Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Sleep deprivation? Not on your nelly...

When you're a blogging kinda gal, you get close to those around you - so when Josie from Sleep is for the Weak announced that she would be hosting a 'Sleep Deprivation' carnival, I wanted to help her out. The ony problem was, apart from laying awake all night trying to think about what to write for her (which she assured me didn't count as 'authentic' sleep deprivation), I really didn't know what I would write.

You see, the thing is, although I'm a Mother of two small children, I don't really suffer from sleep deprivation, as such. Yes, my favourite thing to say when people ask me how I am is 'exhausted', but that's more about the fact that I've been up fiddling around with the computer all night, rather than the fact that my children haven't been sleeping.

You see, they sleep rather well. Amazingly almost.

This morning I had to wake Renée up at 8 o'clock so she had time for breakfast before school. And Edie followed shortly after. They had both been in bed since 6.30 the night before.

And they hadn't woken up.

At all.


When I tell people about my children's sleeping, they often think I'm lying, or else, they tell me that I'm extremely lucky.

Lying. Why would I? When my child does a poo at a smart garden party and I manage to step in it, I tell you. When I am in tears because I think my (then) unborn child has a cleft lip, then I tell you. Why would I lie about their sleeping? It would be much more fun to tell you that they've both been up all night and I'm currently dying of exhaustion (and I'm sure it would elicit far more sympathy too). But that wouldn't be the truth.

But am I lucky? Well, yes, of course I am. BUT, that luck didn't just happen. I like to think that I made it.

There was once a time when I was dying of exhaustion, believe me. After giving birth to Edie, I was miserable. I was over the moon to have two beautiful children, but in truth, it was so much more work that I could ever have imagined. I loved having one child. I loved everything about it. I loved gazing at my adorable newborn and imagining that I was the only person ever to have such feelings of happiness. I slept when she slept, revelled in my new role as natural mother and truly thought I had found my vocation in life. So when Edie came along, I thought it would be even easier.

I was wrong.

Not only did she not sleep.

At all.


But she fed like a demon and I never seemed to have enough milk for her.

I remember when she was a tiny baby, she'd be awake all day and then I'd pray for her to sleep at night. Just an hour. Anything. But she wouldn't. Instead she'd toss and turn in her moses basket, fidget next to me, cry and fuss on top of me. And I'd cry too. So much. And just when she'd finally drop off to sleep, I'd catch a faint whiff of her tiny newborn nappy and I'd know that she'd have to be woken up for a change.

It was soul destroying.

When she would eventually find the knowhow to drop off to sleep, her big sister would wake up, full of joy and full of the energy of a two-year old.

In those early days of having two children I reckon I had two hours sleep a night and never was that in one go.

Like I said, I was miserable.

But instead of driving myself insane, which I could easily have done, I decided that I absolutely, definitely had to do something about it.

My husband works away from home a great deal and therefore, although I'm married, I often feel like a single Mother. And that means that the children are my responsibility, 24 hours a day. If the children don't sleep, then I don't sleep. And if they stay up all night, as my French in-laws would have them do, then I would never have a moment to myself. As much as I adore my children, I don't find that a very welcoming prospect.

So what did I do?

Controlled crying is what.

You've probably heard of it. And if you have then you either find it a barbaric thought, or you swear by it. I fall into the latter category, as does Really Rachel who wrote a post about it too.

I'm not sure you need boring with the finer details. I think Really Rachel gives a good account.

All I can say is - it took three nights. That's all. Edie was about seven or eight months old. Not yet able to pull herself up and rattle the sides of the cot or shout 'Mama' (as Renée had done a couple of years earlier). It was hideous, obviously, to hear my darling child cry and wail. But it was more hideous, for both of us, to get no sleep.

They are now five and almost three and they both sleep like a dream.

I don't wake up in the morning feeling like I've drunk five bottles of wine (chance would be a fine thing). And they don't spend the day getting cranky or whiny.

They love their sleep.

And so do I.

Night night my friends....


  1. I am often sleep deprived (or feel that way) because my boys are both early risers. What I wouldn't give for them to wake at 8am. It has NEVER happened. However, they do sleep all night long and are both in bed between 6.30 and 7pm. I too did the controlled crying technique. Started it with CU when he was 6 months old. Cried more than he did the first night - but like you, after 3 nights he woke with a snuffle, then put himself back to sleep. It took me a while longer to get a full night's shut eye, because my senses were still on hyper alert. But soon we were both SO much happier.

