Getting Enough Sleep as a Parent

Children steal your sleep, it’s not possible to be a parent without any effect on the quantity and quality of sleep, unless you have vast retinue of retainers at your service. The worse your sleeping patterns are the worse every thing else become in your life, so its well worth mitigating the damage. If children’s are waking up a lot or sleeping at odd times they will probably become irritable, and unable to concentrate just like you….this is potentially a explosive combination. So you will have to make do with routines, common senses and basic psychology.
Hungry
Up to about three months, your sleep is probably not going to be great. . So sort yourself out for maximum comfort – cot next to the bed, baby in bed3, baby feeds while you’re asleep (breast feeding – the bottle tends to fall out of your hand…), whatever. After three months or so, you can start training your baby – spacing feeds, sleeping in their cot, sleeping in their own room perhaps. Good habits and a little bit of suffering now (you may have to sleep less while your baby adjusts) will give you precious extra zeds later.
Thirsty
From about the age when they are no longer in a cot, this is the ultimate weapon of the toddler. What parent could fail to acknowledge the wail of their progeny – ‘daddy I want a glass of water?’ It’s a mystery to this researcher why they get so thirsty at night, but one conclusion could be that this is an acceptable way, when waking up in the middle of the night, to get some attention from one’s parents. You can try putting a glass by the bed, making sure they have a drink at bedtime, but fundamentally, it’s you they want…
Bed Wetting
The downside of all this drinking, of course, is that it has to come out the other end. Children gradually gain control of their bladder from birth until, by the age of three, about half can and do remain dry through the night. Most of the rest have gained voluntary control by the age of five, but bed wetting is a problem for few unlucky ones.
1 in five year old suffers with this
1 in seven year old suffers with this
1 in eleven year old suffers with this,
1 in hundred suffer with it in their early adulthood.
Normally kidney produces a stream of urine in bladder, when it is full it’s stretched and sends signal to brain for the need of urinate. During sleep brain produces vasopressin, which reduces urine output from kidney, usually to a level where bladder does not fill completely until we are awake.
In some children’s brain is not producing enough vasopressin, but a good news is that brain increases the production as the child grows.
In some the bladder is not big enough, this will tend to show with frequent use of toilet during the day.
Some time brain does not recognise the signal because the sleep is deep.
In some the problem may be inherited.
And in some there may be some external factors like, stress, bullying, disturbance at home, or simply a scary bed time story.
Although parent can not teach their child to develop bladder control, but they can encourage child to learn by offering support and encouragement.
Sick
Even when things are going well, when you’ve been sleeping solidly for some time, the other thing that children do a lot of is get sick. This may involve in you waking up to check up on them, because you’re concerned. This is almost the worst, because not only are you up, you’re also having to react, make decisions, deal with a grumpy/weepy/hot/nauseous child. There’s not a lot you can do about it either – other than being prepared by having the appropriate bucket/medicine/spare bedclothes/ handy in case of need.
Terror
Monsters in the wardrobe, gremlins under the bed, nightmares, strange shadows, too dark, wind outside, rain on window, giant lobsters (yes, really): all of these are capable of generating abject terror in the average toddler to young child. They wake up and they will yell until you get there to comfort them. If you’re lucky, the shouting will wake any other children as well. You can try some words of comfort ‘giant lobsters live in the sea, son, not in your bedroom’ or ‘vampires and dragons are only in stories, and pirates and knights are only in the past.. You can try leaving the light on on the landing, or a night light. You can try avoiding certain stories as the bedtime read. But some nightmares are a normal part of development. If you can avoid that the child systematically comes into your bed as a response to this, then that would be a smart plan as this can be a hard habit to break.
Noise
Babies can be sensitive to the slightest creak on some occasions, but can also sleep on, impervious to the most incredible racket if tired enough or used to it. Some sort of halfway house seems the best approach on this – it seems reasonable that older brethren should pipe down while the baby is sleeping, but at the same time if they can only sleep in a ghostly quiet, this will not facilitate an eventual transition to some form of collective childcare, and will make your life trickier as well as everyone tiptoes around the house, finger to lips.
Early
Most children aren’t capable of outlasting their parents in the evening, fortunately, but they are more than capable of waking up at a time that even a dairy farmer would consider a bit premature. Solutions include darker curtains, strict instructions on what to do when they wake up ‘read your book until I come down’ or clocks with eyes shut, eyes open ‘if the rabbit has his eyes shut, go back to sleep’.
Diurnal
Part of the problem can be how long they are sleeping in the day, and when. If they sleep in the car on the way back from the creche, for example, it’s not surprising that they are not going to put their head back down on the pillow on arrival. Some nurseries impose a siesta, but maybe you can influence how long it is?
Miscellaneous
The creativity of children in finding a good excuse should not be underestimated. Recent examples that this researcher has encountered include ‘my pants are too tight’ (at 3 am), or ‘I can’t find my soft rabbit’ (at 1 am). The possibilities are almost limitless.
Routine
This is a solution, rather than a problem. Children are creatures of habit – if most nights you feed them round the same time, and then have an endgame routine – wash, teeth, read a book, lights out (for example) – this reduces the potential for conflict, and increases the possibility that they go to sleep contented and therefore do not wake up. The constituent parts of the routine vary with age, obviously, but putting in place a routine can be done from a very early age. The downside of this dependency on predictability is that if you allow them to pick up bad habits, it makes it hard to put it right. For young children, avoiding television, computer games, boisterous activity or other over stimulation at bedtime is always a good plan.
Another angle on this is predictable behaviour when dealing with a plea to attention. One possibility is the first time you go into them, you talk to them and reassure them. After that, you just go in and tuck them in but no talk, no hug, no matter how many times they call you. They soon get the message that there’s no point in calling you again. Another is – first time comfort, second time perfunctory, third time cross. For younger children, you have ‘controlled crying’ – leaving them for a set amount of time, then comforting them (normally without picking them up), leaving them again, etc until they get into the habit of sleeping through.
Despite all and any of these tactics, for more or less long periods of your life as a parent, none of it may work. You may just have to grit your teeth and wait for it to pass. If you find yourself really distressed through lack of sleep or the problem is ongoing, then see your GP or similar source of advice – specialist sleep clinics and the like exist for extreme case.