Monday, October 27, 2008

this is your brain on 2 1/2 years of sleep deprivation

Another shitty morning after another shitty night.

Last week at the market, I saw a woman with her newborn son. Someone asked her if he was sleeping better, and she said, "Not really. He's still waking every two hours. I guess it's just a phase he's going through." He was 10 weeks old.

And because I'm me, I had to share my truth with her, that my son woke every two hours until at least 14 months, and even now doesn't sleep through the night very often. "My son woke up every two hours for -" I started to speak, but I just couldn't go through with it. "... A very long time," I finished weakly. I laboured through Swee'pea's entire infancy believing that a good night's sleep was just around the corner. If someone had told me then that it could be years before I could depend on a four-hour stretch of sleep, I might have been in danger of doing something drastic.

* * *
The stretch of two nights in a row I last blogged about? It lasted a month. A month of being able to stretch out in sleep, of waking up on my own, a month of peace. A month without ambivalence, without constant, unfillable hunger. I was a bit disturbed that we'd done nothing differently, that it was all completely beyond my control. And I knew it was too good to be true, I knew it couldn't last. But with every good week, I thought we were that much closer to putting the sleeplessness to rest. I started to wonder how I would revise the little about me bit here, the bit that says my son is a lousy sleeper. I never imagined we'd have another whole month and a half of shitty nights. And now we're worse off than before, because now I know how good it can be, I know how good *I* can be.

Back when Swee'pea was a baby, I thought the secret to him sleeping through the night would be getting him to fall asleep on his own. That's what all the books said. But I can tell you from personal experience that that is total bullshit. Most nights he falls asleep by himself, but that doesn't stop him from waking up within a few hours and demanding to get into our bed, even if we ourselves haven't gone to bed yet. Then he'll wake up screaming to have his socks put on or taken off or to change his pyjamas, or to find his soother, or give him another soother, just to hold. Sometimes he bellows like an autocrat, "Lie on your back!" (so he can rub my belly more easily). Sometimes he screams for reasons I can't figure out.

Last night at 4:30 am, he was screaming for socks (his dad had taken them off when he changed him out his wet diaper and pyjamas), and I lost it (not the first time). I yelled at him: "Stop screaming! If you're going to scream, do it in your own bed. Mommy and daddy's bed is only for quiet indoor voices." The middle of the night is not a good time for me; I think all my night-time patience dried up with my milk. These days, however, after so many interrupted nights, the daytime isn't great either. I'm resentful and impatient, I yell at the slightest provocation and disengage at the first opportunity, running to the computer for some kind of connection, some kind of relief, but never quite finding it.

I find myself rationalizing my daytime distance the way I did when he was a baby. That he's chosen to demand my attention while sleeping and he doesn't demand it while awake. Or that it's just until I finish Buffy, then life can get back to normal. But I think Buffy is just a friendly escape.

So... please help. Give me your best advice. How can I get more uninterrupted, solitary sleep?


Hannah said...

I will write a longer comment, or maybe an email, tonight once things quiet down here. Because my heart hurts for you. I know how frustrating it is, and how easy it is to snap, and how you can look at that face during the day and just think "no, I can't, I have no more to give you". You are not alone in this.

Mad said...

Every now and then I down a glass of wine right before I put Miss M to bed. The resulting grogginess put me out at 8:30 or 9 pm and b/c I'm running on such a sleep deficit, I simply sleep beside her in her bed until Len comes home from rehearsal and wakes me to get into our bed. Every couple of months my body demands this kind of make-up night.

I know exactly what you mean about escaping to the computer for some kind of connection. I tend to do this during the overly-taxing dinner hour. For me the problem is less about sleep and more about attachment, though. There are days when I feel so smothered I don't rightly know how to breathe.

No Mother Earth said...

I wish I could help. The Boy was (and is) a great sleeper, but the Little Guy is almost a year, and I could count on two hands the number of times he's slept through the night. I may not require as much sleep as some, but I do require more than I'm getting. I am cranky and shouty and unpleasant to be around. And I'm saddened that we don't seem to be seeing the end of it.

Hang in there.

mamatulip said...

I'm sorry...I feel for you; Dave and I feel like we have a newborn again because Oliver is sleeping so poorly at night. We think we know why, but it doesn't make it any easier.

Hope you get some z's soon.

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

For over a year, my (non-sleeping) daughter and I slept on the opposite side of the house from my son and husband. My son would sleep through her screams but not my husband, not even when we had 2 closed doors between the two of them, so he started sleeping with earplugs.

So. For a few nights a week, can you give night-time duty to your husband? Put in ear-plugs, sleep on the couch? You might be able to hold it together if you have that to look forward to.

ewe are here said...

My youngest has wanted a top up in the early morning hours lately... I sincerely hope it's a temporary growth spurt thing, because i'm going to string him up by his cute little toes soon if he doesn't knock it off!


Getting someone else to sleep well ... I don't know how to do it... I suspect they either do or they don't.

