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Sleep deprivation: how to survive when children won’t sleep

Lack of sleep? You must be a parent! Don’t find that joke funny? Fair call – sleep deprivation has a way of surgically removing our sense of humour. Besides, there’s nothing terribly funny about walking through your days in a zombielike state, bleary-eyed, teary, fatigued, permanently forgetful, and did we mention moody?

Okay, let’s not mention moody.

Having kids and being deprived of sleep go hand-in-hand. Sadly, it’s just part of the gig. Everyone goes through it. Take no notice of the woman in the school carpark that declares her children sleep like a dream from 8 PM to 6 AM. She’s lying. Or she possesses children that defy the laws of nature, like four-year-old kids that make their beds or keep themselves quietly amused while you’re on the telephone.

Doesn’t happen.

Occasionally, yes occasionally, you’ll witness OPC’s (Other People’s Children) quietly taking themselves to bed at 7:30 PM, or sleeping through the morning, not even stirring till 9:30 AM. But these are rare events. Like flying pigs.

There are ways of coping, though. And over time, you’ll acquire skills to cope with lack of sleep. Let’s talk about ways of changing our thinking and behaviour around this issue – here are tips that may help.

Forgive yourself

If you find yourself overwhelmingly angry with your children, that’s okay. That doesn’t mean that you don’t love them. You’re simply annoyed (alright then, extremely annoyed) with their behaviour. It’s okay to occasionally indulge in less-than-perfect parenting techniques. You know, like bribery, threats, manipulation, and temper tantrums (your own).

Be flexible

When it comes to parenting, there is no strict right and wrong. We’re human beings; parenting is not an exact science. Books, mothers groups and advice are just guides, not gospel. Remember: most advice is simply information that works for other people. Advice can be a great thing, which is why people often give it. But sometimes it doesn’t work.

One more thing on advice: practice the art of smiling and nodding. If you’re feeling generous, you may even say thank you. But don’t feel you have to take up these nuggets of wisdom. Just smile and nod. Do what works for you and yours

This experience is not unique to you

That’s right, you’re not the first person to go through chronic sleep deprivation because of your less than perfect children. And if you feel that you’re the only one going through this pain, it’s time to connect with others. Now obviously, if you’re at home with a young child or children, jumping in your car and finding friends to have a few hours of fun and let off steam with is not the appropriate solution. But you can jump online. There are forums, Facebook pages, and friends to chat with – people going through the same issues you’re going through. Once again, you don’t have to take others’ advice, but you can share how you’re feeling and coping with your lack of sleep.

Listen to your instincts

How to survive when your children stay awake all night - Sage Institute of Child CareNow, we’re not talking “mummy intuition” silly-talk, you know, when parents think they know better than their doctors. We’re talking common sense instincts. Like when you know that your child is simply really, really tired, or that banana yoghurt may possess divine powers. Or maybe if you slip into bed next to your child and sleep, all will be fine. Just go with it.

Communicate with your partner

Communicating with your partner will make you feel less alone, less burdened and help with the pair of you finding solutions to your child not sleeping at night time. The trick is in the timing. Don’t wait until you’re at your wit’s end and ready to spit venom. Not a good idea. Try to find a time when things are a little calmer, quieter, when you’ve had at least some rest.

This too shall pass

As many a wise man has said (and probably more than a few women, but history has a way of not mentioning them), this too shall pass. Your child’s reluctance to sleep will pass. We promise. At some point, she won’t need you so much. She won’t be so afraid of the curtains forever. She won’t be afraid of the dark. She won’t want to play that game.

Who knows? She may even want to go to sleep. Now there’s something to look forward to.

Sage Institute of Child Care – it’s more than a job, it’s a rewarding career

Vicki Tuchtan

Vicki Tuchtan

Vicki Tuchtan is the Academic Director at Sage Institute of Education. She oversees learning processes, teaching outcomes, resources and course development. A passionate advocate for bettering standards of training in Australia, she is currently writing her PhD thesis on defining quality training in the Australian vocational education sector.
Vicki Tuchtan

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