    I also did the same with JD. Had hoped that he would sleep through by himself but if anything he was worse than CU. He also had more stamina and protested much more vigorously than CU at being left unattended. But after 5 nights he slept through without a whimper. And never once did either boy seem to resent me in the morning. Never once did I get the sense that they felt they had been abandoned. They were just as happy, just as responsive and just as smiley as when I had sat up with them for hours at a time.

    It's not for everyone. But it was essential for me and my sanity. Nice to know I wasn't alone, in what can seem like an extreme technique for mums who really love their babies but just can't cope with the sleep deprivation for one more second.

  2. I love this - thank you so much.

    Ok, so CC isn't for me but that doesn't mean it's not a valid choice and I know does work well with some babies.

    I'm really hoping that all the posts from this Sleep Carnival will act as kind of Sleep Deprivation Primer - with every technique and experience under the sun for people to read and relate to. Your experience is very much valid so thank you.

    As well as your post last night I recieved another contribution in which the parent used other techniques and strategies and, yes, it took a bit longer but her baby too now sleeps beautifully. THAT'S what I love - just goes to show you have to find what works for you and what sits right with you as a parent.


  3. Both of mine slept like the proverbial logs. Number One Son slept for almost two days as soon as he was born. Now a university student and aged 20, nothing changes. However, I do remember where he went through a phase of waking and crying. I was a working mum, didn't have a choice, and had to do something about it. So I too adopted the controlled crying technique. Worked like a dream.

  4. Brilliant post!
    I am the same as you, both E and V sleep really well now and I have always been lucky with both of them. But I also did a bit of control crying with Victor, because he was a bit more erratic with his sleeping pattern than Elliott. So when it is your second child and you are in the phase when you always have one child awake to entertain it becomes a necessity to get them to sleep together ASAP. I am lucky to have them down for a nap 2 hours in the afternoon and they sleep from 7.30 to 6.30 at night, so I am definitely lucky.

  5. I swear by it, too. I think the name is stupid, though - it's as if it was designed to put people off. There's really not that much crying involved. And it makes it sound cruel. It's not cruel at all. The children are happy and cry far less than they otherwise would have done in the long run.

    It should be called something like "sleep routine maker" or "mommy's sanity fix". Then it would be far less controversial.

    Great post. It has inspired me to do my own.

  6. Excellent article. I did controlled crying and like you said it took just three nights. Although I swear by it now that first night when Ami screamed for an hour was horrible, but on the 4th night she went off to sleep like a little angel.

    These days it's coughs, colds and itchy eczema that wake our youngest up in the night and give me sleep deprivation. Just like last night. I'm off for a large latte caffine hit....

  7. Really interesting to read such an excellent piece with what could be seen as the exact opposite to my experience, also recounted for Josie...


    I wish had had the presence of mind to sort this out like you did but I don't mind admitting it was beyond me. x

  8. For the most part, mine sleep really well too. What I wonder is -- why the heck am I always so tired?!

  9. Like you, I'm a fan of controlled crying, although it is agony as you go through it (unless you are my husband, who just slept through the whole experience!) It does have to be done at the right age/stage though: too early and it is not as likely to be effective.

    Now my problem is getting the children to go to bed. "I'm not tired!" stomp, stomp. And then them reading in bed, or playing with toys - not necessarily immediately but sometimes for an hour or two in the middle of the night. It doesn't deprive me of sleep at all ... just them.

  10. The one thing being a parent has taught me is that it doesn't matter what other people think, what works for you is the ONLY choice be it controlled crying or something else

    Sleep deprivation isn't just about feeling tired, its about the way it influences every part of your life

  11. Make sure you give those children an extra big goodnight kiss, they truly are treasures.

    I swear my eye's looked like dog's balls until Alexander was 4,


  12. I'm similarly lucky with the Boys, and we also used CC with the older one. Funnily enough, with his younger brother it never seemed necessary - but then again I didn't have to go back to work when he was 7 months as I did with Boy #1 which is when we went down the CC route. I must admit that I don't think I could do it now - with a young baby, that is. I've obviously been softened up by 6 years of onslaught...

  13. Make the most of it and get your sleep whilst you can - when they become teenagers the sleep deprivation starts again because they stay out late!!

