On six years of sleep deprivation

Little boy, oh little boy!

Why won’t you sleep through the night?

There was a time eons ago when I went to sleep and stayed asleep, without being disturbed, punched, kicked, jabbed in the ribs, poked in the eye. I even kept the duvet on until morning time. That was before children, of course.

I know you’re only two and three-quarters, but having been through all of this with your older brother, it’s been nearly six years since I’ve slept properly – and I’ve accumulated quite a sleep debt (far bigger than what I owe on shoes and handbags).

I know I’ve made mistakes: Spent hours lying next to you to help you sleep, when you should have been ‘crying it out’. Let you sleep in the big bed, when I should have marched you back to your room.

Quite frankly, it’s like sleeping with an octopus when you jump into our bed. You jab me with your feet, elbows, hands and knees as you spin round the bed! By morning, I’m left with a strip of bed some 4 inches wide. For such a little person, you take up such a disproportionate amount of bed. And your sleep requirements mean you need me to face you, with my arm over you at a certain angle. It’s a little like doing yoga, without the relaxing effect.

Can’t sleep, won’t sleep
If it was as simple as taking you back to bed, giving you a quick pat and returning us both to the land of nod as quickly as possible, I’d never have let these bad habits develop. But it’s not that easy. It can take up to an hour to get you back to sleep, and in the dead of night, it’s all too easy to take the path of least resistance and let you clamber in.

The night before last, I took you back to bed twice before 2am, but caved around 4.30am, when you appeared for a third time. Just as we both fell back to sleep, there was an unmistakable sound:


The other one. The Big Boy’s distress call able to penetrate the deepest, most hard-to-reach stage of sleep (but not if you’re a man*).

“I had a bad dream!” And with that – and the first signs of dawn giving the room an eerie glow – I acquired another bed fellow.

The morning after
Somehow we muddle through the next day. I haven’t yet done things that other mums report, like loading the dishwasher with dirty clothes (ok, Catherine the Great takes care of that anyway – and no, I’m determined not to become like a local, despite the temptation!**). It’s more of a long-term fatigue problem.

Little boy, if you let me sleep, I’d be a nicer person, honestly. Be more patient when you tantrum. Play with you more. Pay your dad more attention. Do you not realise that sleep deprivation is an essential part of the torturer’s toolkit – favoured by the Japanese in WWII and used by the KGB as an interrogation tactic? Discovered by a woman – a mother to be exact – I reckon.

During your two-and-a-half hour bender last night – your eyes wide open, your body fidgeting with restlessness – I nearly resorted to calling your dad in China. Under the pretext of support – or was it ….. sleep envy? Jealousy that DH was slumbering away peacefully and without disruption in a hotel room far away.

For sleep envy really can turn a relatively nice person into a monster.

I know. Because I am that monster when I’m sleep deprived!

* How do men sleep so well? I heard about one husband on a trip who woke up on the hotel floor. Turned out there had been an earthquake, which had caused him to roll out of bed. He’d slept through the whole thing.

** A cultural nuance in the Middle East is that it’s common for nannies to get up in the night with kids – and even sleep in the kids’ room sometimes.

UPDATE: Guess who is up with me at 1am and the reason I’m on the computer so late? The little pickle. Here we go again …

3 thoughts on “On six years of sleep deprivation

  1. What a nightmare! The toddler is still in a cot – thank God. And when he starts to climb out of it, I swear I’m putting chicken wire over the top of it to stop any night wanderings. I love my sleep too much…

  2. I do feel for you and I hope it gets better soon. Lack of sleep is the most appalling thing.

    I am the mean mummy – the other day LB1 was doing an impression of me (he didn’t realise I was listening). His brother pretended to wake me up and he said: “It’s 5 in the morning, get back to your own bed!!”

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