Something really, REALLY concerning happened last week.
There I was, sitting watching the opening credits of Bing, the bit when Bing trips over but Flop catches him just before he hits the ground (I’m sure you know it) and I thought to myself, “I wonder if that was meant to happen or if it just happened by accident and they kept it in”.
Bing is a cartoon. A CARTOON. I was questioning whether something in a flipping cartoon happened by accident.
There are 2 words of doom which make this entire fiasco make perfect sense and it’s these: Sleep Deprivation.
There are few parents out there who don’t suffer from an insane lack of sleep when they have young kids. It starts with a helpless newborn who doesn’t know the difference between day and night, but you’re still in that “new parent” bubble and almost ENJOY the fact that your baby needs you. It gets tougher after a few weeks when you start to wonder if they’ll EVER learn that dark = night = sleep. It gets harder still when they DO start to get it, giving you an ounce of hope, but then decide they just want a cuddle at 3am. And 4am. And 5am. It gets really tough when they’re fully fledged toddlers so you really feel like all this should be behind you, but they’re having nightmares which wake them up and only a cuddle from mummy or daddy will sort them out. And it gets hardest of all when there’s nothing at all waking them up, they know exactly what sleep is and can easily settle themselves; they just know how much broken sleep kills you and that’s seemingly their motivator. They’re messing with you. There’s also a little known fact that when you have multiple children they’re biologically programmed to wake up consecutively, never at the same time. The moment one goes back to sleep the next will wake up. Again, they’re messing with you. Trust me.
It’s a total killer. You feel wretched. You go through your day like a zombie, saying little else other than “sorry, I’ve got no chat today” (I hope this IS driven by sleep and not just my personality). You start sentences and get half way through and forget what you were going to say. You feel anxious. You genuinely start feeling like you’re going out of your mind. You get paranoid that they’re doing it on purpose to mess with you (ahem). You know you should be trying to steal 40 winks wherever you can but somehow never seem to be able to because there’s a zillion jobs to do or another child to entertain. You fantasise about a good night’s sleep the same way you used to think about winning a trolley dash round Topshop. You can’t BELIEVE The value you put on sleep. And then of course there’s the ultimate irony: as soon as they’re asleep at night and you can finally turn in yourself, HEY PRESTO you’re magically 100% wide awake (I refuse to admit this is anything to do with my pre-sleep Instagram addiction). You finally go to sleep about midnight only to get woken 30 minutes later. And the cycle continues…
Here’s a few things that have happened to me recently as a direct result of sleep deprivation:
- I put the peas in the fridge and didn’t notice for about 3 days
- Ditto a candlestick. Yup, in the fridge, there it was lurking behind the Lurpak
- I asked my husband where the baby was when I was holding him. Yup.
- I tried to open the front door to the house by pointing the car key at it and pressing the button. A few times over.
- I forgot to pay for my shopping at self check out Sainsbury’s Local and got chased down the street by the (thankfully sympathetic) security guard
- The very next week I left ALL my shopping at the same self-check out and only noticed when I went to make dinner hours later. It was a big bag. Funnily enough security were nowhere to be seen that time…
- Oh, and I thought a cartoon character had fallen over by accident.
There’s epic amounts of advice out there on how to minimise the impact of sleep deprivation, from relaxation techniques to pushing through with caffeine. But there are 2 things that help get me through:
- You’re not alone! When you’re up in the early hours and feel like the only person on the planet, remember – wherever you are, guaranteed within a few hundred metres of your house somebody else is in exactly the position as you. Maybe you’re in a whatsapp group with fellow parents who can make those dark hours feel a bit more companiable (though for god’s sake put your phone on silent otherwise you WILL be awake all night).
- Adrenaline is a beautiful thing… you WILL survive the next day. Sure, you might not be on incredible form but guaranteed nobody else will notice (they’re probably knackered too).
And ultimately, remember: those parent’s-answer-to-everything words, “it’s just a phase” ARE true. Things WILL get better. Just like Bing, just as you feel like you’re about to fall flat on your face something will come to your rescue and you’ll pick yourself up and carry on. For your sake, I just hope it’s something less annoying than Flop. Zzzzzzz.