  14. Good for you, you did the smart thing and saved yourself a lot of misery. I'm sure it wasn't easy, so you deserve kudos for sticking with it and it paid off. Great job!

  15. I agree whole heartedly with Reasons to be Cheerful. I often dont get to bed till 1-2am checking where the Teenagers are, if they're out. Or making sure they're not STILL watching TV or on the internet instead of sleeping! Then I get the pleasure of trying(!) to turf them out of bed in the morning/afternoon.

  16. I liked you so much until I got to the part where your kids sleep from 6.30 to 8am. Holy cow. I don't have crying children-- wait that's not true, child four had night terrors for about a year, but he's over that-- I have wandering children. They sleep walk right into my bed. So whether I get up and walk them back to theirs or pull back the covers, either way, I'm awake.
    Seriously though, I am applauding you for taking control. I know so many mums whose children walk all over them and then they complain that they don't have any time to themselves.

  17. My first thought was 'what is she giving them?!' With you on the firm but fair approach - G is away a lot too & its about ensuring you get your rest so you can survive the other 16hrs in the day.

    The 5 year old will still also have an afternoon nap (Sleeping beuty sleep) if she is over tired, better than being a head spinning(think exorcist) child & it works well for us!


  18. Okay now I'm extremely jealous. Maybe I need to give the controlled crying thing another shot. But I want to thank you though - hearing that you had a rough time with two kids in the beginning but that it did get better gives me HUGE hope. So thanks. xxx

  19. Hear hear! I am so glad to read this because you are right about there being two camps with the whole controlled crying thing. I am usually too afraid to mention it to anyone because people have reacted very negatively in the past. But it does literally take a few nights of horribleness, but because of it, just like you, I have two girlies who sleep through the night, never wake, are both in bed asleep by 7pm and don't wake til 8am, and are in lovely moods all day. You described the newborn days brilliantly. I was suddenly taken back 5 months. But how things have changed in such a short period of time. xx

  20. I love my sleep too and found it very difficult when daughter was a baby. She slept little and fed a lot as well. When she was a little older we did the thing about leaving her for ten minutes or so to settle herself rather than jump up every time she cried and it seemed to work. I'm glad I didn't get to the controlled crying stage, but if I needed to, I would have done it. Sleep is just too important.

  21. Nicola - Yep - they make it sound as though contolled crying is awful and barbaric and that if you even think about attempting it you are a cold and heartless mother. That is a load of c#*p. Like you say, neither child even knew in the morning what had happened. They were just as happy, completely unharmed, not clingy or upset. Just much, much happier in the long run. As was I. Happy Mummy, happy baby. Very, very true.

    Josie - Ooh I look forward to reading all the other entries - and yes, it's great to get a whole load of different perspectives. Sleep deprivation is part and parcel of being a parent and this will be a handy source of information for those having problems - whatever path they choose to take.

    Maddie - Ooh lucky you - but it sounds like you made it happen too. And sleeping for two whole days when he was born? Wow!! I am imoressed. The midwives all told me that I had to feed my new baby every 4 hours regardless of whether the baby was sleeping or not - imagine that - waking a newborn baby? If only I'd known then what I know now...things would have been very different!

    PHM - Ooh well done you. Yes, sleeping children are so important - even more so when you have more than one. They need me to have, at least a tiny bit of energy to look after them! Not good for any of us otherwise.

  22. Mwa - Oh you're so right - it's the name isn't it? And yes, in the long run they cry so much less. What's 3 or 4 nights compared with a couple of years? I remember hoping that my children would learn to sleep through, but they never did. I swear they'd still be waking now if I let them. I look forward to reading your post too x

    Kassia - Hi and thanks for popping by! Oh don't remind me - yes the first night was pure agony. In fact, and I didn't mention in the post, but I had a failed attempt with my first child at 6 months - but only because my husband was around and he couldn't bear the crying! I left it another 3 months, waited until he went away and did it on my own. Not easy, but so much easier! With my second I knew what to expect and knew the end result was worthwhile so the crying didn't sound so bad!

    Linda - Yep, really interesting, as Josie said, to have the subject approached from so many different perspectives. It's such a major issue when you become a mother and one which isn't talked about massively - or if it is, parents seem to boast that there child is sleeping 'through the night' from such an early age that it has to be a lie (doesn't it?). Will pop over to yours and read your post x

    Modern Mother - Exactly. I'm the same. Why, oh why am I so darn exhausted? I don't even have an excuse!!