Mimi said...

Oh Sin, I am reading *myself* in your description here: you're so honest about the lack of patience, the outright anger, the detachment, the hiding. I have done it--I *do* it--too. How can you not. Sleep is a basic human need. I'm not joking when I say the best thing about business trips is the *sleep*. It is heartbreaking to feel what you can be like when you get enough sleep, and then have that ripped out of your grasp again. It's terrible.

I echo the commenter suggesting you take a one-night-a-week time out on the couch with earplugs. Something. Get the sleep.

I don't know what you can do about Swee'pea: obviously, you don't want him doing this forever, but how to make it stop? Munchkin goes through phases like this, but it ususally sorts itself out. I don't know. I'm so sorry.

chris said...

The only thing I can really say is that I feel for you. I know how it is.
Because I am a glutton for punishment, we had our second before the first was sleeping through the night. Bee became an ace sleeper as soon as she turned 3 (though she's not yet back in her own bed). Between the two of them, i haven't slept through the night in 3 1/2 years.
I figure, 2 more years and I'm home free.

I say, do whatever it takes to get the sleep you need. Sleep in the basement with earplugs in and put SD on night duty; put Swee'pea back in bed with you before you go to sleep to at least alleviate the need to get out of bed... anything. And say it with me - This too shall pass. Eventually.

kgirl said...

Oh, that was me, btw. Plugged in as Chris, I guess. Of course, he can sleep through anything and doesn't have the boobs the baby wants, so he'd never write that comment.

Kyla said...

I don't know how you feel about this, but have you ever thought of melatonin supplements? Some kids (and adults) just don't naturally produce enough.

Can you and Sugar D alternating nights sleeping in another room? Then each of you is at least sleeping half of the time.

Outside of that, I don't have any advice to offer. I can't imagine how tired and frustrated you must be. Hugs, friend, hugs.

Cloud said...

Here's what we do, with our 18 month old who still wakes up at least once every night:

We try to trade off going in, but sometimes she'll only have Mommy, and really, no one is sleeping when an 18 month old is screaming "mommy, mommy" at the top of her lungs, so I just go in there as soon as it becomes clear that Hubby is not who she wants.

Anyway, our house is too small for me to have any hope of non-medicated sleep if Pumpkin isn't sleeping. I guess I haven't tried those expensive noise canceling headphones, but ear plugs definitely don't cut it. So every few months, my parents come over and give us a night off. We go to a nice hotel (we use Priceline to find a deal on one that has enough stars to guarantee comfy beds). We sleep through the night, and my wonderful parents handle Pumpkin. Who usually sleeps much better for them than she does for us.

When things get too bad between our nights away, I take a Tylenol PM and go to bed as soon as I can. The "PM" part is just benadryl, which is quite safe and knocks me out. This way I actually sleep during my sleep time, rather than toss and turn and wait for Pumpkin to wake up.

And I nap on weekends. Pumpkin has an annoying habit of waking up 10 minutes after I fall asleep for my nap, though.

Denguy said...

Well, if you were a man, you'd sleep right through any night-time baby issues.

In the case of the 10-week-old, isn't she waking up every two hours to eat? Which is normal.

My kids slept in our bed with us for the first year and we no mostly no problems. Then we moved them to a bed in our room that was right beside our bed. At the age of two, they were moved to their own beds.
I like to think that it was our great skill that had them sleeping well, but it could be luck.

Anonymous said...

No party in the middle of the night, no lights on, no talking. Quick check to provide socks or whatever is "needed" by the screaming one and then out the door.

I saw a film made by sleep disorder specialists. They filmed the screaming toddler assembling a nest in his bed while shrieking some well placed sounds towards his door.

Advice is to set the timer for 15 minutes before going in. "I'm gong in, cover me". We were strict about sleeping and think that our toddlers were better for it.

Good luck, it does suck.

(Your) Anon

DaniGirl said...

Oh sweetie, that does suck righteously. Simon nearly did me in, waking every two hours for well into his second year. I was such an angry night-time parent that it almost made me hesitate about a third child. It was one of the things I most dreaded. I felt like two people, the semi-normal daytime mommy and the evil, hysterical nighttime mommy. I remember thinking when Simon was a baby, "I have everything I ever wanted, why am I so miserable all the time?" It was purely and completely sleep deprivation.

He's four now and sleeps well. I hope that gives you some hope.

Lucas, on the other hand, slept through at about two months, and now at nine months wakes me up several times a night. Sigh.

You need to do whatever you can to get some sleep, whether it's night-time tag-outs with your husband or a night away. It will get better, eventually. I mean, he'll grow up and move out one day, right? ;)

Naomi (Urban Mummy) said...

Benadryl. About 3 weeks ago I broke out in hives for no apparent reason. Couldn't get to the doctor, but the pharmacist gave me benadryl.

Had the best night's sleep in over 4 years. Seriously.

Sleep deprivation is a type of torture, so you do need to find a bit of time every so often to catch up.