adam and I can pick up around the house or do last minute things during this part of the bedtime routine. Now, we aren't totally off the hook, we still do 1 story with them, but the boys will do a long reading time beforehand, and it's great for all of them! I think it's really turned my boys into fantastic readers! Lots and lots of practice.
6. Do a sleep trade off. In the summers, hubby and I don't work. Yes, it's amazing. #whenteachersmarryteachers Anyway, we have the opportunity to do a sleep trade off in the morning. Adam and I love our summer nights, sitting outside around our fire, watching movies, having friends over after the kids are in bed, or nerding out on our computers. The point is, we like to stay up late. But, our kids are still fairly early risers, so we trade off mornings. One parent sleeps in while the other gets up. It's a great tactic to employ on the weekends, if that works for you, too. I love getting a couple extra hours of sleep, even if it's only 1-2 mornings a week.
7. Don't read sleep books. I mean, do if you really want to. There are some good techniques to employ. But the thing is, no baby is alike and no baby knows how to read a book in order to figure out how they should be. I am proof that babies come in all shapes and sizes, different personalities and different sleeping habits. As far as newborns, I did the exact same thing with my babies and had 2 good sleepers, 1 okay sleeper and 1 not-so-great. My good sleepers were my fat babies! I exclusively breastfed all of them, but my boys were super duper rolly polly and were able to store up and fill up their tummies better and I really think it contributed to better sleep. It didn't matter what I did, they just slept better. My tiniest baby was my worst sleeper. Coincidence, maybe? But I think that was part of it. When I'd give her bottles, she'd never take down more than 4 oz at a time, when my boys would easily gulp 8oz! Eventually, they became good sleepers and I can't complain because, for the most part, mine are.
It's just that weekends like this, remind me that sleep is such a hard battle that we fight. If only every baby/child got the memo that mommy and daddy need sleep.
Now, off to bed. And hopefully a long, full night of sleep.
One can dream, right? =)

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