  23. This post couldn't come at a better time. I'm glad I stopped by! We have a four year old and a four month old. Both are terrible sleepers. The oldest sleeps through the night , of course, but used to keep us up all the time. Now, the youngest is following suit. I'm going to pass this on to my wife and maybe we'll give it a shot. Thanks for sharing!

  24. Catharine - Oh your husband!!! How funny. Mine was the exact opposite. I didn't mention it in the post, but I had a failed attempt when my first was 6 months old - but I reckon it was because my husband was around and he's a total softie. Kept saying to me 'oh listen to her - she needs us'. Unsurprisingly we gave in on the first night. But I left it another 3 months and attempted it when he was away. So much better...and when husband got back he didn't even know! Until he realsied he's got a good night's sleep!

    And as for going to bed - now I'm not sure how it works, but they just do it. Could have something to do with the fact that, at almost 3, the youngest is still in her cot. We have tried numerous techniques, but she is just not interested in the bed. If she's happy in her cot and happy to sleep there (and sleep the whole night), then I'm not going to change it. Maybe when her legs are dangling through the slats perhaps!

    Muddling Along - Oh you're so right. And what works for other people might not work for you. And yes, with two children to look after on my own, sleep deprivation is just not a possibility. Thanks x

    GG - Oh you love. Yes, I will. I do every night. But thanks for reminding me. What happened after 4?? Did he just start to sleep automatically? Not sure my body (or my mind) could have lasted 4 years!

    PM - Oh you see that's the thing - when you're removed from the tiny crying baby you never think you'll be able to do it - you couldn't possibly treat a tiny baby that way. But PM, if you've done it once, you can do it again. Thankfully you won't have to though. Phew.... And PS - Think I may be seeing you on Tuesday...

  25. Reasons - Oh you do so make me laugh. But don't. I know I'll be laying awake scared witless, hoping that my poor babbies are ok. I'm sure I'll look back on a few sleepless nights and think they were nothing in comparison! Thanks for prepping me!

    Green Stone - Ooh hello - and thanks for popping by. Yep, it wasn't easy at all. the first nights on both occasions were horrendous, but I knew it was the only way. And I don't regret it for one moment - especially now they sleep so well. Can only be good...

    Brighton Mum - Oh no!!! What total joys I have to look forward to. Hey, at least I've only got two and not 4. Yes I think that would send me insane before they would even make it to the teenage years!

    imbeingheldhostage - oh honey - but you still love me really don't you?? ;-)) Neithe rof ours have sleptwalked yet, but I remember my brother did it when he was younger. My mother was terrified because he walked out of his bedroom right to a the bannisters and stood there shouting about the cowboys or something. My mother was petrified he was going to fall over the railings! Youngest child, although almost three, is still in a cot (and she has no desire to ever leave it)!! - so there's no chance of her sleep walking just yet. But thanks. Yes, I did have to take control. Slightly easier with two and nor more, like you, but still not easy...But it was the only way. I would have been even more of a mess than I am now!

  26. Lydia - Ha ha - hadn't even thought of that (what am I giving them)!! Nothing I swear! Wow - your 5 year old still has a sleep in the day sometimes!! My 5 year old has never liked sleeping the day - always resisted it - gave it up totally before she was 2. My almost 3 year old has only just given up her daytime sleep and only because we spent a week in France with the French family and they never gave us a moment to put her down (which I am most miffed about)!!

    Lady M - Oh honey - don't be too hard on yourself. what I didn't say int he post is that Ialso had a failed attempt with my first when she was 6 months old. I think it was because my husband was there and he's way more soft than me and kept saying 'Oh listen to your baby. Go to her. She needs you'. Guilt trip galore. Unsurprisingly we gave in on the first night. But I knew it would work. So I left it another 3 months I think, waited until my husband was away for a good few days and tried it again. Yes, it was horrible, but much, much easier on my own. And then by the time the second came along, I knew it was the only way. Wait until next week - Josie's sleep deprivation carnival will be up and you may get some other ideas to try...

    Elsie - Ooh thanks so much for the support - and I know how much you love your girlies too, so it's not as though we enjoy hearing the cry!! For me it was the only way and I know how important sleep is for a child, so I know it's for the good too. Here's to controlled crying and the joys it can bring!! For everyone (including the neighbours)!!

    Working Mum - I think it's the most shocking thing when you have a child and one that you can never truly recover from - but you can make it easier for yourself - and it sounds liek that's exactly what you did. I know parents will children our age (ie 5) who are still being woken up 3 or 4 times a night. Now that is just unecessary...

    Matt - Ooh hello and welcome back (I remember you and that fateful evening where you had the misfortune to eat s@*#!!!! Yep, sleep deprivation is hideous for all concerned. I am a total advocate of controleld crying, although I reckon that 4 montsh might be a tiny bit too early. Give it another couple of months and you should be fine. Good luck to you and your wife. We need sleep!!!!

  27. So so jealous. Mine both still seem to wake with monotonous regularity for one reason or anther - duvet fallen off, needing a wee, sip of water etc etc. The reasons seem endless. I reckon I get 1 unbroken night every 2-3 weeks.

    I tried the controlled crying method for a couple of nights when Maya was around 9-10 months old and I was DESPERATE and going insane from lack of sleep. But it broke my heart to hear her sob and not be able to scoop her up to comfort her. Around that time we also found out that she had renal reflux (a potentially serious immaturity of the kidneys) so I didn't dare let her cry for long in case she was in genuine pain from yet another urine infection.

    Thus in the end I chickened out. So I deserve no sympathy, I know. But I still envy you your unbroken nights. What bliss. I'm hoping I'll experience that again one day...perhaps when they're teenagers!

  28. We did some of this and it worked a treat. OH should try it on me when I can't sleep due to blog stuff running round my head! theres an award for you at mine gorgeous! xx

  29. Mamma Po - Oh honey :-(( You poor love. But yes, don't blame you for not being able to do it becaue M was ill - yes don't think I could have done either. What I didn't say in the post is that there was one failed attmpt at cc - when my hubby was around. He was much softer than me and made me go and pick R up after about 5 minutes. Needless to say I was only successful when he wasn't there!

    That Girl - You wonderful lady - have just popped over. And yes, wonderful friend too xxx

  30. Mwa is right, they should definitely give it a different name. I am one of the people who has always cringed at the idea, though I think I understand it a lot more now, thanks to reading various bloggers' accounts. I think some of the other terminology that seems to come with descriptions of CC give me problems, as well. It's often described as training them to sleep on their own and showing them who's boss and so on, which makes it sound like a boot camp or something. I definitely feel happier about it as an idea having read yours and Rachel's posts about it. Whether I could do it myself or not, is a whole other question.

    And it's true that we have had much, much more crying in the long run. I am keeping my options open for Eleanor, but think, at the very least, I will hand over the putting her to sleep job to Chris much sooner than I did with Rosemary!

  31. The sleepness nights are the worst. I think you can cope with anything if you get a nights sleep.
    Jono didn't sleep at all for the first year, he was in hospital and it took 3 sedatives and four nurses to push him around all night.....and he still didn't sleep.
    Thankfully he eventually slept...when he was about two and they discovered he had glue ear and that was why he cryed so much when he was lying in bed.

  32. Tasha - Hello darling - I can't believe you're still here!! Where is Eleanor?? But yes, you're right - controlled crying is not a great term for it - I was definitely of the opinion (before I had children) that I could never attempt something so inhumane - but it really wasn't...it didn't take long and they were much happier for it. Would recommend it. And I'm not for the 'show them who's boss' either - couldn't be like that with my babbies - I just coudln't last much longer on no sleep!

    magnumlady - Oh darling - you poor, poor thing - and Jono too - thank goodness they discovered it in the end - it must have been a horrible time for you all. Yep, sleepless nights are a form of torture I think. Now if I have a horrible night I feel like I can't cope with the day and if I've had a good night's sleep I feel I can cope with anything. It makes such a difference.

  33. Bloody brilliant post!

    To misquote 'Jerry Maguire' - "you had me at wobbly bits"

  34. Dawn - you sweetie. I have a feeling that this comment was meant for the massage post rather than the sleep one. I have read through the sleep one looking for a mention of 'wobbly bits', and although wobbly bits do crop up in most posts (!), I can't find any in this one. Glad you like it though xxx

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